I've been out three times in eighteen hours.
I'd been home for about two hours yesterday when the fire department was called to assist our sister department with a structure fire over on the far end of town. I got to the station and threw on my gear; the chief motioned me to Engine 1. I drove it by myself to the fire scene in convoy with our other two engines. Lights, siren, and The Who blaring on the radio, competing with the dispatch channel. A noisy ride, but fun in and of itself.
I have one of the radio buttons programmed for an eighties station; several other people also seem to have buttons but I'm not sure who listens to what. Heck, country sounds quite fine in a fire truck, at least the up-tempo stuff.
The homeowner had put the fire out by the time we arrived. I actually got nowhere near the house. My engine was staged with several others about a quarter of a mile away. I hung around with numerous other firefighters from various agencies and chatted for about an hour until the incident commander decided the fire was really out and released us.
Later last night, I had class. The subject was ropes and knots, a subject that I am already familiar with.
I got toned out again at 2:50 this morning for a medical call in the village. It was a fifty year old woman with an overdose, no other details. I drove into town and drove by the house number. I realized that I might know the person and asked dispatch for the last name. The dispatcher told me the name; I knew the person as a difficult woman with issues. I turned off my strobes and pulled in front of the house, announcing myself as off on scene. The chief called me and told me to be careful; I told the chief I was waiting for him to arrive.
The chief got there a minute later and I followed him into the house. The woman met us and the chief asked her if she was all right, told her the ambulance was on the way, and turned her over to me. I asked her a few questions; she had taken too many of a prescription medication. She seemed okay and said that she didn't want to go to the hospital. I thought the med that she had taken was going to cause problems, but I decided to leave the persuading to the ambulance staff. While we waited I took some history and looked at the medication container to make sure that she was telling me a plausable story and that I understood the difference between intended dosage and what she had taken.
The ambulance got there and took her away. I went home and went back to bed.
I got toned out again just before nine. It was a structure fire on our side of town; on my road, as a matter of fact. I went the other way out of the driveway and went to the station to get Engine 1.
Engine 1 seems to be turning into 'my' engine. It's a mini-pumper; I think most of the other firefighters in my department prefer driving the big apparatus. Engine 1 is the first engine to roll for car accidents and medical emergencies, though. It is functionally equivalent to Squad 51's vehicle in Emergency! except that it also carries a full-function fire pump, a booster line for fighting fire with one hundred feet of hose on a pull-out reel, foam gear, and a three-hundred-gallon water tank. Plus, it's got a fine AM/FM radio with cassette and four speakers. Let me tell you, Johnny and Roy would be jealous of my rig. I'm stoked to be the one to get to drive it.
Both yesterday and today, the chief had me take Engine 1 by myself. Yesterday, he told me I should be signing on the air as Rescue 1! I think the chief likes having EMTs in the department.
Anyway, I changed into my turnout gear, loaded my first aid gear and the defib onto the engine, and got ready to go. By this time, people on the radio had passed the word that it was the barn next to the haircutter-lady's house that was on fire, flames were showing. The house, twenty feet away, was threatened.
Our three engines got on the road within a minute or so of each other. I was second out. I screamed on down to the village.
By the time I was a half mile away, the radio was reporting that the barn was fully engulfed. I could see the plume of yellow smoke rising.
The first few minutes were chaotic; I'm not really sure what I did for the first five minutes. Pretty much the first thing I remember clearly was using a hose to soak the house. I did that for about twenty or thirty minutes, best I can figure, until the barn collapsed enough that it was no longer threatening the house.
My new icon was shot during this time; that's me with the hose. Damn, I'm butch.
The house very nearly went. The wood shingles were charred in places, several windows had broken from the heat, and everything plastic on the side facing the barn had melted; storm windows, cable wires, Christmas decorations. We saved it, though. I'm really proud of that.
The barn burned flat. There was nothing we could do to save the barn. Three vehicles parked just outside were destroyed along with an ATV, a snowmobile, a car inside the barn, and whatever other personal belongings were stored in the barn.
During the overhaul phase (after the fire is under control but before the FD leaves), I was handling a hose to wet down embers while an excavator pulled timbers and debris out of the pit-that-had-been-a-barn. The excavator would pivot to drop off a mouthful of debris and the back end would spin around, passing about one or two feet from where I had to stand to get the stream into the right place. It reminded me of walking close by the tracks in Newark at night, letting the freight engines pass by at speed inches away.
We were on the scene for about five hours. We then returned to the station, cleaned everything, and put the engines back in service.
I was supposed to go to my client's this morning. I called from the station, four hours late; my main contact at the client's had heard about the big fire, knew I was on the fire department, and was completely understanding about my not showing up. "That's much more important," she said. Too cool.
We ended up having apparatus or manpower from ten agencies for the fire.
I was acutely aware that I was having a lot of fun fighting the fire but that I was sorry that my acquaintance had to suffer for me to have that fun. Very strange. I inarguably helped save the house, though, so the fact that I enjoyed myself must be considered incidental to the aid that I provided.
In other news, I have all of the approvals I need to apply for my EMT-I course. It seemed like it was going to be difficult to get the course recognized in Vermont so I am going the National Registry route; I've asked the NH ambulance service that serves my town to sponsor me for the National Registry EMT-I and they've agreed. Hooray! National Registry EMT-I is more advanced than VT EMT-I anyway. Once I've got my National card, I'll apply for VT reciprocity; in the meantime, I'll be a VT EMT-B.
This evening I went over to the ambulance service and filled out an application for employment. I'm planning to pick up a few shifts a month to get more experience before my EMT-I class and to cement my knowlege after. I can't imagine Rabid is thrilled about me adding another twenty-four or forty hours to my month but she agreed when I asked if she thought it would suit and has been supportive of my going to work for the ambulance people. I think Rabid and I both realize that I'm setting myself up for or am already immersed in my next occupational thrust (not that I'm going to be a professional firefighter or EMT, but that my professional work will intersect with public safety in some way).
I had dinner with a colleague from the UK on Tuesday. He's an interesting guy; he's got a Ph.D in computer whatever and dresses like an aging rock star; tight jeans, sweaters with holes in them, unkempt pageboy haircut, brown leather go-go boots. He's done well for himself at the Red Menace and travels in some rarified technical atmospheres, even having met with Supreme Poobah on occasion (his story of Supreme Poobah and the popsicle is a telling indictment of Poobah's self-centered disinterested tyranny). Dr. Go-go made a very interesting statement about going up the career ladder; he said that at each level, one must build the platform out laterally in order to create the proper support for the next level. How true.
My boss approved the time for the EMT-I course as vacation time. My last several bosses gave me the time to take EMS courses since I haven't had any computer technical training since '98 or so. I can't really complain, though; my current boss suggested that if I wanted time off for training that I should take two weeks for training related to my work. He made a few suggestions. So it seems that later this spring I will go off for tech training. I'm not sure what it will be; most of my Red Menace work lately involves security, so I'm sure it will have something to do with that.