The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Matty the fireman?

Posted By on January 6, 2008

I should probably mention that I applied for membership to the local fire dept. For the next month, I will be attending the equipment checks and will learn some basics. After that, and they get to know be a bit, they will vote on me at next month's meeting. Once I am a member, I get to take a physical, and then I have 2 1/2 years to complete the basic firefighter class, which is 100 hours of class time, with about a 70/30 book work/practical split.

I do not know how I will react to fires and such, but I know that if my house were on fire, or if I were to go off the road, I would want help. Well, all those folks helping are volunteers. I'm young and strong, so there is no reason I can't help too.

My father in law is a firefighter in a town about 10 miles south, and he calls me up today because there is a massive structure fire and that I should show up and see how things go if I wanted to learn something. So, Liz and I go down, explain what's going on to the perimeter security fellow who tells us to stay out of the way and be careful because there are tanker trucks on the way up. We head on down and park far enough away to not take up any close parking spots, then we walk down. Turns out it's this huge barn full of hay. Luckily, there were no people inside, and there was one calf which they got out. We see the chief's wife and help her bring up some water to the staging tent, which is on a hill so I can see how it all lays out. There are three portable tanks (basically big temporary pools made of steel frames and huge waterpoof bags), and they have a large “one way” truck flow set up. Truck comes in, drops a hose, and dumps 1500 gallons of water into one of the temporary tanks in about 5 minutes. There are literally half a dozen of these trucks queued up ready to dump water. When they do, they race off to suck up some more from a local pond. Meanwhile, a second set of trucks are drafting from the temporary tanks and pumping water to the hoses where the firemen are dousing the fire with as much water as they can put on it.

We only stayed about an hour, but this continued for at least 6 hours – a barn full of dry hay can burn for awhile. The landowner (who was on the fire dept, incidentally) had an excavator with one of those grabby attachments on it, and they used this to collapse the barn in a controllable fashion, exposing the bits which need more water, etc. Lots of guys in there with hooks and axes making sure that it gets put out.

In the end, a dozen fire companies were called out, and there were at least 50 firefighters on the scene.

On the way out, we saw the Realtor who set up the deal with this house. He's on the fire department as well, and happens to be this poor fellow's neighbor.

Now, here is the real unexpected twist – I wanted to help. I wanted to know what to do, have gear, and lend a hand. I was just standing there, trying to stay out of the way, feeling pretty out of place.

So, we'll see where it goes. At the very least, even if I'm not cut out to run into burning buildings, I can help with maintenance and upkeep, try to run fundraiser things, and make some friends. One thing about the local volunteer firefighters – they're all really nice, upstanding folks.


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