Take a good look at this label from the inside of one of our protective hoods. Fire Dex specifically uses the term ULTRAHAZARDOUS, not to mention unavoidably dangerous in connection with firefighting. It also specifically says you may be BURNED with NO WARNING. Now given these clear, unambiguous warning statements and disclaimers you would think the fire administration would have more sense than to PUNISH firefighters who get injured wearing this gear. In plain words you can get burned fighting fires, no matter if you are wearing a hood or not and without warning. Hear that all you workmen’s comp lawyers out there?
Lately I’ve taken a break from the blog. Quite frankly I’ve been too tired and disgusted to write about the same old crap. The holidays take everyone’s strength and leave little time for anything else. Now that their over I have been concentrating on work and the kids. Also I wrapped up my school work and need a break. Aside from a change of command at my station work has been quiet and slow. My boss Chief L. and my fire school classmate Lt. J. both finished up their three year commands this past week. They are moving on to new assignments (Lt. J. is getting a promotion to Captain and going back to my old command downtown). He’ll do a great job and I wish them both the best of luck. They are both outstanding firefighters and officers and I am lucky to have worked alongside them. Their replacements have already started. My new Chief is a great guy who I have known for many years. I have met the new engine Lieutenant and we’ll get along just fine. Life goes on at the firehouse.
Tonight is Christmas Eve and I’ll be working like many other soldiers, police officers and firefighters. As far as our duty goes it’s just another night. I’ll go in early and relieve the day shift officer so he can get home and have dinner with his family. After our usual routine we’ll have dinner together then settle in for the long fourteen hour overnight shift. Tonight will mainly consist of maintaining the watch over our local. Hopefully it will be quiet. As much as I like fighting fires, there is one night of the year I absolutely want no part of it and that’s Christmas Eve. Fires at Christmas are especially tragic so we always hope for a quiet night. Before I go in I’ll have an early dinner with the family. I’ll see them in the morning and we’ll spend Christmas day together. Good night everyone. Please check your smoke detectors and electrical cords and appliances especially around your tree and decorations. Have a peaceful night.
Every so often you witness a miracle. I believe in miracles because I’ve seen them with my own eyes. Now the kind of miracles I believe in may not be what the average person thinks of when you say that word. But they are miracles none the less. There may or may not be Angels involved, I can’t say. But the way I see it a miracle goes beyond luck. Take the driver of THIS car for instance:
I was about to get into the shower this morning when my cell phone rang. It’s never a good thing for your phone to ring that early. Undoubtedly it has to be work related. Nervously I went downstairs and retrieved the phone blaring Metallicas “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The irony is never lost on me. I looked at the phone and when I saw who the caller was knew instantly that it was a grapevine call.
The call was from another firefighter friend of mine. He was calling to let me know that another Philadelphia firefighter, friend and fire school classmate of mine Dave P. had killed himself at his home earlier this morning. Once again a wave of nausea washed over me as I thought of Dave and the tragedy this brings to his family. This is yet another blow for a department still reeling from the untimely death of popular young firefighter Jack Slivinski.
After taking a day off this weekend to go camping with the Scouts I returned to work last night to this sight:
PORT RICHMOND – September 3, 2011 (WPVI) — A two-vehicle crash in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia has sent five people to the hospital. The crash happened just after midnight along the 2100 block of East Butler Avenue. Police say the driver of a Honda collided with another vehicle near the intersection of Sepviva Street. When firefighters arrived they found two men trapped inside the Honda. The men were freed and transported to a local hospital, where one of them is in critical condition. Four people in the other vehicle were also injured. They were transported to area hospitals, listed in stable condition. Police are still trying to piece together exactly what caused the crash. At this time no one has been charged. LINK Click the link for more photos.
As usual the news gets the story ALMOST right. This crash happened over the weekend. I was working and responded to the scene that can only be described as carnage. In fairness when I was a punk teenager I did some street racing with my friends. As long as kids have access to anything with wheels and an engine they will find a place to race. But we mostly raced AWAY from busy streets where people could get hurt. Street racing in Philly like most big cities is just part of the urban culture. As a professional firefighter I cringe when I see wrecks like this. The blue Honda with two young rocket scientists in it broadsided an Audi with five brain surgeons in it. The five in the Audi are lucky to be alive and I kid you not when I say that. It was a classic high impact T-Bone wreck.
The real drama however hit in shortly after noon today. We were just sitting down for lunch when we heard the alarm room strike out a box alarm that wasn’t all that far away. One of the guys identified the building from memory: an abandoned school over on Lehigh Ave. If his suspicions were correct we could be in for some trouble. He was right. The initial report wasn’t comforting: three-story building a couple of hundred feet by a couple hundred feet. Heavy fire through the roof. All companies heaviest water lines. That was how this massive fire in North Philly BEGAN. Shortly thereafter the second alarm was struck. I was in the process of wolfing down chicken salad on a bagel (I was starving) as we got into the engine to respond. (Today I was working in a different company, an engine unlike my usual ladder assignment). We all knew this would be a long afternoon. When we were only a block or so from the station this is what we saw:
But as we go closer the job just seemed to get bigger:
PHILADELPHIA – July 31, 2011
(WPVI) — A fire left a Frankford home in ruins Sunday afternoon. The Action Cam was on the 1600 block of Haworth Street. There were no injuries reported in blaze which had started shortly before 4:00pm. The cause is under investigation. LINK
There is something about firefighting in the summer. I think it’s the heat. This fire broke out just before the end of our shift yesterday afternoon. The heat of the day was probably at its peak. We hadn’t gone two blocks when the alarm room upgraded the call. We knew then we would be going to work when we got on location. Sure enough the report from the first in company was heavy fire extending across the porch front to the adjoining house. We now had two houses going.
As usual we were delayed by traffic and a SEPTA bus that refused to get out-of-the-way. I know there aren’t many options under the “El” but bus drivers and cabs in the city typically don’t go out of their way to yield to emergency vehicles. I’ve had them stop to pick up and let off people while we are stuck behind them lights and sirens wailing.
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2 dead in Kensington blaze punctuated by gunfire
One of the men appeared to have been fatally shot in the head by the other inside the rowhouse, Evers said. The gunman then exchanged fire with two or three police officers, he said, but it was not yet known whether he was struck by any police bullets.
No officers or firefighters at the scene were injured, Evers said. The fire was reported just before noon in the 3300 block of Rand Street. Firefighters found heavy flames – and the sound of gunfire – coming from the second floor. Police arrived to find a man who appeared to be dead of a gunshot to the head at the foot of the interior stairway, Evers said. A second man at the top of the stairs shot at police, who returned fire and backed out of the building.
The officers called for help from a SWAT team, Evers said, but the second floor of the house collapsed before the reinforcements arrived. By about 12:30 p.m., firefighters had the blaze under control. Two bodies were later found inside, Evers said. Police had not determined the nature of the dead men’s dispute. Evers said investigators are looking into the possibility of a domestic problem.
“Very rarely do we have a job like this,” he said. Autopsies will be conducted to determine the causes of death and to confirm the men’s identities, Evers said. LINK
This is the media version of events that is closest to what really happened today, but it is still filled with inaccuracies. After reading media reports of events I have witnessed or have been a part of over the years, I NEVER believe what they print or say anymore. Here’s my version:
Saturdays are usually pretty slow around the firehouse. It’s a day when we try to do some of the more mundane tasks that go with being a firefighter. Training, equipment maintenance and the never-ending paperwork. Today was my first shift of the week. I fully anticipated being able to accomplish some of those tasks and even get a little school work done if I was lucky. It was not to be. As I sat at my computer in my little office I had no way to know that I was about to experience the most intense 30 minutes of my career.