Category Archives: Firefighting

Pass your passwords forward please

At last year’s How to Become a Firefighter Workshop here in Northern (some will argue Central, long story) California, I presented on technology in the job hunt, focusing specifically on the pitfalls of social media.  It is a fantastic all day seminar held at the Las Positas Fire College and includes lunch cooked by the students.  The cost of the seminar? $12. Including lunch and a chance to speak to the people hiring you one on one, let them preview your resume etc.  Where was this when I was getting hired?

The seminar attracts Battalion Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Officers from a number of large metropolitan departments and someone you know who writes a blog.  Our pals Judon Cherry, Chris Eldridge, Sam Bradley and Thaddeus Setla helped film the video for the program and this year Judon and the Dridge were there again.  Oh, and I have nothing to do with the kick ass indexed screen shot BTW.  have a look:

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLltS4TQfIE']

The attendees had some great questions about facebook, twitter, email a whole host of issues, but one comment from the audience stood out and has caught traction recently.

In my presentation I mention that some employers are asking that you friend their HR director on facebook prior to the interview.  When I mentioned that the Chiefs you’re speaking with may want to friend you as well, one of them spoke up from the audience,

“I don’t want to be your friend, I want your password.”

The audience was silent.

If you were one of the final applicants being considered for this job, would you give a prospective employer, or anyone for that matter, your facebook password?

It could be considered an invasion of privacy, but I can’t think of a better way to see what someone does when they think no one is watching.  And with the way that an employee can ruin a department’s reputation with the simple click of “share” I think it is reasonable to ask for it.

So this year, when I gave the presentation, we discussed the privacy settings pages and how to eliminate tags in photos perhaps you wish others had not uploaded, comments on posts that maybe you made late at night after drinking studying, or perhaps something rather inflamatory, deragatory, racist, sexist, heterophobic…you get the idea.

It’s actually a good idea for everyone to visit those pages every few months just to check and see what you look like from the inside of social media.  We make comments to one circle of friends the other circles may find offensive, but is any of that going to be considered immature, dishonest or a misrepresentation of who we really are?  It matters greatly if the three key traits an emploer is looking for are maturity, honesty and trust.

What do you think?

If you got called up for your dream job in the fire service and they asked for your password, what would you do?

Street Box only

Why yes, all of our antique street boxes do still work…flickr image credit will scullin

…and here’s why.

 

I’m no expert…

…oh wait, um, I am.

 

THE EMERGENCY

Automatic alarm activation. Smoke detector, first floor hallway.

 

THE ACTION

Even though it’s dinner time and our own dinner will be pushed back at least an hour now we’re loaded on the engine and out the door in less than a minute.  The first due engine is out of service so our response time will give a small fire more chance to grow.

 

More often than not the alarm company calls to advise a resident on site reports a faulty alarm and we often cancel the truck company and Battalion Chief also assigned to the alarm.  As the engine, we always continue until we get eyes on the detector.  We get no such advisement.

On scene to the 3 story type 5 residential we have nothing showing and a person on the front steps, phone to her ear waving us down.  Airpack on, axe in belt, lamp on shoulder and a pump can in hand I’m met by the person who tells us she can’t understand why the alarm won’t stop going off.  We aren’t hearing a fire alarm, but a smoke detector shrieking it’s triple beeps from the building behind her.  Some may take a deep breath and pack down, but I love a good chance for free exercise so I head for the sound.

And that’s when I see it.

Smoke.

From behind me I hear the occupant telling the officer, who suddenly sees my pace change, that “I’m no expert but that thing is broken…”

 

The house is charged with the light to moderate smoke of burnt food, the smoke detector faithfully discharging it’s duty and working perfectly.

The pan on the stove is…wait for it…still on and we turn it off and remove it from the house, now surrounded by curious neighbors coming out to see what is going on.

A quick side note, I love going into a building without hearing sirens, only to return a minute later to the truck on scene and the stick coming out of the bed.  Those guys are fast.

 

As we open windows we note the occupants clear confusion with how a smoke detector functions almost as if she was never taught in school.  Oh…

“But it wasn’t a fire, just oil…it’s only supposed to go off when there’s a fire” To say the Chief did a face palm would be great, but being the professional he is he took her under his arm and slowly walked back into the building.  The last thing I heard him saying was:

“These things happen to people sometimes.  Some more than others…”

Overheard in the Fire Engine

From the resident Irishman in full brogue:

 

“I’m so hungry I could eat the hind leg of the lamb of God.”

 

I made sandwiches instead.

Smoke Conditions

I came across this video for a neat looking product for fighting high rise fires from the floor below.

During the video we see how water can be applied through the device in either straight stream or via a remote controlled combination nozzle.

I have no opinion about the product positive or negative, that is not the reason for my sharing the video.  As you watch, pay careful attention to the changes in smoke conditions between straight stream and fog.

Just in case you always wondered why there is more smoke when you use the fog nozzle as opposed to putting the fire out with the straight stream.

More reach, more water, less fire, less smoke.

10 House “Still Standing”

Each year I choose 1 story to share in an effort to keep alive the memory of those who died. Buying a sticker or a T-shirt that says “Never Forget” isn’t enough, heck it’s nothing. Learning about the lives of those who went into that morning not knowing if they would be coming out and sharing their stories with others is the only way to remember and keep them alive in our hearts.
I used to think the ancient Egyptians were foolish for claiming they were going to live forever, yet we still speak their names and honor their traditions in our museums and textbooks. They truly did accomplish living forever and if we want these men to be remembered in the same way we must continue to share their stories and speak their names aloud.
In my search for a story to share about those who died on September 11th, I kept coming back to a number: 10.  10 years, 10 Engine, Ladder 10…10 House…

A firehouse is much like a family and when a member of a family dies it can have an impact on the survivors. But what if more than 1 dies? Or 2. What about 6?

This year I share the memories of 10 House and the day she lost 6 of her children.

 

10 House is the quarters of Engine 10 and Ladder 10 who, in 1984, adopted the logo of a firefighter straddling the tops of the twin towers on fire reading “First due at the big one.” And they were.  Reports from survivors say that even as they rolled out the door there were already bodies in the street.
The firehouse is on Liberty Street directly across the street from the World Trade Center. The house survived the collapse and was re-opened after getting fixed up, but her family is still healing.
Both companies were established in 1865, later moving to the same house.  It is one of the few houses where the engine and ladder companies happen to have the same numbers. For almost 150 years she saw only 3 deaths in the line of duty, on that September morning the number would triple.

Lt. Gregg Arthur Atlas – Aged 44 years, Lieutenant Engine 10

Firefighter Paul Pansini – Father of 3 children, Firefighter Engine 10

Lt. Stephen Gary Harrell – Age 44, Member of 10 House assigned to Battalion 7

Sean Patrick Tallon – 26, Marine Reservist and only weeks away from completing Probationary status on Ladder 10.

Jeffrey James Olsen – Age 31, Firefighter Ladder 10

James J. Corrigan – Retired Captain from 10 House, oversaw Fire and Safety Operation for the WTC complex

 

The house was a gathering point for those wishing to visit the FDNY to offer their condolences.  Like many houses it was covered with patches and shirts from visiting firefighters, letting the members know they were in others’ thoughts.  A beautiful memorial was erected inside dedicated to the 6 members who died and included was a newer plaque honoring the 3 that had fallen between 1867 and 2000.

10 House became the site of a 56 foot bronze relief sculpture donated by Holland & Knight , a Law Office, who lost  employee Glenn J. Winuk, also a volunteer firefighter, when 10 House lost her children.  The relief was dedicated in 2006 and is the only 9/11 related site on my list of things to see when I visit New York later in the month.

I don’t want to see where 10 House lost, I want to see where she lives on.

You can learn more about 10 House on their excellent website.

2009′s memory

2010′s memory

Probie, probie, probie…

A brand new class of recruits has graduated from the Division of Training and are now settling into the firehouses throughout the City.  I applaud them for making it through and for giving it their all to be welcomed into their probie houses for the first 4 month rotation.

They will either spend those 4 months assigned to an engine or truck company, then another 4 months on the other prior to being retested and released into the wild known as “Unassigned.”

Having a probie in the house is both a blessing and a curse.

  • First of all, no more toilets to clean when there’s a probie about.  But chances are their last job didn’t have them doing janitorial skills for 2 hours a morning, so usually it has to be redone.
  • They’re behind on the cooking charts, so we get a break from cooking for a bit.  Again, unlikely they cooked for 9 at their last job, so the portions will be off for a few weeks.
  • We won’t have to sit by the phone on the day watch anymore. Or will we?  When the probie answers the phone, then sheepishly looks around the room of people they just introduced themselves to and asks “Is there a Justin here today?” we might as well just keep on answering it.
  • Drills drills drills.  And not the regular go grab a hydrant and flow some water drills, but the go through it 50 times in 50 different ways drills since we’ll be trusting the newbie with our lives as soon as 2 minutes from now if we catch a fire.
  • Speaking of fire, no nozzle time for a bit, probie needs the experience.  Fine by me, I’m a layout guy anyhow.
  • One less person to trade with in house.
  • More details to other houses since the probie needs to stay with a regular officer.  Pack your bags.

 

But in the end, they need to fit in with the company they’re assigned to.  Too often in recent years probie classes have hit the floor on day 1 with a sigh of relief that they finally “made it.”  Wrong attitude McFly.  Stepping foot into our house, our home, is not your destination.  You are a guest.  A regular guest, but a guest just the same.

That means full station uniform at all times, even in the morning before you get relieved.  You will offer to take the nightwatch and not take no for an answer.

It means that wen you are cleared to dress down for PT, you allow time to get clean and back into uniform prior to the meal.

Being a guest also means not lounging on the couch, no matter what the senior members may be doing.  Grab a manual or a couple fathoms of rope and make yourself busy.

This is your time to get up to speed, not downshift.  You may think you’ve got it made and have crested the plateau, but fortunately in this business, one accomplishment simply leads to another opportunity to improve, excel and advance.

 

Welcome probies, now get upstairs and clean the Rescue Captain’s room!

Silence is golden. So is fire.

An automatic alarm call is not unlike getting the elderly disoriented call on the EMS side.  There’s a lot of investigating involved and most times it’s something simple.

But as we all know, other times, it’s not.

THE EMERGENCY

An automatic alarm is ringing at an apartment building.

THE ACTION

Alarm bells in my agency are handled by a minimum of one engine, one truck and a Battalion Chief.  This allows us to do a pretty darn good investigation and get started working if the alarm turns out to be the real deal.

As we pull up we notice no one outside and no alarm ringing.  Odd.

Inside to the alarm panel and it has been silenced, but is still telling us trouble on the third floor.

As we begin to climb the stairs to the third floor a man emerges from the ground floor unit waving his arms and pushing us out of the building.  Well, he’s trying to anyway.

“I was painting and set it off, no fire here! No fire here!”

As we get up to the third floor there is not only a smell of burnt food, but the faint ringing of a smoke detector.

“Control, balance this alarm to a full box” we hear over the air from the truck crew on the roof.

“We’ve got heavy smoke now from a skylight, third floor bravo side.”

Entry is made into the unit and we find a woman standing in her living room, the only room in the house not banked with smoke.  The open window is allowing horizontal ventilation for the pot of oil in her kitchen that is now extending into her cabinets.

It’s a quick and easy job removing the pot of oil and knocking down the fire with the pump can and we let the companies coming in behind us search for extension.

The woman is surprised it took us so long to get there, telling us the fire had been burning for over 10 minutes and the alarm bells only rang for a few moments, then were silenced.  She thought that meant we had arrived.  She was unharmed and we decided not to tell her about the man downstairs who silenced the alarm.

The Chief downstairs was taking care of that for us.

 

So many times we arrive to alarms silenced by occupants who don’t like the noise or inconvenience of the alarm going off.  Tough.  When it rings, get out and wait for us to investigate.  When it’s safe we’ll let you back in.

Thank You OCFA Engine 26

10 hours cramped into a fire engine.

450 miles.

14 minutes and 40 seconds that made me cry.

Thank You.

You Make the Call – Stove Fire

You are assigned to a three person engine company dispatched to a reported kitchen fire in a restaurant.  On arrival you have light smoke showing and a manager advises you a cutting board is on fire on the stove top and that all employees and patrons have exited and are accounted for.

The building is 3 story type 5 with the top 2 floors residential.

Conditions inside are smoky but the kitchen area is visible from outside and only 20 feet inside the front door. It is open to the dining area, only a half wall separates the kitchen from the rest of the area.  You observe flame across 8 burners climbing 2-3 feet towards the vent.

 

All utilities, ventilation, search and other concerns are being handled by other responders.

 

Your selection of suppression devices is as follows:

1)Water extinguisher

2)CO2 extinguisher

3)150′ 1 3/4″ preconnect

4)1″ booster reel

 

Which do you choose and why?  You Make the Call.