Seat at the Table Success

We had a great day of filming yesterday in San Jose with disaster experts gathered to attend the Tak-Response conference which ends today.

Even though we have not yet found a sponsor to cover the expenses, this opportunity was too important to let pass.

The conference has been a lot of fun, with Thaddeus, Natalie, Jeremiah and Sam Bradley begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting, the extended Chronicles family, all except Mark.
For a new conference in a new place with a new concept I think it did very well.

I think Kelly Greyson would have enjoyed the shooting simulator side by side with some of the SWAT folks on hand at the show.
And the law enforcement members we did meet were interested not only in what we were doing, but marveling at the wide array of equipment EMS carries, not just a bag and a cot.

Just the show floor was working to break down barriers and let disciplines mingle, imagine what the speakers are inspiring.

The audio difficulties in the filming of the Seat at the Table are well known, but finding a solution we can afford on a negative budget is difficult. We’re trying, I promise.

Today it’s back to the conference with the meetup tonight at Gordon Beirsch Brewery. See you there?

Medic 49 Victor responding

FDNY*EMS Ambulance 485 was the first EMS unit assigned to what Battalion 1 reported as “An aircraft into the Twin Towers.”

This unit, on air as Medic 49 Victor,  was staffed by Battalion 49 Paramedics Carlos Lillo and Roberto Abril.

Roberto chronicled the events of that day in a notebook in his own hand.  The notes can be seen at the website of his partner, who died in the collapse, Carlos

He is one of the EMS Division casualties included in the “343 Firefighters” killed that morning.

From the website:

On September 11, 2001 we lost our beloved FDNY Paramedic Carlos Lillo from Battalion 49, doing what he did best, Saving Lives. Carlos was one of the most admired paramedics in New York City. Carlos showed his courage, dedication, and unwavering commitment to the people of our city, state, and nation with the ultimate sacrifice.

Carlos began his career as a volunteer at Astoria Volunteer Ambulance Corp. in the early eighties, where he went to EMT school. He worked for Associated Ambulance while awaiting his dream and passion to work for NYC EMS. This dream came true in 1984 and it took very little time before Carlos flourished as an EMT, working on a tactical unit in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the Bronx in some of the busiest times the EMS system has ever seen. He then realized another dream: becoming a paramedic. He spoke so passionately about not just being a medic but being the best paramedic, that one couldn’t help but be inspired by his attitude even the old time medics.  Carlos worked for many services within the 911 system where he was loved and respected by all for his professionalism and passion for what he did.

There is a grief that can’t be spoken when you lose someone like Carlos. It is our duty to carry on the tradition of excellence that Carlos lived and to keep his memory alive. Carlos leaves behind the love of his life wife Cecilia, mother Ilia, sisters Iliana and Olga , his brother Cesar and half-brother Alex.

It is in honor of this great paramedic and person that we formed “The Carlos Lillo Memorial Scholarship Fund” to benefit underprivileged students.  Every year we come together to celebrate Carlos during The Carlos Lillo Memorial Golf Outing which was formed to support the scholarship fund with the purpose to help those that want to be and do what he did for us.

Carlos was laid to rest September 14th, 2002.

Hidden in all the “Never Forget”and “343″ stickers and T-shirts are thousands of tales of heroism and bravery, brotherhood and citizenship. Learn one. Pass it along to others.

Please visit the site and learn more about Carlos and how you can help keep his dreams alive.

2009’s story to remember

Explosion hits close to home

As you all know by now a community in the Bay Area City of San Bruno was rocked by a pipeline explosion around 6:45 PM local time.

I first learned about it via twitter, of all things, and immediately went to the news.  There was no coverage yet, so we listened to our radios and heard early reports of an explosion.

Then the tweets started to mention a plane crash and word spread quickly.  As the news began to show aerial shots it was clear from first glance there had not been a plane crash, nor a gas station on fire, as some residents were reporting.  Clearly one of the methods of coping with the complete destruction of your neighborhood by fire is to think of something you saw in a movie.

As we watched on TV from the firehouse, the SFFD responded an entire alarm assignment to assist in what was going to be a full night of firefighting.

Many communities came together as one force for good today.  City, Town, State and Federal teams, as well as private contractors from the local utilities, ambulance companies and certainly law enforcement and highway patrol all had their own duties, but to see how quickly resources were being mobilized made my head spin.

On twitter, I’m suddenly being RT’d (Retweeted) by folks from outside the area trying to get news.

I was asked what kind of plane crashed and if the gas station was still burning.

As fast as resources gathered to confront the gas pipeline explosion and aftermath, rumors and RTs of RTs were spreading half truths and guesses from all over the world.

Indeed the first images and descriptions came via social media, but we must remember to take into account who is giving us the information and where they may have come by it.

It is easy to hit that retweet button when you see something neat, but when it includes information that can not be confirmed or does not cite a reference, confusion can mount.

As I’m writing this at the firehouse, we still have 3 engines, 2 trucks and a Battalion Chief at the scene.  We were listening to the channel for awhile and even heard the crash truck from the nearby airport report they were full with 4500 gallons and ready to help.

I’ll be passing along what information I have, but am very interested to meet some of the responders at next week’s Tak Response Conference.  Imagine a conference specifically about inter-agency co-operation and training happening so close to such an event.  The information fresh in the minds of all persons involved will be an amazing learning opportunity for us all.

If I can, I want to get some of them a Seat at the Table on Wednesday the 15th and get their side of what happened.

Stay safe,


Gearing up for Tak Response

Over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing from me about the Tak Response Conference in San Jose coming up September 14th-16th.

Chronicles of EMS was invited to be a part of this collaborative training opportunity that will bring the best of all fields together to network and learn from each other.

This conference combines nursing, Fire, Haz-Mat, law enforcement, SWAT, EMS, public works and a number of other disciplines together, since when we all arrive on scene we have to work together.

Let’s start to train together.

Tak Response is not only a chance to learn from other disciplines where you fit in at “their” scene, but to network socially with your fellow providers before the you know what hits you know where.

Imagine a scene where the Battalion Chief, Patrol Officer and EMT all already know each other and what each agency expects from the others.  That’s a smooth running scene.

Here’s the episode of Seat at the Table where we meet the organizers of the Tak Response Conference and run the concept by paramedics, firefighters and even a cop.

Happy Hour on Firefighter Netcast

Tuesday night at 6pm Pacific time I’ll be taking over the Firefighter Netcast show LIVE on blogtalk radio.  You can call in at  (347) 327-9920  and join the chat room at the link below.

Listen to internet radio with FirefighterNetCast on Blog Talk Radio

As is usual with the Happy Hour Show I’ve got a few things I want to talk about so I’m taking over.

Some topics discussed may include:

PPV fans

Crew size

Officer experience

Rural vs Urban and many many more.  But since it’s a live call in show, YOU can ask me about what you want to talk about.

See you on the radio!

SFFD – The Best in the West

I found this video on youtube posted by SFirish06.  The title had me curious and I was looking for certain footage anyway so I watched.  This is a great video compilation featuring some neat footage.

Just a couple of points of interest before I let you watch.  At 2:10 you will see my classmate and co-worker Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Estrada fall victim to thousands of pounds of wall when trapped under a collapsing facade.  He survived and is still recovering from extensive leg injuries.  When this accident happened it was a topic of great discussion online and I was forced to remain silent since I was still anonymous.  I hope to interview Firefighter Estrada this year to get his first person account of this event.  And just another quick note, that hoseline he’s holding and moving like a garden hose is a 2 1/2″.

At 3:10 is the video I was looking for initially.  This is 1133 Mission street on the morning of December 17th, 2007.  Truck 1 has yet to stick the roof so I’m not there yet, but this is the fire I got hurt at.  Remember?

Enjoy the Best in the West, the San Francisco Fire Department:

Where there’s smoke…

blog engineI hate that saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” because we all know it to be false.  Don’t believe me?  Light a candle.  No smoke.  Now blow it out. Poof…smoke.  Where there’s smoke there are byproducts of combustion.

Now where did they put that darned combustion?


11 PM and things are winding down at the firehouse when the radio teases us the way they love to do, “Standby for the box” the voice calmly states as if settling on a choice of new carpet.

Most times the alarms hit somewhere else and we get to listen to the response, but when that tease is followed by the automatics firing on and the bells ringing, we get moving.  And fast.

“Engine 99, Engine 66, Engine 88, Truck 4, Truck 21, Battalion 5, Battalion 12, Rescue 3, Division 4 and Medic 99 respond to 123 Maple for a reported smoke in a building, alarm sounding.  Repeating…”

She went on but I was already heading for the engine, turnout pants buckling as I went, weaving in and out of the paths of the firemen descending the poles.


There are folks outside of the 4 story type 3 with similar buildings on each exposure-attached and we see nothing showing.  Alarm bells are ringing and folks tell us of smoke on the third floor.

Grabbing the can and a tool I’m right behind the officer as we make entry to the lobby to an old alarm panel that simply has a light flashing next to “trouble.”  Trouble indeed, no zone, no detector, we’ll have to do the walk.

The walk, as we call it, is the systematic check of all doors by opening them to check for fire conditions.  If they can not be opened we gently break the seal at the top of the door feeling for heat and looking for smoke.

As we continue our walk there is indeed a scent of burning paper on the third floor, but no visible sign of smoke.  the truck has made the roof and done a 360 of the building, (yes we do that part of the sizeup from the roof) and are now searching top down.

Minutes pass as we investigate the source of the smell of smoke.  None of the units have fireplaces, the garbage chute is clear, the grills are clean and cool, but darn it if we can’t find the source.

After making another walk through each unit I was resigned to take the apartment hose pack back downstairs when the firefighter emerged from the hallway and said, “Come take a look at this, will ya?”

Inside one of the kitchens he has a headlamp I admired at FDIC pointed towards the ceiling and said, “Do you see smoke up there or am I crazy?”

“Command Engine 99, we have smoke in unit 4.” was my traffic and we set out to discover the source.  As more bodies came into the tiny unit and the even tinier kitchen, all in full gear, I stuck my head out the kitchen windows and looked outside.  I could smell the burning paper, but where was it?

As I turned to leave the spot near the window behind a table, my axe handle rubbed against a large paper bag and the bottom fell right out of it.  The burnt bottom.  And all the trash in it was burnt.  We dug through looking for a match or a cigarette or some other source but found nothing but trash.

Where there was smoke, there had been an early stage of combustion.  but had it not been for the smoke detectors, the occupants likely would have gone to bed, not knowing they would be awoken by fire cutting off their only means of egress.

A 9v battery saves the day again.

You Make the Call…Man Hole Fire…My Call

You Make the CallWell, shoot. When I first got hired our training Captain put up a shot of the Tokyo gas attacks and asked us the two best ways to handle such an incident.  People were running everywhere, others lying in the street.

He let us think about it for a few minutes, then let us in on the secrets to dealing with large incidents.

Option #1 is to reach over the center console while pulling out of the station, grab the steering wheel and pull.  The rig hits the door and you’re out of service in quarters, send someone else.

Option #2, if you forgot #1 and found yourself on the scene, was to calmly remove your coat and helmet and blend in with the crowd.

All kidding aside, this is a situation many firefighters will not encounter.  In my area we have large underground electrical vaults that serve as relay points for the City’s electrical systems.  More than once these have failed, caught fire, exploded etc.  hey, it’s electricity, a thousand different things could happen.

The important question, and the reason I shared this photo of an actual vault fire, was to get us all thinking about that first radio report and request for resources that can establish the tone and response over the next 30 minutes.  they say the first 3 minutes of a large incident can dictate the next 3 hours and I believe it.

My Department also has resources specifically designed and staffed to handle these incidents so I simply have to relay to the Battalion Chief that I have a vault fire and the system does what it has to do.

But, here would be my initial actions if that was not the case:

“Control, this is Engine 99, we are on the scene of what appears to be an underground fire, smoke showing.  We are staging upwind at 5th and Main, establishing 5th Street Command.  Strike a full first alarm and have them respond from the south to 5th and Main.”

You get the idea.  The point is to convey what you can without getting too wordy, but get resources rolling, including higher ranks to co-ordinate further response.

I would use the PA to get bystanders away and set up a perimeter, stretching a line part way there to protect persons who wander in if something happens.

That’s my call.

He got lucky

The following tale is of a guy who got lucky, but not for the reason you think.


Don’t you just love when your dinner is interrupted at work?  I do, especially when your bells are preceded by dispatch calling out for units on the air to stand by for a fire dispatch. “Stand by for the box!”


It is the evening and we are first due with the truck close behind.  On arrival we have light smoke showing from the alley between two 5+ story type 5 apartment buildings, this is going to be tricky.

As we pack up the truck is already stopped and I hear the PTO kick in as the officer calls for a ready line and I pull it down and onto the nozzleman’s (woman tonight) shoulder.

She advances as I follow laying the line out, irons in my other hand.

The sound of the aerial going up is just below the shouts of people down the alley shouting and pointing at a rear garden apartment with heavy white smoke coming out.

As we set the line for entry we can see it was a small kitchen fire which has been extinguished with a small dry chem can which is now sitting in the doorway.

The doors and windows are opened up to ventilate the chemical and the offending pan is removed to the alley.

As we down shift from working fire to PR mode I notice two folks in their late teens or early twenties who appear to have been hastily dressed.  Hair tossled, faces red.

When the Battalion Chief asked them what happened there was the embarrassed smile and a look at each other.

“I should have waited to start the oil.” He says and smiles to the now dozen firefighters cleaning up and helping to open windows.

“Tough way to learn that lesson,” the Chief remarks later.

Back at the dinner table we discussed various comments that may have been made in the other room while the kitchen began to burn.

Everyone got out safe and they were able to stay there that night.  The lucky part of all of this was that their smoke detector did not go off…no battery.  Lucky guy indeed.