Monday, October 05, 2009

NAKED AGGRESSION: Funny stuff on a funny call.

WOW! Blink too long in the blogosphere and a year goes by. No comment about timing. I just haven't been up to writing, so I haven't.

I was inspired to get back on the blogs by my niece, who set up a blog to document her trip to Spain this fall. I told her in an email that she should take a look at this, but that I hadn't updated in more than a year. I was thinking how lame or negligent that was, so I decided to post a tale of something that happened a few weeks ago on the streets of our little town. It was a good reminder that you can still be a hard-charging fireman, even if you aren't as young as you used to be, and in this story, I'm not talking about me.

It was a pretty normal day at duty. A couple of no-account calls, and nothing terribly exciting. After dinner, we were considering what to do to maintain staffing of our engine company and ladder truck, owing to late-day personnel shifts. The decision was sort of made for us when a call came in for our fire boat. The boat is kept in the water in a location remote from the firehouse, and our engine usually responds to the boat either to meet an operator or to form a crew. Boat calls are either extremely high acuity or total bullshit, usually trending toward bullshit. Steve, my former fireman/now my lieutenant, was literally walking out the door to cover another assignment, but before leaving quickly shifted people around to maintain coverage.

On the engine and going to the boat call was Dave (driver), my brother "J" (Officer), and a complete boot rookie whose name escapes me. On the ladder truck, staying home, was John (Driver, captain of ladder company), myself (officer- a nice tip-of-the-hat from the captain), and Gary, our solid-skilled firefighter. Thin crews, but legal. It would do. In a hasty conversation as the engine was going out the door, J and I discussed firming up riding assignments when the engine returned from the inevitably unfounded boat call. The engine left.

I grabbed a radio to listen to the boat call while I sat on a bench out front of the firehouse. As expected, the call turned out to be almost less than nothing. The engine was on their way back when we were dispatched to a house fire.

The fire was in our "first due" response area, which for the uninitiated simply means that the house was in the primary coverage area of our firehouse and our companies would ordinarily be dispatched first and arrive first at any sort of call to that area. The particular neighborhood for this dispatch is very well known to us, having been the site of many dozen fire incidents over the years. Guys in our company literally know how to get around these houses in complete darkness, just from seeing what floor plan they are walking into.

So, we load up on the the ladder truck and head out toward the fire. Based on the timing of the engine leaving the boat slip, I half expect that we on the ladder will be first on the scene. I plan accordingly, making sure that my gear is perfect, that I have all of my stuff ready to go, thinking about where to put the rig. John says to me as we load up that he knows the address and doesn't need me to look it up. That's fine with me, and from the provided cross streets, I can narrow it down to six houses. So, instead of reading the map, I'm checking my gear, dealing with my airpack, changing channels on my radio, doing horns and sirens, all at a rather leisurely pace.

J gets to the fire first. Not a total surprise, but not exactly what I expected. J, who invented the "iceman" form of radio-speak, marks on the scene in a perfectly flat and intentionally under-excited tone: "[unit] on the scene with a two-story Cape Cod, smoke showing from sides A, B and D, it'll be a working fire, we have our own water supply and will be advancing an attack line." So, it's totally on.

I shift gears from leisurely pace to "I'm going to be ready to go in the building when I step off the rig" mode. Accordingly, I put on my mask, pull on my hood, apply my helmet, get my gloves on, etc. All the while, I'm sort of looking down. As we pull onto the block, John asks me "Which one is it?", to which I respond, "I thought you fucking told me you knew exactly which one it is..." I look up and see a huge plume of long, white hair topping a guy doing the "round third" base coach arm swing and pointing down the street. I look around the corner, and I tell the captain "Oh, cap, it'll be that one over there that is on fire." We share a quick laugh. Dave and J left us a good spot in front of the house, and we pull in. I hop down from the rig and glance at the house, which I assess to be a "small deal", which is to say not the most serious fire ever. Here's where things get weird and funny.

As I'm walking up to the house, J is already inside and Dave is shoving a hose line at or through the front door. I finally look up at the porch, which is a 6x8 slab of concrete with two steps up to it, and flanking the sides of the door are two sort of fat, hairy old guys who I thought were naked. Both of them are bent over, with their hands on their knees, clearly out of breath and leaning back toward the door. I ran up on the porch, and I asked them if they were OK. The guy on the left stands up, puts his hand on my shoulder, and I recognize him as an older member of our company, a 35 or 40 year guy who lived at the firehouse for most of his adult life. I ask him again if he's alright, and it dawns on me from where we were that this might be his house. He takes in a deep breath and says "Matt, it's a kitchen fire, back right corner, on the stove top and probably behind it. I crawled in there with the garden hose, but it wasn't enough and I'm not sure I got it all." By now, I'm sort of laughing, at least on the inside. Here's this guy, mostly naked, taking one of those spiral self-retracting garden hoses into a house fire and trying to knock down a grease fire. Awesome. It gets better.

Bear in mind that I'm literally geared up to do structural firefighting. My man is mostly naked. The other mostly naked guy is also a long-serving member of the fire department, who helped with the initial garden hose attack. As I'm talking to the first guy, whom we shall call "Puddin'", a female police officer charges up to the little stoop we're standing on, smoke cranking out the door, and gets right in Puddin's ass in her exercise-of-authority voice about how he has to "get the fuck off the porch, NOW!". Puddin turns to her, in his unclothed glory, and calmly says, "Ma'am, I'm with the fire department.", to which the officer responded "Bull fucking shit you're with the fire department, get down off the goddamn porch!" So I lean in to her, through my mask, and say to her: "No, really, he is with the fire department". She gives me this incredulous look, and gave up on it. I wonder if she kisses her momma with that mouth.

Now I'm really chuckling. Those old knucklers crawled into this bullshit cracker box of a house and tried to put out the fire. I quickly realize that this is no place for naked dudes. It was smoky, and hot enough that I could perceive the temperature elevation in my gear. I found J in the kitchen putting out the remains of a stove-fire-gone-awry, which was exactly what our guys described. Short work. Gary and I did a quick search of the basement and two above-ground levels of the house and then vented the place. The smoke cleared quickly and once the work was done, we went back outside.

When we got outside and I got my bearings, I realized that the block we were on is a little enclave of homes where a bunch of our older members live. The big poof of white hair waving us in turned out to be yet another of our members (we'll call him "Bob"), who is a proud VietNam Vet and recently-retired government worker, who finally got to grow out his hair to its current glory. Puddin' and the other guy (whom we'll call Ed) were next door at Puddin's house and saw the fire start while they were in the backyard pool. It turned out that they weren't quite naked, but they both had on what I would describe as "questionably small" shorts. I asked Puddin, who was still huffing and puffing, if he was OK and what came over him. He simply said that he saw the fire, got the people out of the house, and noticed that the hose was just there and ready, so he thought he'd take a stab at it. By this point, J, Dave, Gary and I were all sitting there talking with the older guys, and I observed: "Once a member of this company, always a member of this company. Gear? We don't need no stinking gear! Shit, clothes? We don't need no stinking clothes! Give me a garden hose and a pair of underwear, and I'll put your fucking fire out! Woo-Hoo!"

The cop apologized, we all had a good laugh. It was sort of a short-form "survival breakfast" situation [See "survival breakfast" post]. It made me happy that our guys could do such a good job under impossible, if not embarrassing (em-bare-ass-ing?) conditions.

Maybe I can go another 20 years. Hmm. Whatever it was, it was good times.

I'll try not to go another year. If anyone is still out there, leave me a comment and I'll be encouraged to write more frequently.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

LET'S NOT FIGHT FIRE- I still don't understand this plan.

Greetings! Last week, I went to a chimney fire and was reminded of a little problem that we have with some neighboring fire departments and the differences between us. The problem is that other departments seem to have SOP's or directives which make it so that they either cannot or will not fight fire. (See generally my earlier post about the "playbook"). This chimney fire, while generally unremarkable, sent my mind back to another call and another cluster-F situation...

The reason that I got sent down memory lane was pretty simple. I was assigned to drive the ladder truck, and we get woken up out of bed at about 0100 for the report of a chimney fire. It is a long way away, but we are the nearest truck, I guess. Riding officer with me is my friend David, who like me is semi-retired, which is to say that he has twenty years in the department and has decided that it is more fun to ride on the firetrucks than to work as an assistant chief. As I have written before on this blog, David is the finest of firemen. As we go out the door, it is apparent from radio traffic and computer updates that this will be a "real" chimney fire, as opposed to the more common "bullshit" chimney fire. In the world of chimney fires, it seems that in the last twenty years, things have calmed down significantly. Chimney fires occur when improperly used and/or poorly maintained chimney flues build up a layer of flammable gunk, which eventually catches on fire. In a "real" chimney fire, this results in a huge flame column shooting out of the top of the chimney and the sound of a jet engine or rocket motor. Good times. In a "bullshit" chimney fire, this results in a roof with a bunch of charred shit in a corona around the chimney, and a little bit of glowing material inside the flue. Bummer. In both cases, chimney fires are strange because with rare exception, they are not exceptionally hazardous to the building (which is not to say that they are non-hazardous), and are accordingly considered among firemen to be a nuisance-type call.

So we drove a very long way to get to this fire, and when we got there, there was some fire and sparks coming out of the chimney. My assessment was that we had missed most of the fuel burn off and we were seeing the end of the fire. I put up the bucket of our truck to get my guys access to the roof (which was really unnecessary except that the bucket has 1500 watts of lighting, and a ground ladder doesn't). David went inside, and the guys in back went up on the roof. An engine company was also on the roof with them. No one on the roof was doing anything. I went inside the house to see if David needed anything else, and it was there that I found a little surprise. The crew from the first due engine was inside, and had pulled a wood stove away from the fire box. OK, that's pretty normal. What was wierd was that they had a fireproof blanket out and they were holding it up with their hands on the top and standing on the bottom, using the blanket to block off the box from the rest of the house. It was like a big patch on the wall. They were making no effort to do anything about putting the fire out. David was busying himself making sure that there had been no fire spread to the house, which there hadn't, and talking to the homeowner. The homeowner said that he had had a prior chimney fire 20 years ago, and that in response, he had a stainless steel flue liner installed. This meant that there was nearly no chance of the fire spreading from inside the chimney to the rest of the house, no matter what we did.

See, there is really only one danger to working on a chimney fire. In a house with a ceramic or masonry chimney, if you put too much water on the fire too quickly, there is some chance of cracking the liner and allowing fire to escape the chimney, thereby putting the structure at risk. In our department, we address this risk by limiting the amount of water we put into play on a chimney fire. Ordinarily, spraying a couple of cups of water onto the fire in the fireplace or in the woodstove puts out the fire in the flue. Water expands by a factor of approximately 1700 times when changed from the liquid state to the gas state (steam), so spraying a little bit of water into a fireplace, generating a little steam at the bottom, converts into a very impressive high-pressure steam bath for the length of the chimney. This will put out most chimney fires in no time flat. The department whose area we visited this evening didn't subscribe to this theory, choosing instead to wait it out and let the fire run its course. When we were finally done, we got back into the rig, and David said something to the effect of "different strokes for different folks, I guess we'll play by their rules on their turf", to which I responded: "I do not understand this whole 'let's not fight fire plan'", which is a direct quote from my brother J from a fire a number of years ago.

A number of years ago, we were sent on our engine and ladder to a structure fire on (what was then) a rural road that connected two more developed areas. It was at nighttime and in either the late winter or early spring. The wind was howling, blowing thirty or forty mile per hour sustained and gusts much higher. We arrived on scene to find an abandonded old house that was fully involved. Becasue of hose in the road, we had to park some distance away and somewhat uphill from the building, and we were able to get a really good look at things as we walked down to the fire. The first-due engine (from the department referenced in the "playbook" post) had pulled into the driveway, and was pointing its deck gun/deluge set at the building. This deck gun had a "stack tip" smoothbore nozzle attached, and we arrived just as the driver was getting ready to send water. I noticed three important things during the walk down. First, that pumper was parked directly under some power lines. Second, the thermal column coming off of the house (like the visible heat disruption you see looking across a barbecue grill) was being blown right across the power lines. Third, sparks, flaming brands and other debris were being carried by the wind into a neighborhood of new and occupied homes and causing small fires all over the place. Suffice it to say that this was a big-time emergency and nothing was being done about it.

The very first thing that I did was to go up to the driver of the first engine and tell him (quite loudly and not very politely) that he needed to move his rig right away and get out from under the power lines, because he was at serious risk of having those (quite live) lines fall on his pumper. He didn't listen. He went about opening up the gate on his deck gun, sending about 250 gallons per minute (GPM) in the direction of the fire. While I have to admit, it was nice to see someone try to put water on the fire, the wind was blowing so strongly that the stream didn't make it to the building. It was readily apparent that he needed to shut down, remove all but the biggest tip from his stack tip smooth bore, and try again (with a thicker stream and more water). Meanwhile, our crews were working on getting hand lines in place to try to do a more conventional attack on the fire. We were then ordered by their chief (whom we all respect, but who leads a bunch of knuckleheads) to stop what we were doing and wait for the deck gun to knock down the fire first, and then hit it with our hoses. After a few minutes of deciding that we were right about using a larger stream to defeat the wind, the re-formatted deck gun was tried again, and again had no effect. Meanwhile, flaming debris continued to fall in the brand new residential neighborhood across the way, and there were now several brush fires threatening occupied homes. There was then this moment of odd quiet, as our men were chomping at the bit to go at this house and the standing order on the fireground was to do nothing.

We had no illusion that there was anything to save about this house. It was an abandonded wreck when the fire started, and it was a total loss before anyone got there. I think that we on our crews had the benefit of seeing the larger scene and knew the context of what was really going on, and some of those other guys didn't. My brother J was the officer on our engine, and he was right in the chief's ear, pleading with him to give our guys some water and a chance, all the while pointing out that if we didn't hurry, we would have a series of other fires to fight. We were literally in a "surround and drown" position with three or four hand lines right up against the building, and with an order not to do anything until the deck gun/master stream issue had been resolved. Once the big stream had been denied by the wind twice, someone of greater rank than me realized that the pumper was underneath the power lines and exposed to a bunch of heat. The new plan became that they would move the pumper closer to the house, out from under the lines, and try the deck gun again. Once this became apparent, we all began to question the chief about why we couldn't take a stab at the building. This might seem like a breach of discipline or a break in the chain of command, but in this instance, we had a whole gang of senior officers on our crews (like captains and up), who had all worked with this chief for a long time, and he usually respects our opinons on tactics.

J made the rounds of the various positions and talked to the not-doing-anything hose crews, and then walked up to the chief while I was standing with him, and said "Chief, I do NOT understand this whole 'wait, let's not fight fire plan', and if we don't do something now, we're going to burn down that whole fucking neighborhood". Finally, this got things moving, and the driver of that first-due engine was directed to let us have our water.

Then began the comedy...We got water to one 1 3/4" hose line, which was being operated by an angry-ass 19 year old kid with a born knack for extinguishment. His name was Mike, and our department has since lost him to some better-known fire department up in New York City where he now is a ladderman in Harlem. Mike stepped right up to the front porch of the now-partially-collapsing house and began an almost crazed fire attack. He put water through the door, under the eaves, through the windows, up the stairwell, all over the place. In the minute or so before all of the other lines got going, Mike had the bulk of the fire knocked down and was working on getting the rest. It was amazing. His entire body posture was "aggression". And the lesson? In this situation you can turn one motivated kid with a hose loose and you can do as much good (or even more) as the biggest weapon you carry on your rig. In the end, we spent about an hour or two getting the whole thing out-out-out and rendered non-hazardous, but the "fighting" part of the "firefighting" was over in a few seconds.

J's complaint to the chief became the stuff of legend. I am 100% certain that no one who was lucky enough to see that exchange and then to watch the result as Mike put out an entire building in a minute will ever think of firefighting in the same way again. I was an officer for years, and I always told my crews what I had been taught as a boy: "You can put out a whole lot of fire with one engine company". After this, I always told them the same thing, only knowing in the back of my head that you can put out a whole lot of fire with one man, so long as your plan is "Let's fight fire", rather than "Let's not fight fire". Aggression must always be balanced against our "culture of safety", but in the fire service we must always be mindful that aggression in doing our job can result in the quick conversion of a dangerous and out of control situation into a safe and easily controlled situation. It is what our customers expect of us, and as long as we can operate without taking unnecessary risk, it the way things should be done. I just wish that our neighbors would pick up on this plan.

So, riding home from last week's chimney fire, David and I, both of whom were witnesses to J's moment of genius, had a good laugh at the expense of our neighbors to the west. Maybe someday they'll learn.

Post a comment to let me know that you read this far, and to let me know if you think I'm crazy. I'll be back again soon.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

FIREHOUSE PRANKS- A little inter-station rivalry never hurt anyone...much.

Thanks to everyone who has been stopping by recently. The traffic on my blog has been much higher than usual lately, and I hope that you have been enjoying the recent thoughts posted here. I really appreciate it when comments are made, so feel free to just say "hi" if nothing else.

I recently got to thinking about all of the crazy pranks that I have seen played between firehouses, sometimes as the perpetrator, and sometimes as the victim. So, for a quick and easy post, I figured that today I would just make a quick list of some of the stuff that I have seen. Before I begin, a quick disclaimer: "Firehouse pranks may be a thing of the past. Often, they are juvenile and stupid, and are probably banned by most department's rules. No matter what, the prime rule of firehouse pranks is that they MUST NOT INTERFERE WITH OPERATIONAL READINESS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. They probably shouldn't involve injury to persons or property either, but absolutely nothing should fuck with PPE or restrict apparatus from responding." OK, that having been said, here is a quick and far-from-complete list of stuff that I have seen, all of which is limited to pranks between companies:

1. The Banner (Phase I): Nothing says "owned" like making a banner out of a hospital sheet and some spray paint, with denigrating comments and placing it on your rival firehouse. This is customarily done around us by making a banner, sneaking to the other firehouse, duct taping the top of the banner to the bottom of the outside of the bay door, and leaving. This results in a situation where when the rival company gets a call, they raise their door and get a big banner in their face that not only says "You Suck", but which also says that you are not keeping a tight enough watch.

2. The Banner (Phase II): If the banner is funny, then doing a banner and making it very mean-spirited and making it look like it came from an uninvolved third firehouse, thereby causing an inter-station war of back-and-forth retaliation, is hilarious.

3. The Parking Lot Sprinkler: Done correctly, this has a very high chance of violating the rule about not damaging property (SO BE WARNED). Sneak into a rival firehouse on a sub-freezing night (15 to 20F) and stretch the garden hose from the apparatus bay to the parking lot. Once there, attach a garden sprinkler to the hose and put the sprinkler on top of the top guy's car. Leave. With any luck, no one will discover this antic until morning, and the victim's car and those around it will be coated in a ton of ice. SECOND WARNING: I saw this done, and so much ice built up on the car that the suspension was severely damaged, plus (in fairness) it sucks if the victim has to go anywhere (like work). My recommendation is to just think of this and laugh.

4. Insect Infestation: Before the explosion of growth in its area, one of our firehouses used to be surrounded by thick and damp/marshy woods. Back in the home response days, a couple of guys found the firehouse empty one night, so they turned on the light trailer that was stationed there, opened the bay doors with about 6000 watts of light in the bay and waited until about a gazillion moths, flies, aphids, mantises, mosquitoes and god knows what else came into the bay. They then turned off the generator/lights, closed the doors, and left. BTW, this is an all time favorite of mine.

5. The Trojan Truck: Drive to the vicinity of a rival firehouse and drop off two or three guys within walking distance, but out of sight of the firehouse. Drive your apparatus right up on the front ramp of the firehouse and do something obnoxious like lights/siren/horns/fire extinguishers/mooning or whatever, just cause a scene. While you are doing this (and hopefully drawing the attack/attention of everyone in the firehouse), the guys who were dropped off sneak into the firehouse while it is occupied, and do "The Banner" or any number of other tricks. And yes, some dumbass firehouse will fall for this more than once.

6. Messin' with PASS Devices- (Phase I): In our department, none of these tricks work anymore because our integrated Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices are permanently affixed to our SCBA and activated by breathing air, so any PASS hijinks violate rule number 1 and may not be done. In the past though, they were not permanently affixed, ran on battery power, and nobody used them anyway, so...GAME ON! Sneak into the rival firehouse at night after bedtime with one man for every SCBA carrying unit. Have an agreed upon signal, like snapping fingers, to indicate the start of the operation. Each person takes a piece of apparatus and upon receiving the signal, activates every pass device on their assigned rig, making sure to shake them so that they do not go off. Everyone runs out of the house at once. Thirty to forty seconds later, 20 alarms are going off at once, in the cabs, in the compartments, etc.

7. Messin' with PASS Devices (Phase II): Find a night when you have the keys to the captain's office at a rival firehouse, but no one staying in that firehouse does. Sneak into the firehouse well after bedtime. Take a PASS device off of the pack of your choice, and carry it into the captain's office. Take the phone off the hook and activate the station's overhead intercom system. Place the phone on the desk with the intercom open. Activate the PASS device and place it next to the phone, shaking it as you leave. Close and lock the door to the office. Leave the firehouse. Thirty to forty seconds later, one PASS device will be sounding very loudly everywhere in the house, and the guys in the house will have to call their captain to come from home to unlock the office and get it out.

8. Messin' with PASS Devices (Phase III): If you are wandering through a firehouse at night and just want to fuck with some people, one way to do it is to take a PASS device, activate it, shake it up to maximize the departure time, open the door to the bunkroom, slide it down the hall, and leave. Again, thirty to forty seconds later, everyone in bunkroom is up and confused, and you are already gone. Did I say that the days of these type pranks are over?

9 Messin' With Your Fill-Ins: Let's say you have members of another company covering your firehouse covering your house while your department is doing some activity (like medal day, installation, company picnic, elections, something involving drinking, etc.). One way to be less than gracious as hosts is to greet them and to show them where to sleep. Don't tell them that you have plugged in an alarm clock to every outlet in the bunkroom and randomly set them to go off every three to five minutes starting at about 0300 and lasting until about 0600. Take comfort in the fact that while you are enjoying your drunk-fest, they will be going crazy trying to end the agony of thirty alarms going off.

10. Retaliation for Getting Messed With By Your Hosts on A Fill-In: After the fourth clock goes off, destroy every alarm clock in the bunkroom by throwing them against the walls, smashing them to bits, and leaving the mess.

11. Furniture Swap: Find that your rivals are not paying enough attention to their firehouse? One way to let them know is to change entire rooms of furniture without being noticed or getting caught. By this I mean put all of the dayroom furniture in the kitchen, and all of the kitchen furniture in the dayroom. Take care to arrange the furniture in a manner that using it in the new area seems plausible. See how angry people get when they find your flair for interior design.

There are many, many more of these. For now, I'm getting tired. Bear in mind, that this post has been limited to inter-station pranks, and does not account for intra-station pranks, hazing, rookie gags, practical jokes, pointless quests and the other funny stuff that goes on. Fodder for more posts I guess.

OK, so there is no way that you can read this and not know about some sort of prank. Leave a comment and I'll compile some sort of handbook.


Monday, February 04, 2008

A RECENT "CHiPs" CRASH- Hey, this one happened this century

I'm back again, and this time with fresh tales of adventure from the WWW. Did you ever watch the show "CHiPs" about the two motorcycle highway patrolmen? Two things happened in every episode: 1. Ponch pulled some strange; and 2. there was a huge, stylized and and very complicated auto accident (usually on fire) in which no one was seriously injured.

As most of you know, we have a 6-8 lane stretch of I-95 with separate HOV lanes running through Woodbridge. It provides endless entertainment. For years, my brother J and I have been referring to big gnarly crashes on the interstate as "the CHiPs wreck", both as an homage to the show and as a shorthand to describe big, complicated, crash scenes. My brother and I now have 40 years experience between us, and there have been about 5 accidents that we have seen that warrant the actual label "CHiPs Crash". It just doesen't happen that often. One happened the other night....

So there we were, our old duty crew. On the pumper was my friend and fishing buddy Larry, who was driving, our boss Steve riding officer, a rookie fireman and two brand-new probationers (i.e., haven't completed initial firefighter training) On the ladder truck, J was driving, I was riding officer, and we had a couple of really competent firemen in the back. We were in the middle of a duty crew meeting at about 9:30 p.m., when our station alert tones went off.

Did I ever tell you about our station renovation? I won't bore you with it now, but when our house was renovated, we got this fancy alerting system that not only makes alert sounds, but also provides a visual cue in the form of colored lights to tell you in advance who will be dispatched.

When the tones went off this time, all of the lights came on... white for ambulance, blue for medic, red for engine company, green for truck company... Everybody goes! Whoop-de-doo, happens all the time. Usually that means a first-due fire call, but we hear on the way to the rigs that it is for an auto accident. When the ladder truck is dispatched to an auto accident, it is ordinarily because we are the closest available extrication-capable unit, which was the case here. The callback on dispatch provided the location as I-95 northbound, just north of our easiest access point, reported to be one vehicle overturned. As we loaded up, my mind focused on the limited capacity our ladder truck has to deal with overturned vehicles. Unlike a heavy Rescue Company, we do not carry a full compliment of hydraulic rescue tools, but more importantly, we do not carry a full compliment of cribbing and shoring to do a full-on extrication on an overturned or on-its-side vehicle. Fortunately, a rescue company was also dispatched.

So, we got on the road. We went somewhat out of order, in that we went engine, truck, ambulance, medic. Usually, we let the EMS units go first because the trucks are simply faster. Getting to the highway is easy. Leave the firehouse, go right at a traffic light, go about a mile down the road and past our hospital, and turn right to get on the highway northbound. Before we could get to the first light, we started getting dispatch updates through our computer aided dispatch (CAD) computer. It makes a little noise like "bleep-bleep" when it updates. The updates were coming fast and furious. Seriously, like every two or three seconds, there was an update. Each update represents a bit of information relayed to a call taker and then entered into the dispatch computer. Based on the number of updates, my guess was that our dispatch center was taking dozens of calls for this accident. While this ordinarily happens on the interstate, where everyone who sees the accident calls it in on their cell phone, the dispatchers don't usually forward every piece of information. In this case, though, the information kept getting more and more dire.

It starts with (bleep-bleep) "Now reported to be two cars overturned". Then adds: (bleep-bleep)"Total of five vehicles involved". And goes on to say: (bleep-bleep)"One of the overturned vehicles is on fire". A dispatcher comes over the radio to advise us of the report that one of the cars is on fire, which is simultaneously supplemented with a CAD update of (bleep-bleep)"cannot confirm all occupants out of cars, including one on fire", and then another to say (bleep-bleep) "passerby are attempting rescue now". On receipt of this information, I had the guys in the back put on their airpacks and get ready to fight fire. I started getting the rest of my gear on. I was dressed and had my airpack straps on by the time we were passing the hospital.

We went through a traffic light in front of the hospital, which is about two blocks from the highway entrance. J looked in the direction of the dispatched location, and said: "Oh yeah, its on fire, you can see the column from here." He was right. Despite it being nightime and the fact that we were a mile and a half away, there was one of those black columns of smoke illuminated by fire that means that it is time to go to work. I quickly ran through my plan for what to do with a car on fire with a victim trapped.

There actually is a plan for what to do with a car on fire with a victim trapped. The plan is essentially to dive into the car and pull out anyone you find as fast as you can. The plan is best executed under the protection of a hose line, but when you have a person stuck in a burning car, time is (of course) of the essence. An understatement, right?

So Steve and Larry get to the scene first. Steve, using his very best "iceman" radio-calm voice says: "engine 12 on the scene with two vehicles overturned, one on fire, no confirmation of occupants out of vehicle... give me a tanker for water supply and two additional EMS units. We will be out on extinguishment" About this time, J and I get to where we can see the fire. It is an SUV, on its side, pointing east in the northbound lane with its roof facing south. The back of the roof is leaning on a guardrail, which is keeping the vehicle from falling back onto its roof. It is on fire. It is vigorously on fire, almost strangely so. At any rate, it is what we call "getting it".

Steve said they had no confirmation of people out. This is one of those times when it is good to ride with your brother. Not much talking required, each of us knew what the other would do. Before our arrival, I put on my SCBA facepiece and got onto breathing air. J drives us past the engine, which by this time was deploying hose toward the fire, and parks us right next to the burning truck. There will be no one alive inside that truck, and if they are alive, they do not wish to be saved at this point. J gets out, I get out, J runs up to the SUV and quickly checks its stability while at the same time calling the engine crew a bunch of pussies for not getting closer to the fire. What he really was doing was trying to get them up close to the windshield, which had fallen/melted out of the car. The engine crew got up close to the windshield and began to spray into the passenger compartment of the SUV. The SUV's horn was going off continuously. I took a 90 degree flashlight, knelt down between the engine crew and the truck's open windshield, and did the dive into the burning truck routine, having been assured by my brother that the vehcile was stable. There was still some fire, visibility sucked, but using the flashlight I was able to check every seat and every space in the truck in a matter of seconds. Satisfied that no one was there, I climed back out the way I went in. The engine then finished the extinguishment in pretty short order.

Once I was out of the car, I took my gloves, helmet, hood and facepiece off and looked around to take full stock of the accident. The scene was approximately a quarter of a mile long. Shure as shit, there was another overturned car right up the road. The rescue company showed up. There were some other cars involved, all on their wheels. State troopers started coming out of the woodwork, along with some county police. My portable radio squalked about how something like nine patients were being evaluated. My guys went to work re-checking the security of the car and controlling hazards. We started looking around to make sure that we had found everyone involved in the accident and referred them to EMS. We evaluated some minor burns on J's hands. We did a little bit of traffic control until the interstate was completely shut down.

In the end, it turned out that the SUV that burned had been occupied by just one female, aged about 20, who was travelling through from Texas. After the accident, she ended up hanging by her seatbelt in her truck. A couple of people stopped to help, and as they tried to coach/assist her out of her seatbelt, a wire harness that had broken in the cargo area began to arc, setting the rear passenger compartment of the truck on fire. According to these guys, she freaked out (as I suppose that any of us would), dropped to the floor (which would then be the passenger side of the vehicle), and began to kick at the windshield to get out. Three of the bystanders helped her to get the windshield out of the truck, which explained why I found it on the ground all smoked over and broken. Those guys said that in the two minutes before our arrival the truck went from not on fire to fully involved, and they were stunned with the speed at which the fire progressed. Of course, no one bothered to tell us in avance that the girl was out, but I got to thinking that perhaps "the dive" wasn't so stupid and futile after all.

So, there were some oddities with this wreck that qualify it as a "CHiPs" level crash. First and foremost, it was an auto accident with secondary fire. Contrary to routine Hollywood portrayals, this almost never happens, and is absolutely the exception rather than the rule in auto accident operations. Secondly, there were two cars overturned in the same incident. I can only think of two other times in thousands of accidents that I have seen this. Thirdly, the scope of the accident scene was large, covering four lanes and more than a quarter mile. Lastly, almost no one was hurt, and there was a happy ending for everyone. The real heroes of the day were the civilians who stopped on the roadside to help a stranger out of a burning car. Without them, this girl almost certainly would have been gravely injured or died. Ironically, it turns out that they were the most severely injured persons in the incident, having cut their hands on the broken windshield while trying to get the girl out. Those guys deserve some serious credit.

So, instead of completing our meeting, we ended up out on the interstate. Someone asked if the SUV driver's ID was in her purse. One of my guys held up a melted purse-looking thing and said "Hey, you mean this?", to which we all laughed... and then FREEZE FRAME ON LAUGHING FIREMEN, ROLL END THEME MUSIC AND CREDITS...Duh-Duh-Da-Da-Dah

If you think that diving into burning cars is dumb, by all means, please leave a comment. I'll return later with more stories from the 21st century.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

THE LEADERSHIP THING- A thought about a Christmas past...and the biggest towing bill ever.

In what must be the fastest follow-up post ever, I was recently reminded of an old Captain of mine. This guy taught me a lot. Not so much about the fire department, but about that ever-hard-to-quantify "leadership thing". His name is Bob. Read the start of this, and I promise a funny story at the end.

Bob got my attention (again) a few weeks ago when he was promoted to the rank of General in the United States Air Force. Not brigadier, I mean O-10, four-star, real-deal General. He is in charge of a major command, and is responsible for the direction and supervision of tens of thousands of people and a bevy of super-important programs. He hasn't been active in our fire department for more than ten years, but those of us who remember his days in the department often speak of how we thought he would be the next Chief of the Department. We had our disagreements, but I have always very much admired him.

During the time when I had the honor of serving with Bob in the fire department (circa 1986-1990), he was a Lt. Colonel and Colonel. Little did we know that he had already been pegged by the USAF as a "rising star". In the fire department, he was a competent, but never super-strong or remarkable fireground commander. What he had though, was an ability to make people do what needed to be done. This included the ability to get people to do extraordinary tasks in firefighting, maintaining the firehouse, maintaining apparatus, serving on committees, setting up events, maintaining discipline, or anything else that goes on in the fire department. He was so good at overall personnel management that people like my brother and I, who were young and admittedly disrespectful of him at the time, were astounded at his ability to make things happen. Having now served as a Captain in the fire department for several years, I look back and wish that I had half of the prowess at motivating people that Bob had. The point is that any fire officer can grab a rookie by his airpack and drag him to a fire, whether he wants to go or not. It takes talent to get someone to clean up a boiler room, or to get all of the personnel of the station to do landscaping work for an entire weekend without complaint. We saw this talent in Bob. Unfortunately for our fire department, so did the federal government. Bob has been going up the promotion chain steadily since he left us. Given his very impressive service record, the United States has needed him far more than we did. Congratulations, Bob! Your achievement is literally beyond belief.

OK, enough of that stuff. As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of a General Bob-involved story. Despite his skill with leadership, this story ends with a great big "I told you so" directed at Bob.

Christmas 1990. The last great day of home response in the history of our fire department. Full-time duty crews went into effect soon thereafter, and home response essentially ended. At that time, I was a live-in at my current firehouse. My brother, whom we have called "J" herein, was in the process of transitioning from the firehouse in North Woodbridge to our current home in South Woodbridge. Our parents lived in the first due of our department's third station, one where neither of us routinely went. Sometime in December, I had been turned over (allowed by department rules and testing) to drive the ladder truck assigned to that station. On Christmas eve, J and I took our fire gear to our parents' house with the idea that we were close enough to respond into the nearby firehouse to get the ladder truck out. The engine was going to be staffed, as a family unit of Mother (driver), Father (officer) and Son (fireman) would be covering the engine. J and I checked into the firehouse and learned that Bob, who was a Captain, would be coming in for the ladder truck as well, so the plan was the the family would be the engine company, and that Bob, J, and I would come in for the ladder. The joke of it all was that there was absolutely no reason to expect a call, as that firehouse was one of the slowest in the county at the time.

Jay and I set our gear by the door and after hanging out with our parents for the evening, went to bed. To our surprise, our alerting pagers went off at about 0300. A call for the ladder truck! It was a genuine surprise. The dispatch was for a first due house fire, three engines, the ladder truck and a rescue company. J and I grabbed our stuff and jumped into my car. Stepping out the door of our house, you could smell the smoke, and the two of us both said "working fire". I put the little cigarette-lighter-powered red light on the dash, and we took off. To get to the firehouse, we had to drive past the place, or more accurately, the general area of where the fire was. I was going about 60 in a 25mph zone, when we passed a cop, who instead of pulling us over, waived us on toward the firehouse in an encouraging fashion. We saw the flames through the woods. We arrived at the firehouse a moment later, and at the same time as Bob. It dawned on me as I started the truck that this was to be the my first real call driving that truck. It dawned on Bob, too. He started by telling me to calm down and drive. We made it to the call without incident.

I have often said that on the fireground, my win/loss record is [some crazy number] and one. Like 248-1. Or 6579-1. Or something like that. This fire was, and still is, the "one" loss. By loss, I mean a fire that could have and should have ended differently than it did, despite our efforts. This is distinguished from fires that were big and resulted in loss. In this context, by "loss" I mean that we fucked up and the outcome was different than it should have been under the circumstances.

Upon arrival, we found the engine company family unit starting to make a move on the house, which was apparently abandoned. Water supply was going to be an issue, because of the remote location of the house at the end of a long dirt driveway (and ultimately, it took forever- requiring an 1800' three-part, j-shaped series of split lays). When they first started, they had a chance to stop the fire. From the outside, it seemed like there was a pile of refuse burning in the main room, which had extended to the attic and was coming out of the the vent on the "B" side. No problem, right? You can put out a hell of a lot of fire with the 500 gallons in your tank, right? We have plenty of people now and the water supply is coming so we can go in now, right? Wrong. I won't trouble you with the precise reasons that this went bad, mainly because I don't want to dime out my old friends for pump operator errors, bad chief decision making, and a fire attack that was not only late, but both ineffective and wasteful of water we didn't really have. Suffice it to say that nothing went to plan, and the delay in water supply spelled the doom of the building. I had a vision of how to do things differently, and I was really angry that I couldn't get my point across. Time for the aerial master stream.

For you guys not in the fire department, aerial master stream (AMS) operations are sort of a good news/bad news proposition. The good news is that AMS operations are performed infrequently outside of training, so everyone is motivated and excited when it happens. The bad news is that around us, AMS means "you have been beaten". AMS is a big, spectacular, high-visibility monument to "we suck". It's embarrasing. So, in the end, on a house with a relatively small fire and which shoulda-been-coulda-been-oughta-been saved, ended up fully involved and the subject of a prolonged AMS operation. As the driver of the ladder truck, my job was to set up my 110' ladder and pre-piped waterway for maximum effect, and to direct the flow of water from my controls at the turntable. I have to admit, for a first call as a ladder truck driver, this was pretty fucking cool, but I was raging pissed off at losing the building. I spent an hour with a coffee and/or smoke in one hand, and the electronic nozzle controls in the other, and ultimately knocked the entire building down into the foundation.

It being the early morning of December 25, it was cold. In fact, it was right around freezing. We were all wet from a couple of hours of firefighting that was not so much fun anymore. The chief, whom I could barely look at because I was so mad, released the Rescue company to return to quarters. Everyone was anxious to get home, it being about 0600 on Christmas and all. The Rescue was brand new. It had dual rear axles and a total of eight tires supporting the rear of its body. Although it was filled with rescue tools and equipment, it was still generally lighter than a ladder truck. To get off the fireground, the Rescue backed down the driveway a short distance, and then did a three-point turn into a grassy field to get pointed in the outbound direction. Bob and I watched this happen.

About an hour later, it was time for us to go. The sun had come out. While we were still cold and wet, the chill was starting to wear off with even a tiny bit of sunlight. I took one last look at the blackened and debris-filled swimming pool that used to be a house, cursed, and made final preparations to get my ladder truck out of there. I told Bob that I intended to back all the way down the country road that was the driveway, and then turn around at the main road. Bob told me to make a three-point turn just like the Rescue did. J and I both protested, indicating that the rescue was lighter than the ladder truck, had twice as many rear wheels (this ladder had a single rear axle and four tires), and oh yeah, the ground isn't quite as frozen as before. Nope, Bob wanted us to turn around in the grass like the Rescue. OK, Sir. I don't think that this is a good idea, but OK, Sir.

I backed the truck down the driveway. I got to the part where I could drive onto the grass. I intentionally skipped out on wheel-tracking where the Rescue had been. I eased onto the grass. Half way back and with my wheels fully turned to the left, all was well. Front wheels off of the driveway, straightened out, and ready to turn the other way, I shifted out of reverse and into "drive" or "4" or whatever it was. The instant that I started to go forward, there was a huge CRUNCH, and I watched in horror as the turf gave way under my wheels and the axle sunk into the turf up to the hubs. It seemed that the frozen tundra of Lake Ridge could not support my twice-as-much-truck-on-half-the-wheels weight distribution plan if the trick was not moving. J flipped out. "See, I told you so, Bob!" The bad idea now having come to fruition, we were stuck.

The good news is that a ladder truck in this situation can exercise a little bit of self-help. We set out our pads and I put down the stabilization jacks and lifted the truck up out of the holes. We filled the tire-shaped holes with oak cribbing blocks and I set the truck back down. To my amazement, the truck sat level on top of the wood. Bob's plan was that I would try to drive off of the wood with as much speed as possible, with the idea of carrying maximum possible speed onto the grass, hopefully allowing me to drive back onto the dirt driveway. Good plan. The distance from where the wheels were sitting on the wood to the grass was about ten inches. To be honest, I thought that it might work. For the first time all day, I was wrong.

I put my foot on the brake, slapped the transmission into drive, and released the parking brake. I looked to make sure Bob and J were clear, and I romped on the accelerator. The truck lurched forward, and then there was this odd sound, accompanied by the back of the truck going back down. The sound was sort of a WHOOMP, WHOOMP, WHOOMP. I learned moments later that the WHOOMP sound was the wheels driving the cribbing into the turf. Shit. We're stuck. It is now coming up on 0800 Christmas morning, we've been out all night, we're wet, and now we have to get our truck towed out of this crazy remote area we didn't even realize existed. I figured that the chance of getting a tow truck that could pull a ladder truck out of mud under these circumstances was about zero, maybe less.

If you thought that I was angry about the fire going badly, imagine how pissed off I was when we realized that the truck was stuck and not coming out. I was still trying to process how much force it would take to shoot lumber into the underground world using tires, when we heard that a tow truck was on its way. Turns out that the legendary owner of a local towing company was personally coming out (immediately, as it turned out) to handle our ineptitude. I was worried that he wouldn't have enough truck. I was wrong again. This guy knew his craft, and he brought out a big mamba jamba of tow vehicle, and he arrived before 0900. We were out by 0915 or so, and back to the firehouse by about 0930. Upon our arrival, we found our department vehicle maintenance officer waiting for us. "What the hell did you dumb fucks do now?" came the question from Art, the maintenance officer. It was really a term of endearment. J and I both pointed to Bob, and told Art to ask him. Bob recounted the original sinking, and then the secondary sinking. Art thought that the part about driving the cribbing blocks into the dirt was uproariously funny, and he pulled out a creeper to look under the truck.

J and I were making preparations to leave, like that second. We knew that we were going to be late at home. We had a Christmas tree full of presents and a Mom-cooked breakfast waiting for us. We each had a foot under the door, when Art said "Just where the fuck do you to think you are going?" I mentioned the above-listed reasons to leave, but Art just blasted back about how much work there was to do on the truck, and it was a lot. J and I were just kids, and we must have looked upset, being denied Christmas morning and all.

Bob took us aside and apologized for the mishap, thanked us for our good work, and asked us if we could stick around just long enough to help him get the mud off of the chassis, as he expected the truck to be back in service that day. He did this in a way that we couldn't resist. We stayed in the firehouse cleaning the ladder truck until after noon, with a call to our parents explaining the delay. In the end, we helped finish everything. Of course, it was our responsibility, and I am 100% sure that we would have shirked that responsibility under the circumstances. Bob got us to do way more work than planned by apologizing, thanking, asking and expecting, than he ever would have by "telling". That was his way. I learned a great deal that morning. I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet that guy, much less to work with him.

J and I arrived home sometime after lunchtime. We were wet, muddy, firefighting dirty, and smelled bad. We both passed out in our own beds, and woke up for what seemed like a regular Christmas at dinner time. It was a great day. I learned a bunch.

Comment all you want. I'll be back for more later.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

HOW TIME FLIES- Oh, and I'm still afraid of catfish.

Has it really been two months since I managed to write? So it seems. I wanted to say a quick thanks to my old friend Potsy, who has been reading the blog and who seems to have referred a few of his friends. I am happy to have all of my readers, but Potsy can vouch for most of the old-school craziness that is posted throughout this blog.

I was talking with Potsy a few weeks ago, and I was reminded of a fishing trip several years ago. This would have been during the aforementioned era when my friends and I would try to fish every day. A bunch of us were sitting around the firehouse one day, and we got to talking about the different types of fishing that we liked to do. One of our friends, whose name was Glenn, was going on and on about how much he enjoyed catfishing in the smaller of the two rivers in our town. It was then that I made a serious slip-up... I mentioned to the group that I was (am) scared to death of catfish.

Admitting fear of anything among a group of twenty-something firefighters is bad enough, but these guys thought that this was the funniest thing that they had ever heard. The chop-busting and ribbing started immediately. For the uninitiated, all of our local catfish species (channel, blue, flathead, etc.) have little venom stingers or barbs under their pectoral fins. As long as one holds a caught catfish correctly, the little stingers are not a problem. The trouble was that in all of my days fishing, I never learned the "magical catfish grip", and accordingly, the catfish have freaked me out since I was a kid.

I blame my father. When he was teaching my brother and me to fish, he pointed out this little issue with catfish, and whenever we would catch one, he would be very dramatic in his efforts to get the fish off the hook. My dad pretty much knows the magical catfish grip, but was never so kind as to teach it to me. All he would to is demand that he be the one to take the fish off, if I didn't ask him to do it first. Dad would tell tales of horrendous injury resulting from catfish spiking. Slashed fingers, venom induced night-sweats, kids getting stung through the soles of their shoes, this is what I remember hearing from my dad. Hey, I realize that no matter what happens with a catfish, it can't possibly be that bad, but even today, I am still wary of even stepping on a catfish to get a hook out.

Naturally, Glenn and Potsy thought that this entire situation was ludicrous. Glenn decided that he had to teach me the not-so-magical catfish grip immediately. Right now. In the late afternoon of that summer day, we hatched a plan to go fishing. We would meet at a pre-designated point at the smaller river, Glenn would put us on guaranteed catfish, and then Glenn would take me out of the world of big woochie pussies.

Of course, speaking of big woochie pussies, Glenn couldn't go to the fishing spot right away. Oh no. He had to go deal with his girlfriend first. Glenn's then-current girlfriend remains a dear friend of mine, but I have to say, to suggest an immediate fishing trip, and then bail to go not only see your girlfriend, but to then bring her to the expedition, is a "man rule" violation.

So the plan was that Potsy and I would wait about thirty minutes, and then drive to the river after Glenn had enough time to pick up his girlfriend and get to the river. Instead of executing that plan, Potsy and I loaded up our heavy-duty fishing gear and went to a convenience store to buy some beer. Potsy was driving some sort of small Japanese sports car with an oversized noisy exhaust and red-painted brake calipers. Bear in mind that this was in about 1992, and he was way ahead of the day. So there we were in his two seat riceburner car, with my 6'4" frame riding "G-angle", four or five fishing poles running the length of the car bent down the rear window, tackle everywhere, beer in hand, case of beer under legs. Getting to the river is easy... just go up the main road, turn left, and drive to the water. No problemo, right?

Problemo. Potsy made the left out of the green arrow light just a little aggressively. We broke traction on the turn and went from 0-50 in the 35 mph zone in about three seconds. Unfortunately, we didn't see the police cruiser behind us in line. The lights came on and we stopped in the next block. Since I was basically laying down in the passenger seat, I could see only the police officer from about his belt buckle to his badge when he walked up to Potsy's window. We were cooked. I'm holding two open beers now, and I know that we looked a mess. "License and registration, please" came the word from the officer. Potsy complied without looking up. The belt, shirt and badge took the documents, and said "You know, you took that turn a little fast." Potsy started to say something, when the officer bent down so I could see his face. Relief rushed over me when I realized that it was a good friend of ours, who next told Potsy to stick his head out of the window. Again, Potsy complied, and the officer smacked him over the head and said "Stop driving like an asshole!", right before making the Flounder-from-Animal House-like-inquiry of "Are you guys going fishing?" Strangely, Potsy was not issued a summons after that traffic stop, and we went to the pre-designated meeting spot.

Glenn and his girl got there, and we started fishing. Glenn had us fishing a bunch of techniques geared toward catching catfish, and we caught everything in the river except catfish. Seriously, we caught bream, largemouth bass, striper, perch, and even a turtle. As the sun was going down, I finally caught a catfish. It was about a foot long. In my view, it was menacing. After bringing it to land, I let it sit on the ground. Glenn said "Oh, no you don't", and picked it up off the ground. He showed me how to slide my hand up the fish's belly and to apply a grip that took the stinging parts out of play. I made the grip, but only with the greatest of caution, and our party then realized that my proclaimed visceral fear of catfish was true. But I made the grip nonetheless, and I had to work very hard to remove the hook from the fish, which I had gill hooked and thereby sentenced to death. Once it was off the hook, I took a moment to study the fish and to try to burn the fish grip technique into my mind. I then threw the fish back.

We all had a good laugh at my expense because of my trepidation with the entire exercise. Despite the embarassment, I was feeling that sort of "first kill" feeling that hunters describe. My hand was covered in blood from the fish, and I used the blood to put two-finger Indian war paint marks on my cheeks. Everyone thought that was crazy, especially the girlfriend, but a good time was had by all. As it got dark, we decided to change spots by about 30 miles and we went to another river, where we all fished, drank beer, smoked cigarettes and caught about a zillion catfish from a municipal parking lot. We had a great time.

That was a long time ago. The girlfriend is married to another friend of mine. Glenn died a few years ago and many years too soon. Potsy lives someplace else. Writing this makes me think that it is important to savor nights like these: you are young, you are (almost) fearless, you are indestructible, and you are with people who (if they weren't already) will be lifelong friends because of experiences like these. Good times.

If you bothered to read this, please leave a comment. Go to my links for important political information, and come back soon. I'll try to write more quickly next time.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

GENIUS AT WORK- MedicChris and the 0-50-100 Shoe Knock-Off Rule

If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you will know that the guy who first showed me a blog was MedicChris, who is the author of the NightRuns blog (See link on this site). Chris and I were assigned to the same fire/rescue duty crew at various times for many years. Chris was the ALS lead, and I was usually some sort of an officer, either lieutenant or captain. We have run hundreds (likely thousands) of calls together. A few weeks ago, we got into a discussion with a couple of other senior fire department members about the phenomenon of people who get hit by something (usually a car) hard enough to get knocked out of their shoes. Rookies overhearing the conversation didn't believe that it happened. I told one quick tale, and then Chris hit us all with a bit of statistical genius.

The tale was this: When I was 19, I had just been cut loose to ride as an acting officer for an engine company. In our department, we call this position "incident officer", or more usually "I/O". We got a call for a vehicle fire on Interstate 95 in neighboring Fairfax County. It was reported to be a non-hazmat tractor-trailer, and that Fairfax units would already be on the scene. With me that night was a driver who I don't remember, and a brand-new rookie fireman who had just learned moments before the call that he passed his initial firefighter training and could actually help staff the unit. His name was David (and he went on to be the finest of firemen and deputy chief of our department). We arrived on the scene after a while and found a tractor trailer on fire. Unremarkable really. It was a produce truck, and the part that was on fire was a few crates of spring onions. Not much flame. Stinky. Lots of steam. There were a bunch of Fairfax units there, but no one was working on the truck. We got our hose and started to go to work, when we noticed something. Something odd. Right in front of the fire was a pair of really fancy sort of top-of-the line cowboy boots. A picture would help here, but the boots were not side-by-side, rather, they were one-step-in-front of the other. David and I looked at the boots for a second, looked up at each other, and then turned to look across the roadway. There, under a bloody sheet four lanes and 150 feet down the road, was the owner of the boots. Turned out that he had been the driver of the truck, had made some effort at extinguishing the fire, and had been hit by a car. The impact knocked him out of his boots. He was dead. All of the Fairfax units were over with him, and not really concerned with the fire. David and I sort of laughed it off as an oddity.

It is not an oddity. People hit by cars get knocked out of their shoes all of the time. Same goes for people falling from heights, and who are hit by trains, bicycles, or playground equipment, and also in sports hits or in significant assaults. In the ensuing too-many-years, we have all seen many people traumatically knocked out of their shoes. This fact has led to the most recent episode of the genius of MedicChris.

All of the participants noted or observed that when impact trauma happens, one of three things can happen to the victim and their shoes. Either they lose no shoes, they lose one shoe, or they lose both shoes. Chris, by his intellectual superiority, made the super-smart leap to correlate the number of shoes missing to the probability of survival. And thus was born the 0-50-100 rule.

Stated most simply it is this: If a patient is traumatically injured by a mechanism of injury resulting from whole-body impact forces, and they lose no shoes, then their chances of fatality arising from the traumatic event are approximately 0%. If, in the same event, the person loses one shoe, but not the other, the mortality rate from the traumatic event will be approximately 50%. And naturally, losing both shoes under these circumstances leads to the catastrophic, but generally accurate, 100% fatality rate.

The genius of this whole plan is that it is so simplistic. We ran through a bunch of calls where we remembered shoes coming off, and the 0-50-100 rule worked to near perfection each time. The one-shoe loss is always going to be a little more difficult to rate, because we were not easily able to quantify the live/die percentages. Everyone had seen some people living and some people dying with one shoe on. Conversely, no one could remember someone living after having been knocked out of two shoes.

Question to the readership: How does the 0-50-100 rule hold up in your experience? Post a comment and let me know. (oh, and won't I feel like a dumbass if Chris read this thing in a medical text or something!)

Visit Chris' blog at the link on the right. He's way better at this than I am. Visit my other links as well. You will be enlightened and entertained. Did I mention you should post a comment? At any rate, I am planning on writing Part I of the "best day ever" post, as the federal trial is now over. Talk to you soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A LITTLE BRIGHT SPOT- Finding one where I can!

Sorry for being away for so long. I'm still not really "feeling it" with regard to writing on the blog. That having been said, I was reading an article in the Washington Post Magazine today about the author's trepidation about having his car inspected, and it got me thinking about a recent experience that I had in the world of auto inspection. The experience was so positive, that it made my whole week. Here's the story:

I needed to renew the registration for my truck, which is my primary vehicle. In order to do this, I had to get an emissions test performed at the inspection station. Getting any sort of inspection done (emissions, safety, etc.) in the WWW is a pain in the ass, because there are so many people around here with so few inspection stations, that there is almost never a good time to go. Add to that situation the fact that I work in an area of Virginia where emissions testing is not required and no one has the equipment, and you have a formula for inconvenient day planning for me.

I have begun to resolve this situation by finding the most out-of-the-way inspection station that I can find, and by going there before they open so that I can get in first and get out as quickly and easily as possible. This has worked for me for about the past year. My designated inspection spot is a little mom and pop garage located right off of U.S. 1 in Woodbridge, and which doesn't have any advertising. In fact, their required "inspection station" signage is not even visible from the roadway. In short, no one goes there for inspections, and it is the perfect place for me to go, as opposed to, let's say, the gas station by the mall. The gas station by the mall has a two or three hour line every day, all day, without regard to whether it is the end of the month or not. The advantage of my chosen place is obvious.

So, like I said, I had to get an emissions inspection on my primary vehicle. I didn't really think it would be a problem, as my truck is relatively new and doesn't produce any visible smoke. My only two gripes with this unit have been that the emergency brake light stays on constantly, and that the "check engine" light would stay on intermittently, though not all the time. (BTW, both problems are well documented quirks of my type of truck, so I never really paid them much mind- hey, I read the forums.) I went at this particular emissions test with a little bit of trepidation, because the last time I got an emissions test, my secondary car failed miserably and was essentially knocked permanently out of service. Allow me to digress....

Right after I got my current job, we needed to get a third vehicle so that our live-in au pair could have something to drive. After literally looking to see if I could get a used Yugo, or some other silly-cheap car, I happened upon a government surplus auction website. Lo and behold, the County next to me was auctioning off a bunch of old Sheriff's Office cruisers. I bid on the oldest one, and won the auction for the seller's-premium-included cost of $326.00. This car is a 1992 Ford Crown Victoria, and it is complete with the Earl Scheib white-over-brown bogus paint job, the spotlight mount, odometer broken at 136943, the red-lens interior dome light, the cage marks on the backs of the seats, scotchlight on all of the interior door panels, and the oh-so-awesome visible sticker residue on the doors. When I got it, it had been sitting for a few months. Once I got it started, it ran pretty well. Once I got a new battery, it ran perfectly. Once I was convinced that it wouldn't blow up and that it was reliable, I started driving it full time. I let my live-in babysitter from Bosnia drive my pimped-out truck with the dubs, heated leather seats and other bling. I was thrilled that my "bluesmobile" was maybe the best cash/efficiency ratio purchase of all time. The only trouble with that car is that any repair (and I mean any repair) fails the cost-benefit analysis. OK, back to the story.

The failure of the emissions test on my hoop-dee meant that I had to spend a few hundred bucks in order to get a new registration, and the valid license plates that go along with it. being unwilling to do this, the failure put the bluesmobile on the sidelines for now. I walked into the shop that morning thinking that it would be nice to get a quick emissions pass and to get on the road. After waiting a minute for someone to show up at the shop, I was directed to the emissions bay by the manager, whom I had dealt with before. He hooked the truck up to the state-issued computer, and started with the tests. Long story short, that pesky check engine light intermittently goes on because when the environmental package fails, you're supposed to check the engine. My environmental package had failed. The computer analysis was able to pinpoint the problem right down to the cylinder and the valve. It was a small, yet gloriously expensive part that needed to be unscrewed and replaced. The rules of emissions testing are that the shop that tests you has to do the work to fix any deficiencies, and the shop guy said he could get the part and have me out in about four hours.

I was still reeling from the second (and this time unexpected) failure from this shop. Perhaps my off-the-beaten-trail inspection shop idea was stupid. I was also under time pressure. I needed to get the test passed quickly so that I could get my registration. I had to go to court. I had a bunch of stuff to do that couldn't wait for me to be four hours in an auto shop. Then something even more unexpected happened......

The manager guy, hearing that I needed to get to work, offered to drive me to work. I explained that my office is like 40 miles from the shop, and we both shared a little laugh about how that plan wouldn't work. Then, without even thinking about it, he pulled out his personal keyring, pulled off his car key, and told me to take his car, and to come back after I got off work. I asked him if he was sure, and he said that it would be "no problem". I thanked him profusely, shifted some gear from my truck to his passenger seat, and was about to take off, when he took my name and address for the shop's real (i.e., not the estimate) paperwork. And then I went to work.

It was strange to drive to work in a stranger's car. It was strange to drive back to the shop after work in a stranger's car. I filled it up with fuel at a nearby convenience store, and rolled back into the shop. My car was done, with a pass on the emissions test, with the check engine light (hopefully forever) out, and with a service bill significantly less than the original estimate. I paid the guy, and thanked him for his above-and-beyond the call of duty customer service. He just moved on to the next car.

I think that in my chosen professions, I have come to expect the worst in people. I see people on the worst days of their lives. In the fire department, I see people who are highly stressed, drunk, injured, or who have lost greatly. In the law, my job as the "good guy" makes me the "bad guy" for as many as fifty or sixty defendants in a day, and I am absolutely sure that I make some (deserving) people very unhappy every day that I set foot in court. But I also get to work every day with people who are highly stressed, drunk, injured, or who have lost greatly. In both places, people that I deal with do irrational things. People do mean and irrational things. If you read this blog, you know the drill. Additionally, the non-court aspects of my job offer a very broad opportunity to see a very negative and depressing side of life that, thankfully, most people don't get to see. In short, it is good to be reminded that there are good people out there. This was a shining example. It made me happy.

The little bright spot for that day was a very helpful, accommodating, generous and honest car mechanic, who went out of his way to do me a solid favor, even though he didn't know me. His name is Wang Chung (and no, I'm not kidding). If you want to know where his shop is, leave me a comment with enough info so that I can find you.

I'll try to get back into the writing groove. This helped.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TOO MANY VISITS FROM OUR CONSTANT COMPANION- Why I fell out of the blogosphere

Hey all. I haven't been posting in a while. It is not so much writer's block, as it has been a lack of motivation brought on by external forces beyond my control. A few words by way of explanation...

In April, a career fireman from my firehouse died in the line of duty while attempting to rescue civilians from a house fire. Soon thereafter, the father of our fire chief (who was a fifty-year member of our department himself) died, and both of these men were buried on the same (very difficult) day. In the time since, we lost another life member of our department, who was the father of a close friend of mine and a father to us all. There have been other deaths in and around our fire department family recently, and it has caused my heart to be heavy.

As a consequence of all of this, I haven't really been feeling up to writing war stories about glory days gone by or comedy reviews of situations around the firehouse. The two older men listed above lived full, happy and productive lives and had children of whom they can, and should be, most proud. The LODD has been particularly troubling. He was a young man, a promising firefighter, and on the day he died he did every last thing right. By all accounts, he was precisely where any one of us would have been, doing exactly what any of us would have been doing. When he got into trouble, he continued to do everything right. I don't have any lessons or funny stories to tell about LODD's, as I don't think that there are any. What I can say is that I never thought that I would have to look into the eyes of my brothers and see the anguish that they felt on that day. I started to write a post about it. It wasn't what I wanted to write, and I was unhappy with it, so I stopped. I decided that it could best be summed up as: "I never thought that this could happen to us, or for that matter, to anyone we knew. It did. Now, rather than being a cavalier, my new goal is to make sure that we all go home at the end of the shift." None of us will ever think of the fire department in the same way again. I have been to a handful of fires since April. Things are not the same. As I process all of this, I'll try to get it into the blog, but first I want to be certain that I am not being trite, overly cynical, or just angry. Many positive things happened as a result of this very negative event. Hopefully, that will remain as a legacy, but for now, I don't want to talk about it or write about it.

So, thanks for your patience my readers! I'll be through my funk soon and back at it in full force.



Friday, March 30, 2007


What's up everybody? Despite my never-ending requests for written comments on the blog, I haven't received many. I have enjoyed it when people come up to me and say that they have read and enjoyed the blog. Keep coming to see me in person, but leave a note here also.

OK- Check out my two new links. Death Clock will actually brighten your day. DHMO is an ongoing threat to the world, and you can make your own assessment of what should be done.

Now for the new story. I wrote in the last post about my old friend Scott, whom I referred to as the greatest medic I have ever seen. I thought of two quick stories that illustrate just how much things have changed. Both of these mini-stories involve an obsolete communication device and one medic's manipulation of wires on the device to achieve his patient treatment goals. (N.B.: In my maturity, I have come to realize that some of this stuff was pure chutzpah/hubris/balls on the part of the medic, rather than medical magic or even sound medical practice, but these are cool stories anyway- You medics just keep quiet)

Quick poll among EMS providers: Who among you knows what a "bedside portable" is? Back in the day, this was a radio telemetry unit that allowed for communication with the hospital via a handy-talkie handset, and it also had a transmitter for ECG info. They were used for field communication with the hospital. It was about 12 inches wide, 5 inches high, and 2 feet long. These units have long been replaced by cell phones and other means for transmitting data. In the WWW, the bedside portable was always a dicey means of communication, and Scott used that to his full advantage...

Example Number 1 (1989): Called out for CPR in progress, I-95, on the shoulder, at about 0200. Arrived on scene to find a 40 Y.O. biker dude in full arrest, and an upset State Trooper taking his best stab at CPR. Down time is reported to be less than five minutes on our arrival. Scott and his partner, Lee (who may be the #2 or #3 medic ever- also a Navy Corpsman) go to work on the guy. They shock him. They get their lines going. They do some drugs. They look at the monitor and go "hmm." Cars whiz by. They keep saying that they ought to be able to save him. Time to call the hospital. They break out the bedside portable. Lee calls the hospital. The situation is explained over the radio. The hospital asks for telemetry of the ECG. Scott and Lee discuss the situation. They are both sure that they can get the victim back, but they have exhausted their defibrillation protocols. The monitor shows a flatline, and they want to shock him again. More shocks are contraindicated and beyond permitted protocol. Despite a total flatline, Scott winks at Lee, picks up the ECG wires and shakes them rapidly. Lee transmits the ECG, which the hospital interprets as "ventricular fibrillation". Scott asks for authorization to deliver more defibrillations, and that authorization is granted. The next set of defibrillation actually converts the guy. Biker dude gets to hospital with a pulse and survives. No shit, this actually happened. I have witnesses.

Example Number 2 (1989 0r 1990): Called out for auto accident with extrication. I-95 in the median, car into tree. Engine arrives first and finds the driver, crushed in the car and very gravely injured, but alive. Rather than wait for hydraulic rescue tools, our friend Billy uses what the kids call "retard strength" to pry the door off the car with a halligan bar and then drag the guy out. Our boy the victim is all fucked up. The short list of his injuries is: bilateral femurs, one open; bilateral wrists, both open; head injuries, open and closed evident; chest is visibly not right; jaw smashed. Prominent "U.S.M.C." tattoos all over his arms. "Scott the Doc" goes to work on him. Start with airway. Scott hands me a bag mask and has me go to work on breathing for the guy, whose respirations are trailing off. It is not easy going with the BVM, because of throat/neck/jaw trauma. Soon thereafter, the victim stops bleeding. He loses pulse. In a burst of EMS work like none I have seen (before or since), Scott gets two huge lines going, gets some drugs on, and gets a pulse back. The stuff coming out of the wounds starts to look like Kool-Aid. Not good. Not much blood left in there. Scott goes to intubate, but can't see anything because of too much trauma. Another medic breaks out the bedside portable and hands the handset to Scott. Scott quickly explains to our Operational Medical Director (yes, the boss of EMS) that he has a restart on the guy's heart, but in the absence of decent airway, he's going to die. They have some argument, of which I only hear Scott's side. Scott actively plays with the wire connection where the phone connects to the box. Scott tosses the handset to his partner, complaining that he can't spare the hand to talk on the phone, plus it's "all static anyway". Scott is looking down on his work while firmly and loudly telling his partner that he is not going to sit by and let the guy die because of no airway. His partner looks up from the phone handset and says: "The doctor says to do what you have to do to get an airway". Scott, a second's hesitation and without looking up from the victim's face, points to the ambulance and says: "Somebody get me an OB kit". Sure everyone was confused by this, but it came in a matter of seconds. Scott didn't want a bulb syringe or a chux, he wanted that big, fat, scalpel that was in the kit. He popped off the safety guard, felt around the victim's throat for a second, and deftly cut a big hole in the guy's neck. He put two fingers in the hole, felt around, said "OOOH RAH!", and then slid the endotracheal tube between his fingers into the guy's trachea. I was knocked out. A surgical chric in the field was (and is) so far off the protocol ranch that it is not to be believed. I slapped the BVM on the tube, and lo and behold, beautiful chest rise and effortless ventilation. Time to go to the hospital. (No helicopters, bad weather). By the time we get out of the ditch, on the cot and into the ambulance, the easy ventilation has ended, and the victim has clearly paradoxical breathing. He lived for a while, but ultimately died. One must have some red blood cells to transmit oxygen to tissue in order to survive. This guy was circulating Ringers Lactate or D5W or whatever. The massive breach of protocol was ultimately resolved in favor of Scott was a Corpsman, his duty is to treat Marines, and that is what he was doing when he cut the guy's throat. On that basis, our OMD was willing to overlook the entire incident. It was helpful that the procedure was perfectly done, despite adverse field conditions. Again, no shit. I have witnesses.

Two stories where Scott manipulated wires to cheat the system and actually preserved life. Don't try to trace this back, the names have been changed to protect the heroic.

Go to the links, leave a comment, come see me. Peace and be safe....


Saturday, March 24, 2007


The quick among you will have noted that there has not been a "Part I" to this post. As I wrote before, I can't really tell the first part of this story just yet. I made the executive decision to write the second part first, just so I can get it on paper.

Last August, I was pulling a family-free weekend, and I had made arrangements to meet with my brother, whom we shall call "J", and our very good friend, whom we shall call "Larry" to go fishing on Saturday. I had also made arrangements to ride along with the narcotics team from my primary law enforcement agency on Friday night. Riding with the narcs turned into one of life's great adventures, which is "Part I" of the story. Suffice it to say, we saw a bunch of interesting stuff, made a couple of really cool tactical arrests, travelled many miles in a great hurry, watched a SWAT team (not ours) work, and found kilos of cocaine. A great night of law enforcement by any standard. But it took all night...

So I called J on his cell phone and told him that I had been up all night, that I wasn't going home, and that I would meet him at the pre-designated rally point at a convenience store on the way to the fishing grounds. J and Larry were already there when I got there, and they immediately started into breaking my chops over being late and being bleary-eyed. I relayed to them a story of great adventure, which had just happened. Larry used to be a cop, so he was seemingly impressed. J was more interested in getting to the fishing. I had to agree. We loaded up in our cars and headed out to the chosen spot.

J and I, being brothers, have fished together for our entire lives. Larry has been going with us for about 20 years. We used to go fishing almost every weekend. Back in the day, someone was always able to cook up some scheme to find the fish, and we would execute someones scheme on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Maybe all three. We were WAY into fishing. Some might describe it as "pathology". We tied our own flies. We cast our own lead weight parts. We had our reels lined at the fishing store to get better spools. "Must See TV" meant 6 regularly scheduled fishing shows. Larry started pouring his own rubber worms. Fishing occupied most of our free time, if not literally, then in time spent thinking about fishing or doing things in support of fishing.

These things having been said, we are not now, and have never been, those fancy-schmancy types of fishermen. To describe our style of fishing, we coined the term "Fishing Schmoes". A schmoe is to be contrasted with the guy on a speckle-painted bass boat (you know, red with sparkles, 275hp motor precariously hanging on the back, live wells, 50 poles, etc.). We were always the opposite of that. To understand our fishing, you have to know our prey.

After a very short time in our fishing careers, we decided that the best thing to fish for is the smallmouth bass. The smallmouth bass has been called "the gamest fish that swims". If you have never seen one of our bronzeback buddies, please take a moment to Google "smallmouth bass" now. OK, so it is a beautiful fish. They fight hard. They take some skill to catch. In Virginia, they live in rivers. We are very lucky, no, blessed, to have within easy reach four of the best smallmouth rivers in the world. Optimal conditions for smallmouth fishing are a cool, not cold river, which runs 4 to 8 feet per second, 1 to 5 feet deep, over a rocky bottom with some boulders or larger rocks to provide some cover. Around here, we have that in spades. We can get to the western sides (i.e., above the fall line) of the Potomac River, the Shenandoah River, the Rappahannock River, and the James River, all in two hours or less.

The preferred schmoe method for catching fish is to wade into the river, walk around, and cast for fish. This is different from what is seen on TV, where gentrified anglers use every technical advantage to get some fish. In our world, there are no fancy waders; just sneakers. No fancy vest; just a fanny pack stuffed with gear and slung across your chest. No creel; if you catch something you want to keep, you can tie a stringer to your pants. Big-brim hats. Sunscreen. It seems simple, but walking around in chest-deep class 1 rapids is less than easy. It leads to various problems. The rocks are usually slick, and the footing accordingly bad. There are always rocks that you can (and will) smash your shins into. The weather plays into the game too. A change from sun to clouds can leave you freezing cold in the middle of summer. The river can rise quickly, leaving you stuck on an island or on the other side. Getting out into the river is the only real way to catch those fish. The current and bottom conditions make boating difficult, though not impossible. In short, we look terrible, but get good results. We thought that it would be a good idea to do a TV show of our own, called "Fishing With Schmoes", where we could show regular folks, with a budget (both for money and time), how to have a good time fishing without the $100,000.00 investment. We would talk about little scenes or how to get shots of something funny.

I have always favored walking in the rivers. I feel like it washes my soul clean.

For years we fished like that. That's not to say that we didn't do other stuff. We fished from boats on the Chesapeake. We did float trips down our rivers. We fished ponds and impoundments from boats. It always came back to walking around in the river. We just figured that part of being a schmoe was suffering, whether it be from weather, pain, or other trauma. It was the cost of fishing glory.

Fishing glory has been hard to come by of late. In recent years, Larry, J and I have been forced to grow up. We all have grown-up lives to lead. Our Saturdays don't belong to us anymore. The concept of being able to fish twice in any weekend is laughable. Getting all three of us together at one time for anything has even been trouble. When this past August rolled around, we hadn't been fishing together in years. It was going to be a very happy day.

We arrived at our chosen spot. Our entry point would be a boat ramp on the Rapidan River. The Rapidan is a major tributary of the Rappahannock River, and this spot is very near the confluence of the rivers. The water was very low. In our style of fishing, this is a very good sign. With less water in the river, it is easier to get around because the water is generally shallower. With shallower water, the fish concentrate in the deeper spots. It is a formula for success.

Larry threw out a cast before any of us had our feet wet. He caught a fish on that first cast. We all smiled. We got into the river and walked out, heading upstream. We all had fish in hand within a few minutes. It was one of those days where everything worked. Whatever bait you had, that's fine, just throw it out there. We were fishing three radically different techniques with equal success, and having some fun. We cracked jokes on each other. We talked about other trips. We looked at animal tracks and at some birds. It was great. By lunchtime, we had caught about a hundred fish.

In contrast to our regular routine of eating damp sandwiches out of those triangular plastic boxes that you get from 7-11, J brought his travel grill and we had a hot lunch of hot dogs and sausages, along with all the fixings. I was soaking wet, I had sand in my shoes, a thumb with visible wear marks from unhooking fish, and a hot sandwich in hand. It was pretty much Nirvana.

After we ate, we stood around talking for a long time. Thinking back on it, we were catching up on each other. This was strange, because I never go more than a week or two without seeing these guys. There was something about being out there, in our goofy ghetto-fishing attire, out in the sun, having some fun. The sad part is, I think that we were all suffering from a giant case of the "nostalgias", and thinking things along the line of "you can never go home again".

Larry had to go home. J and I decided to stay. The fishing had been so good, I wanted to spend the afternoon using my fly rod. Catching smallmouth bass on a fly rod is one of my top five things to do in the world. I tied on a fly that I had made myself. It was several years old, but it looked good, and wasn't falling apart. J stayed with a little technique that he has developed for fishing soft plastics in a current. We went back out and slayed them.

I caught a bunch of fish. J caught not less than two-to-one on me. A couple of times, I caught myself just watching him fish. He has good eyes for spots and good feel for bait presentation. He "thinks like a fish", and is generally amazing that way. We walked downstream during the afternoon session, which is usually a faux pas, except that the river was so low, there would be no question of our ability to get back. Did I mention how cool it is to catch smallmouth on a fly rod? Yeah, well it's even better when you do in on stuff you made yourself. I basically achieved total fishing satisfaction that day.

We will never get back to the old days. I think that I finally realized this fact on that day. I also learned that we can still have a meaningful and enjoyable time, even with years in between fishing opportunities. In eight or ten years, my kids will be old enough to go out into the river on foot. I think that with Uncle J around, our best fishing days may still lie ahead. I will be especially happy if the kids want to take their old man out slipping and sliding on the rocks every weekend.

We got out of the river. I was dog-assed tired, having been awake for something like 40 hours straight. I came home and slept the sweet sleep of the dead, until I was finished. Where sleep is concerned, this is a very rare luxury any more. I woke up sometime in the late morning on Sunday, my great day having ended and a new one begun.

So in the final analysis, the best day ever took something more than two calendar days to complete. Oh well, when you have as many kick ass adventures and moments of poignancy as I did on that day, 24 hours can't hope to contain you.

Get out there and kick some ass, whatever it is that you do! I'll be back soon. Perhaps with a shorter post. Peace to all...Leave a comment.