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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad News

Truck 579 has been parked or occasionally borrowed by other servicemen as a reserve rig since I got here. But 579 is not a reserve rig. It is Howie's ride. Or rather, it was.

Howie announced his retirement yesterday. He has been off work since shortly before I started here. I actually have never met him, because he has not stopped by when I happened to be on duty. Howie has been fighting cancer since mid-summer. He had a major surgery at the beginning of September, and when he went home to recuperate, pretty much all of our servicemen - on and off duty - were at his house to greet him. They had arranged a couple of trucks to have the buckets raised and crossed over his driveway, a "welcome home" banner stretched between them.

As an aside...what a great company this is. That would never have happened at the old place.

Anyway, yesterday we got word that he was putting in his papers. He found out on Monday that new cancer spots were found in many places, including on his lungs. The doctors prescribed pain meds and told him to go home and get his house in order. All I hear is how he isn't at all concerned for himself. All his worries are about his wife and parents and children. That is character.

The gloom in the control center is palpable. Howie is very well-liked and well-respected across the board. Although I never got to meet him, I am sad by association because my guys are all down about it.

His name has been on the board by 579 for months awaiting his return, but with the papers filed he isn't coming back. I haven't found the courage to remove it, but sooner or later another name will be assigned to Truck 579 and I won't be able to avoid it any longer.

If you are willing, send positive thoughts in whatever way you choose to do so to Howie and his family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bucket List Calls

None of us really wants bad things to happen to anyone, but we all like being the ones to go take care of it when it happens. This is especially true when those rare and interesting calls come in that will get talked about for a long time. I call them "bucket list" calls, things that will be checked off as noteworthy after retirement and seem to happen to all of us eventually at least once.

One of those items recently got checked off my list. The dispatcher's voice had "the edge" when listing assigned units, and he was naming a lot of rigs, so we knew it was a "good" one right away. Then the words came out: Aircraft incident.

Wooooo. Well OK, then.

Engine 51 was fourth due, so at least I didn't have to take command. Whew.

Engine 77 arrived first and reported a small private plane on the ground in a clearing, with no fire. Then they reported three patients requiring extrication.

Patients? Not bodies? Well OK, then.

Medic 98 requested a second and third medic. Not anticipating survivors, we weren't hammering it much, but I expect all of us not yet on scene pressed a little more after that tidbit.

Cut to E51's arrival. Stuff is now under control for the most part, so a late one-man engine is nearly irrelevant here. But what an interesting sight. There's a plane, upright, broken in half and roof torn off, wings collapsed. Hoses are stretched, charged, and laying on the ground. OK, that's all normal, but here is where it got strange. The pilot is still sitting in his seat, his head in a c-spine hold by the passenger in back (!?), and the third is sitting on the wing cross-legged, all surrounded by yellow and black-clad firefighters.

I'm still not clear on what went wrong, but these guys were waaaaaay lucky. The plane lost power for whatever reason, clipped some random tree and went sideways, bounced off its nose into a cartwheel and somehow landed right side up. Pilot had two broken ankles, while the other guys were treated for cuts and bruises and merely transported as a precaution.

Wow. Well OK, then.

That turned out pretty great for everyone. The patients have a great survival story and all of us fire guys checked off a bucket list line item: Plane crash.

Sorry I haven't made it on here as much lately. Not that I figure anyone is really losing sleep over my slow posts (ha!), but the new job is keeping me plenty busy.

Stay safe out there, so that your career can run long enough for your bucket list to get filled in.