Mission Statement

My mission is to explore the lives and experiences of firefighters in the quest to join their prestigious ranks.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Process

Right now I am getting ready for paramedic school but studying drug cards like crazy, waiting on UFA to let me know if I will be continuing the testing process with them.  Until then it's just business as usual.

As much as I would like to be done with school and just start working, this process is just not over until I have the job.  So it's just time to keep on going, continue and persevere.

Even if motivation is hard to come by.

Friday, 13 December 2013

UFA Test

Tomorrow is kind of a day that I have been anticipating for a while.  Unified Fire Authority is testing for entry level firefighter and paramedics... I'm not a religious man, but lets just say I am hoping for some good vibes tomorrow because I am a bit nervous.
This is UFA Station 117,
This is where I spent my internship this summer,
And this is where I reaffirmed that I want to be a firefighter. 

I've found my dream job, all I have to do is take it.  It's go time.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Why is the mustache is really cool?

The mustache has been deemed hipster, and cool these days. But why did it become cool again?

I feel like like it really took off in the 80's. 

 "Stay Classy"

 All along though there was a group of people who never gave up the mustache.

Firefighters, it is because of firefighters, pilots, and all the other bad-ass professions that will only allow their employees to have a mustache. While all the hippies in the 70's were growing these massive beards and growing their hair down to their knees, firefighters were rockin' the 'stache.  

There is a perfectly good reason why.

This is an Self Contained Breakthing Apparatus (SCBA) mask.
 This is the best pilot mask I could find.

These two masks have a very important use in common, they keep people alive.  They do it better when they have a solid seal on a face.  Now I can't speak for the pilot mask, but I know that the SCBA is positively pressurized so if you don't have a perfect seal on your face that you start losing air... and in a fire environment air is equivalent to being alive.  That is why you can't have any facial hair around the jaw line, and why pilots and firefighters rock mustaches.

It is no secret that people love firefighters, or idolize fighter pilots.

That, my friends, is why mustaches are cool.

I'll end on a joke that many of you have probably heard:
What do cops and firefighters have in common?
They all want to be firefighters. :)

Friday, 29 November 2013

Give Thanks

Because somewhere out there... some firefighter is responding to a fire alarm...

just because you don't know how to cook a turkey.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Sleeplessly Testing in Seattle

So as you probably already know I tested for an entry level firefighter position in Seattle.  What you may not know what that this was THE test I wanted everything to go perfectly for.  This is THE department I want to be a part of, and this was THE weekend where absolutely everything went wrong. So here is my story, maybe you can learn from it.

This is a pretty good visual description of how I felt before this trip started.  Confident, ready to conquer the world and just completely on top of it.  Then I woke up.
My alarm found a way to not wake me up and for the life of me I couldn't tell you why. What I can tell you is that I had planned to wake up with plenty of time to pack for my 2 day weekend away, and that all of that time was wasted away while my brain decided to ignore the incessant noises of my alarm clock.

It was pandemonium, I was grabbing the closest clothing to me and throwing it into my backpack. So here's what I managed to pack:
2 belts
1 extra shirt
No socks
No extra underwear
5 hats
My computer
2 extra hoodies

(pretty sure there is a bra in that, but you get the point)

Truly a sensible packing list, right?

The next hiccup in my journey stemmed from traffic. You know how people drive slower than the speed limit because there is a cop?  Yeah I got stuck behind every single one of those people on the way to the airport, just perfect.  I was a belligerent outspoken Irishman behind the wheel to the point where I about lost my voice.

So after my wonderfully peaceful drive down the canyon, I caught a bit of a break.  The perfect parking spot at the airport.  I was thrilled, "finally, something is going my way.  Maybe this is where the day turns around."

But as certain that I have Irish roots, Murphy's law was out to get me that fateful morning.

I sprinted to the terminal from the parking lot, because who waits for that shuttle? My backpack full of useless junk bouncing around on my back, the cold air rapidly filling and freezing my lungs just as fast as I could exhale the cloud of steam back to the wonderful smelling Salt Lake basin. Positive thoughts in my head even though I know I have about 30 minutes before the doors on that plane close.

Of course, the security line at SLC is backed up out of the cattle herding zone. So then begins the timer game, and I know you've all played it.  You know the game where you time how long it takes you to complete one lap of the security line and then you figure out how many 'laps' you have left. I did the math, and it was not looking good.  I had about 2 minutes of margin for error and I still didn't know what gate I had to get to!!!

Sure enough I get through security without a glitch, but let me tell you I looked like a crazy person after I got past the checkpoint.  I didn't even take the time to put my shoes back on, I just sprinted for the gate.  When I got there, the agent was there... the door was closed.  I looked to her and said, "I've missed it haven't I?"  She shot meet a stern look, which was quickly remodeled when she saw that I had sprinted from security with all my belongings carelessly bundled in my arms. 

"What's your name?"
I gave it to her.
"Sit down quickly."
So now I'm running down the jetway and I round the corner.  The flight attendant is LITERALLY closing the cabin door when she sees me, she says to me, "sit down quickly!"  Of course I comply, I had somehow made my flight.

I turned to the man sitting next to me who was staring at me, definitely amused about how I entered the aircraft.  After I was settled in I said to him, "The only reason that I am here, is because of nice people."

Before I continue, and yes there's more, I want to put good vibes out there to everyone who helped me make that flight.  You made my life a better place to spend my time.

I had planned on printing a document at my good friend's house when I got there, but it turns out he didn't have one. At first I didn't think it was a big deal, but as I read over the invitation email more carefully it seemed more and more like if I didn't have this document on physical paper I wouldn't be allowed to test! At this point I was feeling a lot like...
Then I started calling everyone I know to see if I could use their printer; it was now about 1130 pm the night before my exam.

Kinkos was closed... I checked. Thanks a lot Mitch Hedberg!

Finally I get a hold of my sisters friend, at about 1230 am.... and she has an infant daughter.  I felt terrible asking but I did it anyway and she was the godsend that helped me out (for which I am eternally grateful), I drove to her house printed out one document and left promptly to go try and sleep before my huge test.  However, thanks to the events of the preceding day I was so stressed out I could hardly keep my eyes closed.

Morning rolls around, I have now woken up about 5 times in a panic because I thought that I overslept again.  No such thing happened, we left early plenty of time was put aside for problems we might have AND THEN WE GET A FLAT TIRE!  Absolute absurdity, but not that big of a deal as we both know how to change a tire. HOWEVER, the last person who put the wheels on the car had stripped one of the lugs.  

We relentlessly tried to get the wheel off of that car but to no avail. 

Time to call a cab, only the cab can't find me.... at first.  OH and I had to borrow money for the cab, just icing on the cake really.

FINALLY I arrive at University of Washington campus.

.... and then I have to figure out where I'm REALLY going. To be perfectly honest, I paid the cab and started sprinting across campus completely aimlessly just hoping for the best which happened to be one of the only things that I got right.

Side note, things went well when I sprinted around... coincidence?

I made it, SOMEHOW I MADE IT!!! I was thrilled beyond words.  The test then started with a mandatory 2.5 hour study session, within that time I only fell asleep like 6 times.  Fatigue had taken it's toll, but I endured and finished the exam with 91% and was invited back for Oral board interviews.
The outcome was good, but the journey was one of the most trying events I've dealt with.

Well Worth it, I came out on top...

...Humbled yet triumphant

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Firefighting in Winter

As winter approaches there are new challenges to be faced.

First and foremost, we have to get the the scene safely.  That starts with understanding how your apparatus reacts to the cold weather and how to respond accordingly. 

Things as simple as knowing how your windshield defrosters work so that you can see where you are going on the way to the scene. Once you're on the road with a clear windshield it's important to remember most of engines out there have a bonus 8000 pounds of water sloshing around pushing you down the road. Be prepared for longer stopping distances and not being able to turn nearly as fast, inertia is not your friend..  People will also not be paying attention to you when they are driving in the snow, they are out of their comfort zone driving in the snow and that's when tunnel vision kicks in for a lot of people.

Car accidents have the potential for piling up, keep that in mind when you are establishing the scene and give yourself some extra room for error. There are few things I trust less than average everyday drivers trying to handle snowy conditions.

The fire scene is a whole different story. Slip and fall injuries are already a problem and putting ice everywhere is not helping our chances of getting away with mistakes.  Minimize extraneous water use at the fire scene and keep everyone a bit safer.

Everything about a fire engine is just waiting to freeze on you and hinder your ability to control a fire, anti-freeze is a tool that you can use to fight it.  90% of the battle is to have the right tool for the job, and even that is worthless if it is frozen solid.  For hoses and any other external equipment that uses water it is important to keep the water moving just barley enough that it won't freeze. Remember, we don't want extra water on the ground if we can avoid it.

I know usually we're worried about heat injuries, but where I'm from cold injuries are equally as real.  Rehab areas during the winter need to be able to remove firefighters from the cold elements.  The interior is still hot as hell so you get a good sweat on, the difference being that if you don't stay bundled after you exit the structure you'll quickly switch from over-heating to hypothermia.  One of the best ways that our body can defend against that is to be well fed and hydrated.  If you give your body the tools it will protect you from the elements.

It's simply important to remember the name of the game is different in the winter.  Be on your toes and stay safe out there!

 Here are some links with the good and bad results of driving in variable weather.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


I had a very good feeling about how this test went... and it was WARRANTED! Booyah, looks like I'll be going back to Seattle in the near future.

I'm excited.

So Excited!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The time is nigh!

For anyone living in the Greater Salt Lake Area and trying to become a firefighter, I have news. UFA will be hiring soon.


This is where you should be looking for the upcoming vacancy notification, all the information that you should need will be on that page so go check it out!  You won't be taking my spot, not without a fight, so bring it on.

I'm waiting on responses from two departments right now, Seattle and Phoenix, and it is really testing my patience.  Especially since I'm almost positive that I completely killed the test in Seattle.
I would love to work for Seattle fire department, they are well known for being on top of the changes in firefighting tactics and just being an all around very progressive department.

Phoenix is well known for a lot of the same reason, but Phoenix is just too hot of a place for me to want to live.  All that said, if I were to get a job offer from them I would certainly take it.

On top of all of this going on, I've been accepted into the UVU Paramedic Program and am slotted to start up in early January.

So really, the worst case scenario is that I just go on as planned into paramedic school.  Not a bad scenario. I am truly looking forward to what the world has in store for me.

This is what life looks like from the Captains seat.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Journey to the Job

This is me (I'm on the right) about two years ago.  All I had to my career of firefighting was a Utah EMT-Basic and a job offer for ski patrol. These two steps are some of the biggest that I have made towards working as a professional firefighter.

I was told time and time again that the process for becoming a firefighter was nothing short of daunting, but I persevered and told myself there was no way I would ever quit till I got the job, and I stand by that today.  At the same time, I wish that I had a little bit better of an idea about exactly how hard it was to be able to get anywhere in the world of firefighting.

So I lucked out and got the first EMT job I applied for, and that luck was stronger than I could have ever hoped because I landed myself a ski patrol job in the land of the dirty hippies where terrible facial hair is revered (pictured above). 
Let me tell you though, ski patrol has a very miniscule overlap with the world of firefighting and there will always be someone out there to remind you of that.  Just being on ski patrol is not enough to say, "I have experience as an EMT," not in my opinion anyway.  It's a great starting point, and will probably be enough experience to get you a low level ambulance job, and if you don't like the idea of medical response as a part of your job duties in firefighting you should try a different career, like wildland firefighting.
Pretty cool right?

Ski Patrol was really hard work and a complete blast, I would trade my time there for anything in the world.  If it were a year-round job, without having to move from Utah to Australia and back, I would do it forever.  I don't feel like being nomadic though, so I'm trying to settle into a structure firefighting job.

The whole time I was on ski patrol, and all the time between, I was putting out applications for fire jobs all over the area.  I began noticing a trend that is more and more prominent every day.  People don't want to hire someone who is just a firefighter, or just an EMT Basic, they want the full package.  "ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC," is what you will begin to see more and more.

I have spend a lot of my time, and I mean A LOT, filling out applications and driving to different departments to test for jobs.  I have spent a lot of money, and many miles on the road.  My point being, I have put a lot of time out there and I'm not even close to the highest ranked candidate out there.  I think that I should be, and that I have a lot of potential to be a great asset to any department that would take me.  But until I achieve that level of training that is exactly all that it is, potential. What I have learned is that fire departments don't to invest in potential, they want you to show them what you can do with it.

Go out, and show them what you can do. Get all of your certifications and a Degree if you can.  I would say the only thing you benefit from taking tests before you have your certs is the practice of taking the actual tests.  Chances are pretty high that you aren't going to make it without a highly decorated resume.

The most important thing I would say that has kept me going is just knowing that I am going to do it. You have to believe in yourself or you will never make it.  It is a long haul to become a firefighter, get ready to bear down and plug away till you get there, and NEVER stop once you do.  Just because you are a firefighter does not give you the right to complacency, there are thousands of guys gunning for your job and don't you ever forget it.

Monday, 21 October 2013

What is it that we pay firefighters so much for?

In years past and leading up to now, there has been a debate forthcoming about what firefighters do.  It has been called into question why it is that we pay them so much.  Questions like, “why do they have to live so extravagantly?” Or, “Why are my tax dollars paying for a bunch of grown men to play basketball and eat gourmet dinners?”  These are trivial things I have heard mentioned in passing that peaked my curiosity, and drove me to seek out the answers (and the job of a firefighter.)  The fact of the matter is that these opinions passed without merit and without the hard facts to back them up. The truth is that firefighters are worth paying more today than they were in the past because they have become much more diverse in their responsibilities and activities throughout the workday. They do not live in luxury, nor do tax dollars pay for their meals. Firefighters are like the mortar to our brick house, or the foundation to a skyscraper. Without them, many of our established systems would simply fall apart.  These are public service members that have committed their lives to protecting the lives of others.  Firefighters are willing to help people at a potentially great sacrifice to both them and the members of their families. For men and women who are willing to give so much to help others in their time of need, why would we not take care of them?
            First and foremost, firefighters hardly waste their days away waiting for work to come their way, they instead seek out opportunity to work.  The days of ‘firefighters sitting around the table at the firehouse, playing cards or checkers, waiting for the next fire to occur’ (A Day) are a thing of the past.  At every individual firehouse, it is not uncommon to find that every part of the fire crew stationed there, with the exception of the captain (A Day) would have a specific morning duty.  The most important part of any firefighters morning duty is to insure that of their equipment is operation properly.  For the engineer this is a very extensive process, for before he or she can begin to make sure that everything is in good working order, they must first be sure that all of the equipment is present on the engine or truck.  This means going through every individual compartment with a clipboard and a checklist. At that point, which all the tools are accounted for, the engineer can begin inspection of those tools.  After the contents of an engine have been cleared for duty, the engine itself must be run in such a way that I would have to operate in any of its potential daily duties. In the same way that the engineer must look over their engine to prepare for duty, so must every other firefighter or paramedic inspect their tools.  Firefighters would check to make sure that fire axes were sharp; and that chainsaws were running well and full of gas and oil. Paramedics would comb over their ambulance bumper to bumper much the same way the engineer did their engine.  If all goes well, this is accomplished before the shift of the newly on duty personnel begins, and it’s not even close to the end of morning duties. 
Keeping the station and its contents clean is extremely important to the fire service for many reasons.  So after it has been verified that the station is fit and ready for duty, it is time to clean up around the firehouse. This time is generally used to do chores like you would around your own house at home such as: mowing the lawn, cleaning the kitchen, mopping the floors, vacuuming, etc.  Some of these duties, like taking out the trash, are daily duties; and some of the other things that need to get done, like cleaning the fire apparatus, tend to be more of a weekly chore.  All of these things are crucially important to the fire service because of the potential of interaction with those patrons that fund their fire station, and their salaries.  Maintaining the property of the fire departments illustrates to the public that the firefighters are respectful to the equipment that has been given to them to work with.  Regular maintenance of equipment also elongates the time that you are able to keep that item in service. So, this perpetual cleaning process helps to save departments money, and puts a good image of the department in the public eye if ever they were to stop by the station.
Before we move on, it is important to debunk the myth that firefighters buy their food with the public’s money. Firefighters pay out of pocket for all personal items at the stations, including all food, computers, Internet access, cable TV and televisions (Myths).  However, it has been known in other departments that Internet access would be supplied to the firefighters, as it has become an integral part of the emergency response system.  I guess it could be said that the meals are paid for by public money in a way, if you consider that the public coffers fund the salaries of firefighters.  But this would be the same to say that the public pays for the post office workers to eat, and of course we do.  We pay city, state, and national government workers to provide a service, and they in turn make a living upon with to support themselves. It isn’t prudent to think of our government’s workers salaries as ‘public money,’ it’s their money and they can spend it how they choose.
After firefighters have had lunch and rejuvenated, it is time to fill the afternoon with activities.  As firefighters jobs are extremely physically demanding at times it is expected that they maintain a specific level of physical fitness.  This being the case, workouts are the part of many firefighters day at this point, and departments are beginning to turn to a policy that requires firefighters to exercise at least one hour per day (McManus).  As is well known to many people trying to get into shape, one day a week of exercise is not nearly enough to tackle such a daunting task.  Firefighters have to take their obligation of health and fitness home with them and carry it always, so they are exercising on their days off to make sure that when the time comes to act that they will be fit enough to complete the job when needed.  This doubles as another way that the department can help to keep up in its appearances, not in the vanity of its firefighters, but in the public seeing that the firefighters are fit and ready to save the lives of the civilians that might need them.
Other afternoon activities include building inspections, training, and city equipment inspections.  These activities are extremely important in the effectiveness of firefighters.  Building inspections give firefighter the opportunity to go into and around a structure and gain a better understanding of what that building is like.  It helps to identify things that could be a hazard in a fire, or even without a fire.  It also allows firefighters to identify and fix problems or violations of fire codes before it becomes a problem during a working fire.  Hopefully these inspections also offer the opportunity to build rapport with the business owner, and the community at large. Hydrant inspections must be preformed annually according to NFPA Standard 25 (Confidence 4) to insure that in case of a fire or emergency the hydrant will be able to supply a sufficient amount of water to control or ‘knock down’ a fire.  As fires account for only about five percent of all incidents responded to by firefighters (Marginal), training for those fires is key to keeping firefighting skills sharp and second nature.  As you can see, there is a lot of opportunity for firefighters to fill their time in the afternoons as well.
So that is a pretty good idea of what firefighters can do in a day without so much as having to fight a fire, or respond to an emergency medical incident. And after the day’s activities conclude, dinner is made and beds are found early in the hopes of a good night rest for the firefighters.  All of this is a day in the life of your average firefighter, in an ideal world where nothing burns, and nobody gets hurt.  But we all know that the world is not ideal, plenty of stuff out there is capable of burning, and almost always someone is getting hurt to some degree.
As is such, firefighters do not have such predictable days, however they do have the same responsibilities to attend to.  To draw from the beginning of the day of a firefighter, they could be walking into the station beginning to check the equipment they are normally assigned to checking when a call comes in and the truck rolls out.  Having not completed the morning check during the time that they would have to do it, the activity must be pushed back to when they return.  This could happen at any time with any activity throughout the day.  Regardless of the firefighters responsibility to respond to and provide excellence in service, they are also not relieved of their obligation to complete any chores throughout the day.  As is such, firefighters can expect to have to adapt in the ways that they start and finish chores.
Adapting is exactly what the fire service has been doing for decades now.  At any given moment firefighters can be called to duty, whether they are eating dinner or in the middle of what could have been a good nights sleep.  What’s more is that when they are waking up in the middle of the night, scrambling to get into their gear and get aboard their apparatus, they are only then getting a vague description of the nature of the call that they are going to be responding to.  Firefighters used to do just that, fight fires, but now their role in the world is ever changing along with the ever changing, and mind you demanding, world (Deerman).  In today’s world, the nature of a call is only a fire five percent of the time. For the remaining 95% percent of the time, more often than not the main role of a firefighter is one of a medical emergency responder.  Sometimes it’s helping those involved in a car crash and other times it’s a man down unknown.  If you could imagine calling 911 for it, it is something that a firefighter could potentially come up against. Newly introduced to the responsibilities of firefighters are many different specialties that one could spend years learning about and still have even come close to fully understanding.  Hazardous materials are being produced and transported in massive quantities in the United States, and thus firefighters are being trained how to deal with these types of materials in any conceivable mishap.  People are going deeper into the backcountry and exploring steeper higher mountains all the while creating new challenges to be addressed in their rescue leading to new high angle rescue courses that allow firefighters to deal with the unknown. Cars are changing rapidly to involve intricate electrical hybrid systems, which pose significant threat to those who don’t understand it.  Even when people and technology aren’t pushing the boundaries of public safety and rescue, the fire service is working on refining tactics and applying lessons learned from mistakes made (Firefighterclosecalls).  If firefighters were to be paid relative to the knowledge that they have to acquire to be proficient then it is easy to say that they should be paid more now that in years past.
All of this is part of the job of a firefighter, but lets take a step back and look at what it takes to simply become a firefighter. On average if takes about three to seven years to become a firefighter, and that is just those who make it into the fire service (Prziborowski).  To become qualified to be a firefighter is similar, if not the same process that many go through to prepare for their jobs in the world.  Like any profession, the more education you have, the more hirable you are.  So although in many situations to meet the minimum requirement to be allowed into the hiring process requires little more effort than graduating high school and earning an EMT certification, a large number of candidates have multiple certifications and even college degrees.  In fact, a Bachelors Degree is required by many fire departments to become a fire chief.  The process of becoming a successful career firefighter is not very different from that of many aspiring college students seeking their post degree dream job.
So why is it then, that when the average firefighter in 2011 makes $47,850 per year (Firefighters) and the average American in the same year makes $48,301 per year (US and States), that everyone is in an uproar about how firefighters make way too much money? Consider as well, that firefighters put in 56-hour workweeks on average (The Truth) as opposed to the standard 40-hour workweek associated with many other jobs in this country.  So Firefighters work an average of 16 more hours per week, and make $451 less per year.  It should also be noted that the bottom 10% of firefighters make on average only $22,030 per year, a fairly Spartan salary one might say.  Although the top 10% pull in $79,150, a 68% increase from average, which is considerably more than the average American, for one to be in the top 10% of any profession one might expect to make considerably more that what is average.
Working long hours through the day and night and the week is not the only obstacle of being a firefighter. To make it through the day, firefighters have to overcome dangerous situations that are constantly arising and challenging them. One of the first things taught in and emergency responder class is scene safety (Scene Safe).  The idea of this is that one cannot put themselves in immediate danger even if it is to aid in the assistance of someone in need because and injured responder is simply another injured person who need to be helped.  Even when trying to follow this idea of thinking there is no such thing as a perfectly safe scene, and there are a few exceptions to this rule of scene safety.  In the world of firefighting, on the scene of a fire, one could hardly call a house that is on fire a safe scene, and yet firefighters go in to battle the blaze and rescue the occupants of this environment full of hazards that change by the second.  Even that action has come to bear regulations from The Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) such as the “Two in Two out” rule (OSHA) concerning the entry to these immediately dangerous to life and health environments (IDLH).  This rule states that two firefighters, which is the minimum allowed amount of personnel that must enter such an environment, are not to enter an IDLH environment unless there are two firefighters standing by outside who’s sole purpose is the rescue of the interior operating team in the even that they are to call a mayday and need assistance in retreating from the scene.  However there is a very important exception to this rule, if the firefighters upon arrival discover that there is potential for an immediate and effective rescue or the fire is in such a condition that it could easily be extinguished, and then two firefighters may then enter an IDLH environment and execute either of these actions.  Now to be clear, this states that in the event that someone could be effectively rescued, even if there is a IDHL environment present which is one that says in its name could be dangerous to firefighters, that without any support crew or anyone to help the firefighters if something were to go wrong during this operation, that they may enter this environment to exact said rescue.  A clear example of how firefighters literally risk life and limb seeking to protect the lives of people that likely they do not know.  This is part of the job of the firefighter that is well known to many, that they risk their lives in hopes that they can save the lives of others.  Is this carefully calculated decision to help others not one that should be compensated?
Not only is it known that the duties of a firefighter are inherently dangerous, but that dangerous activities are associated with shorter life spans.  So it is not by any means a stretch of the imagination to think that the average life span of a firefighter is considerably shorter than that of the average American.  They are also 3 times more likely to meet their demise while working than the average American (The Truth). Some have argued that the average lifespan of public safety members is not far off from the national average, but it is important to understand that while that is true that public safety members include “corrections officers, law enforcement, probation and court employees” (The Truth) who do not preform firefighter duties or encounter IDLH environments in their day to day work.  So with less of an average life to live, wouldn’t it make sense that firefighters be compensated to be able to live a little better than they might have? Some have said that there are many jobs that are dangerous. Which there are, there are other jobs that are equally risky, or even more to that point.  At this point in time almost everyone has at least heard of the dangerous and ludicrous profession of crab fishing.  Obviously crab fishing is a dangerous line of work, but a line of work that serves to benefit those who are doing the fishing and those who eat crab. While firefighting is dangerous, it is dangerous to benefit the people of the cities who employ the men who put their lives on the line.
Firefighters are an elite group of people, who train, learn, and maintain themselves to be ready at the drop of a hat for the people they are sworn to serve.  They work hard throughout the day and sometimes throughout the night for the benefit of those people. It is a life that not many people seek out, as it is associated to some of the more dangerous, and more gruesome aspects of life and death.  Firefighters of today’s society do well to take care of us. “The mission of the Park City Fire Service District is to enhance the quality of life for those we serve; safeguard the environment and economic base of our communities; make a positive difference; and provide excellence in service.” (Park City) This is one mission statement and like many others it exemplifies what the fire service is about. Firefighters do much more than fight fires, and are held to the highest standards of society and our society cannot afford to undervalue or underpay people of such diverse knowledge.  For if we do, we can expect the quality of person that the job of career firefighters will begin to diminish in the traits that firefighters currently hold dear. It is due time that firefighters are appreciated for what they do on a regular basis. Firefighters make a substantial amount of money, this much cannot be argued, but they earn and deserve every penny that they make.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Wildland Season is Coming to an End

We're getting away from the season of wild land fires and our wildlanders are coming home. So before I get into anything else I just want to recognize that.

Without you wildlanders putting yourselves on the line,
we wouldn't be safe in our homes in the wildland interface. 

We have wildland firefighters to thank for saving the water supply of the San Francisco area, and they have something to thank for the effectiveness of their activities.

New mapping technology was able to help the commanding officers of the Rim Fire, which was burning 250,000 acres in California, to decide exactly where to have 3 DC-10 fire retardant drop planes to place their payload.  This in combination with the activities of the ground support was able to halt the fire and save the water supply from being contaminated with soot.

This is all due to the fact that commanding officers had up to date information that has been beyond luxury in the past.  In situations like this the command posts would receive reports on paper every twelve hours hoping to keep further updated by intermittent radio traffic.

Esri, Rim Fire Map
With cell phone technology on their side, firefighters are able to paint a much more specific picture of the roaring fire. 

This is an awesome step not only to help us fight fires more effectively, but in our ability to better predict the actions of wildfires.  Which to me, the most important side effect is that it gives us the ability to protect the firefighters who are out there protecting us.


Solar Panels are now threatening the ability of firefighters to protect a structure.  Due to the fact that solar panels energy receiving technology cannot be disabled, firefighters cannot be effective in many vertical ventilation tactics (one of the ways the firefighters remove heat and smoke from a structure to make the environment safer to work in, or even safer for civilians to survive in.)

In Delanco, New Jersey volunteer firefighters encountered solar panels on the roof and had to switch to a defensive tactic.  Now just because firefighters are going defensive does not mean that if they are able to change the conditions of the fire in their favor enough that they cannot switch back into an offensive attack.  But in the case of the Dietz & Watson warehouse, Delanco Deputy Fire Chief Robert Hubler said, "Do I think we'd have had a different outcome if we could get on the roof? Sure."

This is an interesting problem because most people understand solar panels to be the clean, money saving, green energy source that will effectively fuel our electrical needs.  But they have found that even the light from a flashlight carried by a firefighter gives a solar panel enough charge to be hazardous to firefighter safety.  

An additional problem is that solar panels add weight to a roof, and if solar panels were installed after the house was build then it is safe to say the the load on the roof is not designed, or simply, more likely to collapse sooner during the evolution of a house fire.


This is an interesting challenge that firefighters everywhere are already trying to figure out how to defeat, and I for one am very interested to see what the community comes up with in light of this hurdle.

Solar panels big issue for fire fighters 


The roof is on fire: Do solar panels hinder firefighters?

On a side note, I intend in the next week to start a blog documenting my road to elite physical fitness to give myself a sort of social obligation to continue to work hard at being better at being who I need to be. I would love for anyone and everyone to be a part of the journey with me.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wildland FF Deaths, Drunk NC Driver

     It seems that every day that I check my email I hear about another Line of Duty Death (LODD) from the wildland firefighting world.
     Everyone was made well aware of the 19 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty earlier this year, as it should be. This tragedy marks the greatest loss of personnel since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  What hasn't been heard of is that throughout this summer, one for the record books, firefighters have been suffering one of the worst summers in recent history. Only 9 months through the year and 2013 has claimed the lives of 75 firefighters, only eight short of last years 83 LODD. If we are to continue on that same average then we could expect to lose as many as 112 firefighters in the United States.
     It seems to me that you only hear about a wildland fire death in the news if it occurred in an area very near you.  This seems very wrong to me.  To quote Stalin, "1 death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic." In this particular line of logic, we have a tragedy happening at least once a week in America.  A tragedy involving a person who has dedicated their live to the protection of the life, property of everyone regardless of race, gender or social status.
   The time is past due when we remember to recognize the men of the fire service in our everyday lives, not just when horrific events tremble the very identity of our country.

This is a good resource for just that, subscribe and remember who it is that comes running into your house when no one else will.

A Fire Lieutenant of Chapel Hill Fire Department is in the spotlight, in a way, for pulling over a woman who was obviously swerving and under the influence of alcohol.  Courts are questioning whether or not this was an abuse of power in the official role of a firefighter.
The mission statement of CHFD is as follows

"The primary mission of the Chapel Hill Fire Department is to protect life, property and the community environment from the destructive effects of fire, disasters or other life hazards by providing public education, incident prevention and emergency response services."

Considering that the woman was found to have a blood alcohol content of .23 I think it is fair to assume that this was an incident waiting to happen.  The reason that we have laws limiting the blood alcohol content in drivers is because of the direct correlation between intoxication and traffic incidents. I can't imagine that allowing this woman to continue driving would have been safe for the public of Chapel Hill. Might it have been prudent for the Lt. to have called for immediate police involvement? Yes, of course it would have. But is it not also possible that a woman who has habitually broken the law involving driving under the influence of alcohol was an immediate threat to public safety? I think that we can all agree that she in fact was.

I personally think that this could simply be considered incident management; but more importantly I think this firefighter absolutely did the right thing.  As it is, just because you're right doesn't mean you're going to win in court, THAT is the sad truth of it.