CalFire Air Ops up close – VIDEO

Our good pal Dylan, noted BlogStalker, childhood Explorer Scout friend and Chief Programmer at GasdaSoftware got a surprise while out back the other day:


CalFire was responding to a slow moving fire that proved difficult to access on Sept 3rd.  It was on site of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a deactivated WWII munitions depot primed for development if anyone can figure out how to remove all the ordinance. While we could smell the smoke at HMHQ Dylan, from Gasda Software, had a far better vantage point.  I’d be curious to hear the pilot’s thoughts about all the kids at the edge of the pond.


And yes, that’s a separate helicopter.


Thanks for the video Dylan!

Tip of the Helmet – Lady in the Flip Flops

It’s easy to see an accident and keep on walking, but something in some people kicks in to make them want to learn more. At a recent accident we’ve all seen on video by now a motorcyclist collided with a car and, surprisingly, they caught fire.
As random folks come to the car and look inside a woman in flip flops does what EVERY rescuer needs to do at EVERY roadway incident:

She looks under the car.

Seeing the unconscious body of the motorcycle rider she tries to lift the car off of him. Others seem interested and when she confirms again “there’s someone under there” the troops are flocking to the scene to lift the car.

You can give credit to the worker who pulled the rider out of harms way, the cops and their interesting fire attack or even the firefighters and paramedics who magically appear, but the real credit goes to flip flop lady and her desire to answer the burning question she had inside: “Where is the rider?”

From NPR: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Wright suffered a “broken leg, a shattered pelvis, bruised lungs and burned skin,” when he and his motorcycle collided with a car. But, thankfully, he is “well on his way to recovery, his doctors said.”


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

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.


An automatic alarm is ringing at an apartment building.


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.

A rare insight into the life of a Paramedic

Quick! Is this a good day to be on the engine?

This…is…20 seconds of insight into my life.

Courtesy of my friend Sabine (Who was my partner on a great many runs on this blog) and the folks at Huffington (Who have yet to work a shift on the medic van.)

EDIT – This video drew some almost negative comments on facebook.  Upset a certain news source posted what we deal with day in and day out?  God forbid people see the toll mental health, substance abuse and the desire to be on camera have on our responders on a daily basis.  If you can’t laugh at this because it is offensive, you may want to go hide in a corner the rest of your life. – HM

You Make the Call – Resources needed elsewhere?

A full structure fire alarm has been struck for a dense residential area in the neighboring district. You catch the alarm while on the way to shopping and as you accelerate you see the first in engine sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store a block ahead.

You’re first due now.

On arrival you have light smoke from the garage of a 3 story type 5 house, approx 30 feet wide and 100 feet deep with the neighboring homes of similar type and so close it prohibits a 360 size up.

Your firefighter has made contact with the owner who states heavy smoke in the rear of the garage but no fire. Inside visibility is clear and his definition of “heavy” is clearly based on never seeing a fully smoke charged room.
In the back of the garage is an over heated electrical panel leading to the elevator control room, the door to which is blocked by storage bins and piles of laundry. Cutting the power immediately makes the electrical box stop buzzing.
As you exit the garage and send your firefighter to search the upstairs for signs of fire, the Battalion Chief calls on the tactical channel and asks for a report and if the entire alarm assignment needs to continue, they have another fire call nearby and could use the units. The engine you passed at the store is now arriving on scene and the officer is listening to the radio dispatch for the other fire.

What is your report and decision about additional resources? You make the call.

Fire Between Floors

Amazing how fast information moves these days.

We were at this fire yesterday afternoon, and while it wasn’t a “worker” or like many of the other fires recently posted about the SFFD, it brings up a good training topic:

Fires between floors.

Initial report was light smoke or steam from above a laundromat.  How many times have you been on that run?

This was one of the 1 in 100 where something is actually happening.  Light smoke is seen seeping from the paneling above one business, but more smoke is found above the nail salon, but the salon has no smoke.

This is a 4 story type 5 unprotected (3 res over 1 com).  Some notes:

The folks in the helmets with black and white checkerboards are members of the Heavy Rescue Squad, the red and white belong to the truck companies.

The sign we pulled down had another sign behind it, then wood paneling which covered some old windows.

The fellow on the nozzle out front, also helping to foot the ladder, later to turn off a pass alarm, and then finding a lost axe in the rubble, well, that’s yours truly.  Still wearing the “16” on my shield.

The engine you see at the very beginning is our temporary rig, we were third due and were supplying the first in engine.

If you are wondering where everyone else is, the first 2 engines and truck were inside the building looking for extension.  With the voids in a type 5, we have to go farther than simply finding unburnt wood.

The quick bursts with the line were two fold.  Firstly, we had a team just on the other side of that space who had not found fire yet and my intent was to cool what was thought to be the source of the fire and directly above it the floor of the unit above.

It was a quick job and did not spread any farther than where we found it, the cause is under investigation.

Can’t or Won’t? The South Fulton Fire

By now everyone in the Fire Service should be aware of the events of late September in Obion County, just outside of South Fulton in northwestern Tennessee.
If not, here is the short version:

Gene Cranick, a resident of the rural area outside the City of South Fulton, TN, reported a structural fire at his home on Buddy Jones Road. This call for aid was declined by the City of South Fulton because the home owner had not been current on the $75 annual subscription fee required by the City Fire Department to respond to fires. They “CAN’T” respond. After repeated calls from neighbors the City did send engines to the fire with orders from the Chief, David Wilds, and the Mayor of South Fulton, David Crocker, not to extinguish the fire.
When interviewed on MSNBC, the homeowner stated that in recent years the fee has been waived, fires extinguished and the homeowner had 30 days to become current on the fee, but was told at the scene that practice was no longer allowed.
When the fire spread to a neighbor’s fence, firefighters deployed hoselines to protect…the fence of the paying neighbor. When that neighbor told firefighters to train their lines onto the burning home they refused.

As a result the home burnt to the ground. No one was injured, thankfully, but this event has sparked a controversy on dozens of topics on a number of levels.
Why didn’t he just pay the fee?
Why is there a fee?
Where was the local FD?
Can’t they just put out the fire and worry about it later?
Pay to play?

and so on and so on.

The most surprising thing I heard, however, were political commentators claiming this was a success of the system, that now residents will surely pay their fees for the fire department.
“Fees for the fire department?” Are we now going for Government ala cart? I for one would subscribe to that, I’ll pay for roads, schools, police, fire and healthcare, but not the Army or Navy. But if we get invaded can I hide in my neighbor’s house? What if he pays for the Army and I pay for the rest, can we share? Can we be neighborly?

Can we be neighborly?

City of South Fulton is not a metropolitan fire department sporting 43 houses, with 3 engines and 2 trucks on every report of smoke in a building. From what I can gather, they have 19 volunteer personnel and one Chief, plus explorers and are protecting an area roughly 10 square miles. This is no easy task, and with budgets shrinking, small departments like this have to put off training, new equipment, radio upgrades, etc until funds return. It is simple to point the finger at them and demand they respond to the rural area of Obion County.
The fire in question occurred approximately 2 miles from their station, a drive of 6-8 minutes. They likely saw the smoke.
Asking this Department to suddenly cover all the rural areas without an increase in funding is ridiculous.

But they do cover the areas, so long as you’ve paid your fee. They “WON’T” respond unless you have.

The $75 subscription fee DOES NOT go towards covering Fire Suppression services for the rural areas of Obion County, but into the general fund of South Fulton, allowing them to build a new County Law Enforcement Complex. It does look nice. Quite a contrast to Mr Cranick’s burnt out home, but shiny.

Even worse, is that the City of South Fulton spends time and money to collect the fees using mail and phone calls, likely cutting into that $75 by half just to collect. And not even to support actual fire fighting efforts.

This is a fee designed by politicians to increase general funds to cover other projects, plain and simple. I don’t believe a person should pay County taxes and a separate Fire fee in order to have a new law enforcement complex. The County has law enforcement, why not a County Fire Department?

The “S Fulton” Fire, as it is being called is not the result of lazy firefighters or an insensitive Fire Chief, but a corrupted political system that saw a chance to scare people into donating into their piggy banks and took it.
Along with it they took the home of a tax paying citizen of Obion County. Did Mr Cranick break the “rules” by not paying the $75 fee? Absolutely. Did the Mayor break the rules by letting the house burn down? No, as he reminds us, he is only doing what the system says he has to do.

The Mayor even made the analogy that we would not expect an insurance company to pay out after an accident if they let their coverage lapse. Of course not. But this is not fire insurance Mr Mayor, this is fire PROTECTION. We tried Fire Service for profit in the late 18th century, it ended badly. Look it up.

Better yet, how about diverting that $75 a year to the South Fulton Fire Department and not your pet projects Mr Mayor? Maybe after a couple of years the Dept will have the personnel and equipment to offer services County Wide.

All sides are at fault, but let’s not get crazy with claims that the pay to play system is the way to go. Far from it. Basic services should be made available to all residents. Period.

Maybe the County will let the Cranick family live in the Law Enforcement Complex.

Seat at the Table Ep15 – San Bruno Cont’d

Our discussion with Dan Gerrard, Bobby Halton and Jow Telles continues in our special look at building relationships in Emergency Response.

Whether a Chief Officer or Probationary Member, all can learn from this discussion, have a look.