Station Tour + Fire Safety + Training = OCFA Doing it right

You new folks may or may not know why they call me the Happy Medic, but for this post you need a refresher on the Angry Captain.

The Angry Captain was a name given to my father, a retired Fire Captain, because of the way he handled logistics when the USAR team was deployed.  He was a stickler for receipts.  Long story.

But long before he was the Angry Captain, he worked at a firehouse in Orange County, CA.  He was assigned to this house during the years I decided to seek a career in the fire service.  I rode along on Engine 4 as an Explorer and the crew there became my second family as well.


When the Orange County Fire Authority posted this video to their Facebook page I was curious to see what other agencies are doing for inter-Department training using video.

It’s a great tool for standardizing station tours as well as working in home fire safety tips and I recommend it for anyone who ever gets visitors.

OCFA Station Tour Video from Orange County Fire Authority on Vimeo.


So much has changed to that house I almost didn’t recognize it, kind of like seeing someone living in your childhood home long after you moved out.

Does your agency have a standardized tour or does the junior member have to wing it?


Times they do a change

Times they do a change.
When I was 1st introduced to the fire service I was in the 4th grade as our class had a field trip to the fire station. It was a short walk across the street from the school in a tract home that was fitted with a large garage to house the fire engine. Except for the garage and the flagpole out front it blended in well. I’d like to say how I remembered the fire engine and equipment, but my major memory was of the ice cream sandwiches they gave us at the end of the tour. My second encounter was quite different, about a year later a friend and I were flicking matches into the dry grass area in a local park. We would stomp the fire out, laugh and move to another area and repeat. We were tough dudes. Of course when we turned around on the trail to return one of our stomped out fires was ripping pretty good. We ran over and tried to stomp the edges with no luck. I took off my fairly new jacket, soaked it in the creek and beat the fire edges with it. By now the smoke cloud that formed caused a crowd to stand and watch. They of course were in our line of escape. We stayed till the fire crew arrived and put out the fire (probably about 2 1/2 acres) then faced the music of the officer (B.C.) Who loaded us in his pickup truck and delivered us home to our parents. Not a real happy experience along with being grounded the rest of the summer. Guess it could count as my first brush fire:)
Fast forward >>>>>>13 years when my brother calls needing a ride to the local office for the states forestry service to pick up an application. I take him there and the lady asks if I would like an application too. Bottom line I test and receive a job offer due to my high score with veteran points (my brother didn’t make the cut off). So right off the street I report to my first assignment at a local airport station (the county where I worked contracted for local fire service with the forestry). Huge crash rigs, loud claxtons ringing, gamewell alarms, 24 hour alarm watch duty and about 18 firefighters on duty working 84 hours a week. I had hit the mother lode…$533.00 a month! It was a pay loss for me from my last job but I was burned out in a low manager position and was ready for a change.
I got to see many changes in the fire service through various employers. Most change came about in the line of safety (usually brought on by some unfortunate tragedy) and a lot were fought for by our employee group and eventually our union. The educational requirements jumped tremendously as new areas of responsibility were piled on the fire service. First came specialty fires (oil, aircraft, propane, industrial, wildland etc.) then ambulance service (as EMT’s), then paramedics, then auto extrication, then came fire inspections of business, public education programs, dive teams, hazardous materials teams, swift water rescue, urban search and rescue and terrorism response. Just to mention a few.
Each specialty was multi-layered ranging from first responder rating to specialist. Each layer had minimum certitications and on going education to keep current. It was always a challange to become better equipted with knowledge, new tools and experience.
I saw the changes in requirements to be able to get a firefighter job both increase (education wise) then decrease (agility wise). The traditional method of progressing through the ranks put to the side of the road as promotional exams allowed those good at tests to leap frog over rank structure. It was always my theory that a manager should be able to perform each job of those they supervise. In an emergency that knowledge could save crews lives.
Also the public view of a firefighter evolved as many tragedies were faced, so many in such a short period of time. From earthquakes, hurricanes, riots, floods, major wildland fires destroying neighborhoods, terrorist attacks, the Oklahoma bombing, mass shootings and more, the firefighters held hero status for doing the job they were paid and signed up to do. I saw times when citizens begged us to let them buy us lunch or restaurants invited us for free meals (all as a thank you for a job well done) It didn’t matter that I may not have had anything to do with that particular incident, the out pouring was amazing. This hero image has attracted many who unfortunately appear to be more interested in the image of the uniform they wear then the job.

But the large majority appear to be in it for the long haul, making the best of a persons worst day and providing the best care and comfort for the situation or doing the best job you can with your knowledge, tools, team and experience. So a tip of my hat to you, and you will know who you are in spite of your denial to others.

The Angry Captain is on scene

This is not a cartoon. This is an actual photo of the Angry Captain.

The Angry Captain got his nickname from his fellow workers when he was in charge of reconciling FEMA grants for his department’s Urban Search and Rescue responses to nationwide emergencies. The paper trail required to receive reimbursement was finite in FEMA’s eyes as well as requiring receipts for all purchases. These are foreign to the rescuers trying to get the job done in stormy weather and lack of any initial support at the scene. Simple things that we use every day get lost when power is out as well as cell sites, land lines, and stores and banks are closed; credit cards mean nothing. Sorting out these items later creates great stress on the person trying to get the money back. Hence the “Angry Captain” moniker.

The call 1 a.m. Saturday:cell phone call from passerby of smoke in the area of an industrial complex, no specific address.
This is a single engine response to investigate. We get many calls in the same area due to the nature of the businesses in this area and the proximity to a major road. As usual, we cruise by the buildings that have night shifts finding nothing. We continue, as my eye catches something from the corner of a building that appears to be smoke but dissipates immediately at the roofline.

We walk around the building not seeing anything except in the one corner above a rollup door that is closed. I remember this business from an inspection I did in the last year. It specialized in drying and preserving plants for use in household decorations. They had a special room inside (not unlike an auto spray booth) for drying the plants with a foul smelling preservative. I suspected that this might be something that was a normal part of the operation. However, to have something coming from the rollup door instead of the roof where the booth would normally vent was odd.

We called dispatch to contact a responsible party. They responded “no response”from the number on file. Now, with no means of visualizing the warehouse area from the outside and continued wisps coming from the top of the door, I elect to force entry to a man-door next to the roll up. No heat on the doors, but I just was not comfortable leaving (unlike the responsible party who choose not to answer the phone). We opened the door and found a haze from the top 6-8 feet of the warehouse. I called for a full structure response as we continued in (better to have them on the road and turn them around if not needed).

No heat, just the haze; as we inspected the drying unit, it was shut down and closed up. It was clear inside. We continued into the office areas, which were clear. Other units started arriving and the truck was sent to check the roof. We opened the other doors to ventilate and clear the haze. The rest of the units were released except for the Truck and the BC who hung out just to see what the deal was. Finally, dispatch received a call from the owner who said he would be there in 30 minutes.

About an hour passed until he arrived. He stated that a fumigation company had been there Friday to fumigate the warehouse. No signs were posted on the doors to warn us of any hazards. We placed all the units exposed out of service until their turnouts could be bagged and replaced. Luckily, everyone wore SCBA until the building was clear, but the unknowns of the fumigation process created mountains of paperwork and exposure reports, as well as activating our service center to replace 18 sets of turnouts for all companies at 3 a.m. The paperwork and documentation took me well past my normal relief time of 8 a.m. It took 2 weeks to find out what the fumigation company used due to “trade secrets.”The chemicals were then listed on all the exposure reports.

Lesson Learned – Expect the unexpected, always, no matter what you think you know about the situation.