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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What's Different in This Picture?

Engine 51, Engine 53, Medic 97, off to a traffic accident...

It wasn't especially noteworthy. I arrived first by myself in E51 and established command. Two patients in a car that had wiped out and spun against an embankment. Lots of highly annoyed bystanders who couldn't wait to share their contact info with the PD, barely containing their anger about the car passing several others high speed on a blind corner before losing it, minor miracle no one was coming the other way.

Daughter just graduated from high school driving, mom in the passenger seat. Mom's new 1-month-old car, by the way. Wonder what, if anything, was said in the car just before the wipeout. So much for the new car. Airbags, fluid spills, bumper shards everywhere. Typical wreck.

E53 showed up with three guys. One of our BC's showed up off-duty and came up to help too. I put the BC on safety, and assigned E53 to assess and package the patients, and coordinated with PD on traffic and City road crew to help mitigate the spill. The medic showed up and my guys worked with them to get them both into the box for a trip to town to be looked over.

Seriously, nothing interesting to report here, a very typical wreck.

I wrote some notes based on what the E53 guys told me so I could do the report. Then, tonight, I sat to file the paperwork, and realized what was different in this picture.

Everyone there was on the payroll except me. Yet, as the lone straight-up volunteer present, I was the IC.

I offered it to the BC, but he said "Hell no, I'm always in charge and never get to play, you can keep it." Made no difference to me, so OK.

This is an aspect of my current agency that I really enjoy. Our training standards are aligned no matter how you are attached to the agency, so it made no difference who was in charge, but I think this is the first time I did it over an all-paid crew, as no other volunteers happened to show up for this one.

Cool. It's a good gig I've got here.

That's all, just a little interesting thing from the day. Carry on.

Stay safe brothers and sisters.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I ran into Steve at the local Gas-and-Go today. We had a long chat. I hadn't seen him in over a year.

Steve left our fire department a couple of years ago because he no longer had time to devote as a volunteer, and he was struggling to make ends meet. He needed every hour of his day to be available for work. It had been seven years since he had finally decided at the age of 37 to follow his dream to become a career firefighter, and although he poured himself into the job and every training opportunity, he never seemed to get high enough on any lists to get his career badge.

He wasn't one of those guys that just was never going to make it, he nearly always made the list where he tested, usually in the 20s or 30s at the bigger agencies, in the teens or better at the smaller ones. We all told him that he just needed to keep after it and eventually he'd get in.

When he left our agency, he hoped to get on at a smaller outfit with less activity demands so he could keep the dream alive, but today, he told me that he had finally just let it all go and let his EMT lapse as well.

He needed a shave, and he needed new shoes. He's a good-looking guy, but just not getting any breaks. He was trying to keep his eyes dry and voice steady as we talked about his family. Trouble at home with the wife, but they're keeping things together for the kids for better or worse as long as they can, trying to do the right thing. Upside down on his house equity, and just barely making ends meet with his contracting work.

I've been very fortunate to get a lot of breaks, and I wish I could share some of mine with Steve. He's just sad and far away right now. He needed a hug and I gave him one, and he was unable to stifle a single light sob for that.

Some of us are pretty heady guys, we've got our nice trucks and boats and enjoy a brew with the brothers on someone's back deck from time to time, looking sharp in our FD T-shirts and badass sunglasses. Living the dream.

There isn't much we can do for the Steves of the world to get them into the career gig, but it is worth respecting the commitment they have first to their families by not letting the FD totally consume their lives until they lose everything else. Steve saw the cliff approaching and withdrew from the race before he lost it all, and that is an amazingly honorable thing to do. You don't have to have a badge to be honorable.

Next time you're hanging around with the guys and living the dream, make sure you take a good look around and drink it in. Appreciate what you have, because it is a gift that has no substitute and should not be taken for granted.

God bless, Steve. I'll be praying for you and your family. You are missed.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Genius Fail

So, we've got a guy who is not paying his electric bill. It is months and about a grand behind. It finally comes to the point that we cut him off, and a serviceman goes and boots the meter, mission accomplished.

Not so fast.

Because of previous drama at this address, a meter tech went by there to check things out a few days later. Found the lock ring and boot on the ground, meter back in and spinning. This is called a "self-restore" and a "tamper", which is an automatic $400 fine. Plus, we cut you off "more permanently".

So the next day, one of our nicest and most laid back servicemen, Paul, arrives in Truck 575 to cut this guy off from the pole's service drop. No one is home, but he chats with an elderly neighbor lady who sees him and comes out to visit. We're the Good Guys, after all. Service dropped, he's done and on his way, mission accomplished.

Not so fast.

Our customer service department gets a call, the recording of which I have not yet had a chance to hear, but the notes tell the story. Apparently the homeowner called in and said he was out of town but had heard from his family that the power was cut. That is to say, 217 members of his family. Yes, that is the precise number of people he claimed were at his home during a family reunion gathering, which was ruined by the power being cut off.

Aside #1: I had about 40-50 people at my house for a Memorial Day gathering. I actually did try to count once but couldn't do it. And I was actually present. How he got 217 while not physically present is an amazing feat.

Aside #2: If this family reunion drew 217 people to his home, then why precisely was he himself as host out of town during such an important event?

Aside #3: His house is 1080 sq ft. If all 217 were inside, they each individually had about 5 sq ft of personal space and were very quiet while Paul was there.

Aside #4: And where did those 217 people park their cars, anyway?

But wait, it gets better.

Dirtbag went on to claim that his grandson had approached Paul to ask "what was going on" when Paul went off and "smacked him with a wrench". He says the grandson is in the hospital and will incur medical expenses, and that a police report has already been filed with "80 witnesses".

Oddly, the brothers in blue did not come to arrest Paul on an assault charge, or even try to interview him, or even call any of us at all for any reason. Curious.

The first Paul heard about it is when I asked him if he carried a wrench on his service truck. A little crescent wrench, he said, that rarely gets used, why? Oh the fun we had telling him all about his violent ways that he kept hidden from us. He must have been plenty mad at the dirtbag's family, because he has no memory of the event at all and obviously blocked everything out except the nice chat with a little old lady in front of a small empty house.

Um, dirtbag, we're the power company, not plumbers. Our one-man service crews don't carry weapons-grade wrenches.... anywhere. Now if you piss one of our guys off you might get brained with a hotstick or something.

A wrench? 217 family members? While you're not home? That all stayed hidden? 80 witnesses? And no arrests?

I've stopped laughing, because it is absurd to the point of tragic. Good luck dirtbag. We'll probably bill you for any legal expenses you incur on us, on top of the arrears and tamper fine. Genius, you FAIL.