Saturday, August 30, 2008

Check your Smoke Detector

The smoke is so dense that all I can see is the floor and the Firefighter that is in front of me. While this is pretty normal for a structure fire, this time it seems worse than usual. There will be a few other surprises along the way that will make this fire one to remember. As we crawl down the hallway, the heat is beginning to build. I glance toward the ceiling, looking for the tell-tale signs of a flash-over. (

There is no audible beep-beep to indicate the presence of a working smoke detector. Smoke is everywhere in this multi-unit building, so there ought to be a smoke detector somewhere that works! The lack of a smoke detector explains why this fire got such a head start on us, as precious time was lost before anyone noticed the fire.

Ahead, the red glow of the open door of the apartment that is on fire projects a beacon that calls to us. It is approximately fifteen feet ahead. One of my Firefighters retreats because he forgot to cover his ears with his flaps and hood. The searing heat makes it impossible for him to get any closer to the fire. Now there are only two of us in the hallway. My second Firefighter picks up the hose line that was abandoned by his team mate, and we advance the final 15 feet. We are within three feet of the door when he too runs into a problem that forces his retreat. He has run low on air. These two problems occurred just seconds apart. For the first time since I promoted ten years before, I am on the nozzle. I also happen to be completely alone. There is a fire in front of me that is burning so fiercely that I feel pain on my face, neck, ears and wrists despite my protective equipment. I blink rapidly to protect my eyes from the radiant heat that pours through the face piece of my mask. Behind, seventy feet of smoke charged hallway stands between me and the door that leads outside to safety. As the first water enters the super-heated room, it instantly converts to steam, and I am enveloped in an invisible gas cloud that feels even hotter than the fire does. As usual, the steam bath passes quickly, and temperatures drop as the water begins to take effect. Once again, darkness fills the void as the fire abates. By this time, a second hose line has come up behind me with a full crew. They are disappointed, because there is nothing left to do, and they offer congratulations to me for getting “a good stop”. The fact that I am alone (a violation of Federal law) escapes their attention.

The October 29, 2007 post in this thread refers to “the Big One”. Greater alarm fires are spectacular but they lack intensity at a personal level because everyone just stands safely back and lobs water in with the big guns. Not so with an interior attack on a room and contents fire, especially in an interior hallway apartment building. While this is regarded as a small fire, it becomes personal when advancing the hoseline puts you within the fire’s grasp and there is no easy means of reaching a safe place. You trust your training, experience, equipment and crew. Oops, scratch that last one. Please note that I was working overtime in a different firehouse, and this was NOT my regular crew.

This is the hallway leading to the burning apartment. Most of the damage you see was caused by heat and smoke. There was little to no flame propagation in the hallway. The doorway in the foreground is an exception. The hallway had to reach 469 degrees Fahrenheit to spontaneously ignite the wooden door frame. The apartment where the fire started is the next one down, where the guys in black coats are standing.

This is NOT the apartment of origin; it is the one next door. Through no fault of her own, the elderly lady who lived here lost her life due to smoke inhalation. There were NO working smoke detectors anywhere in the building. A ten dollar investment in a smoke detector would probably have saved her life. Her front door leading into the hallway was shut and locked; the fire breached the wall to enter her apartment. That is Inspector Clemmons kneeling at the point of origin.

These electric meters are located in the hallway, about seventy feet past the burning apartment and around a corner. #’s 1 through 3 are about five feet off the floor. #’s 7 through 9 are about waist high. #8 is made of glass and the rest are plastic. The fire was to the left. The damage difference between the various meters tells a story. If you are ever in a fire, stay low and get as far away as possible. If you have a working smoke detector, you will be able to get outside while conditions are still tenable. It is my prayer that you already have several smoke detectors in your home. Please take the time to test them to make sure that they will work for you when you need them. If you don’t have any, today would be the best time to get and install some.

Be safe,

Hec @ 19

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rattlesnake-Any of various American pit vipers (not to be confused with Dodge Viper which is much better looking) of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus, having an interlocking series of horny rings at the end of the tail that produce a rattling or buzzing sound when shaken. Highly poisonous.

This week we stumbled upon a rattlesnake, one of the dangers of living in the back country of California, close to the house. Being the outdoorsy type we handled it in a calm and deliberate manner…..

When the ear piercing screams stopped, someone had the bright idea of dispatching the small but deadly varmint to the great hereafter. Well we can now tell you that it was seen somewhere outside of Memphis with Elvis and the Loch Ness monster. Here are some pictures of after the great deed.

Sara holding the deadly critter minus it’s head.

The rattle was kept to scare guests and relatives who have stayed at our house for more then three days.

After a long and deadly fight, the hunter vests the beast.

One last view.

This article I assure you is 100% true. But for the safety of the writers they are using assumed names.

By: Chicago, & Lookrightranchhand.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Don't get hurt right now...

There are two things you can do if you see an ambulance on the back of a tow-truck…

1. Avoid sudden onsets of chest pain

2. Stare, point, and laugh

I am pretty sure everybody that passed us by on the busy Highway 12 last week did exactly that.

At 1330hrs my partner and I were resting comfortably in our station playing a relaxing game of Rummy. Our tones go off and we are dispatched to take a psychiatric patient from our local hospital to a facility two hours away in the Bay Area. We responded to the hospital, and had the patient loaded up on our gurney and ready to roll about an hour later at 1430hrs. My partner and I have done dozens of these transfers before, and we were thinking this one was going to be like all the others. We were wrong.

I was driving along happy as Larry on the bumpiest highway in the nation about 45 minutes away from our destination, when all of a sudden I heard this “clankity-clank” sound from somewhere behind the dash. Then the burning rubber smell came. Guessing that something wasn’t exactly right, I pulled over, popped the hood, and discovered that one of the wheels that the fan belt turns had frozen up, which in turn was wearing the belt away (you can tell I’m not a mechanic by my lack of auto vocabulary). We were dead in the water with our 5150 patient still on board.

We immediately called for another ambulance to come and finish our transfer, and they got there in pretty good time. Only had to wait 30 minutes from the time we broke down. When they got there we transferred care and then began our long wait for the tow-truck which we found out was coming from a town 1.5 hours away. Thankfully my partner brought the deck of cards, so we resumed our interrupted game of Rummy in the back of the ambulance in the 95 degree heat. But at least we had the cards.

At 1800hrs two wonderful things happened. The first was that the tow-truck arrived. The second was that my dad’s buddy Vince who lives in the area arrived with Taco Bell!!! I think the latter was the more welcome of the two at that point. Thanks Vince!

The ambulance was loaded on the flatbed, and we were on our way at 1830hrs. Getting back into county at 2000hrs, we unloaded our “dead” ambulance and switched into a “live” ambulance. We were back in service and ready to roll at 2030hrs. So our little transfer that was supposed to take us 4 hours turned into a 7 hour ordeal. I can mark that down as the 2nd ambulance I have killed so far…