Sunday, November 15, 2009

Report From Ladder Company 40 Day 62

Hi Team!

Today was an awesome day!! I’ll start with the boring parts. I drank plenty of fluids today, I got plenty of exercise, even though I did not put Pete in service today, and I slept a reasonable amount last night. That makes me 3 for 3 today. YAY ME!

Now for the fun stuff! My bro arrived home around 6 am this morning. He left for work before 5 last night so he was pretty tired. He got me up, as requested and then he went to bed. I had a little bite to eat and a shower. My bro got up an hour later and we left for the Burn to Learn that his fire department was putting on for the day. They usually try to do at least one of these a year. It is an opportunity for less experienced firefighters to learn and gain experience and more experienced firefighters can still learn a lot from them too. I was thrilled to find out a few weeks ago that this event was planned for a Saturday when I was going to be here!

We arrived at Station 93 before 8 am so that we could get information as to where my brother was supposed to be and because the parking at the event was at a premium. This meant that only fire apparatus were allowed so everyone had to meet at the station then ride in on department rigs. My brother and I were assigned to bring in Air 93. This vehicle carries some tools but mostly it is around for filling air bottles.
Once we arrived at the burn, I was assigned to rehab. My bro was assigned as a pumper operator. Poor bro, no fire time for him. :( There were a ton of new guys and they needed the fire time. Apparently there was a fire academy class that just finished up. This burn was their final test.

While the firefighters had their meeting and were briefed on the plans for the day, I helped the rest of the rehab crew set up. We put out awnings for cover, a table to work from, chairs for firefighters to rest at, and put out water, snacks and equipment for taking blood pressures and temperatures. Our job at rehab is to monitor firefighters as they came in from the fire. We helped them out of their gear; checked blood pressures and if necessary, temperatures. We made sure they hydrated during their breaks, and we also filled the empty air bottles, wiping the soot off and checking for any significant gouges or scrapes in them.

One of the things I wanted to do on this visit was to learn to take blood pressures. I had asked my bro about that and he said we would get to it before I left, if all went well. It is hard to make absolute promises when you work the hours you do, spend the rest of your time on call for the fire department and you have a family (wife and six kids!). He does his best to deliver though. My bro is absolutely awesome and amazing!

Well, the rehab boss, Rick, put me to work willingly. Then when the first crew came in for rehab he said that somebody needed to take blood pressures. I said that since I had never done that before and didn’t know how it wouldn’t be me. He jumped on that. He said, “Oh yeah. You just come right on over here. You’re going to learn.” He handed me the stethoscope and the blood pressure device. (I know what it’s real name is, I just cant spell it!) The firefighter I was to check was an EMT. No pressure though. He was actually very nice. Another firefighter who works the rehab unit showed me how to properly attach the cuff. She told me to pump it up. When I asked to what pressure, the EMT and she did not agree as to how far to go, but I went with the EMT’s recommendation. I did not know what to listen for so they told me, as I was trying to listen! I pumped the pressure to 180 and slowly released the valve, listening for the pulse.

When you first hear the pulse what ever the gauge reads is the systolic or top number. Then you continue to listen until you cannot hear the pulse. That is the diastolic or bottom number. It was very difficult to hear as both the rehab firefighter and the EMT firefighter were talking to me while I was trying to do it, but as best I could tell the reading was 120 over 70. That is a normal range so I felt pretty confident with that.

Rick then took his blood pressure again with an electronic wrist device. Our readings came out a lot different, but that is not surprising. Blood pressures can vary from arm to arm (I used the left and he used the right), and we used different methods which can also make a difference. They said that I did very well for my first time taking a blood pressure. The firefighter EMT thanked me and I thanked him for being my guinea pig. He said to me, “Any time, and I’ll be back.” That made me feel good. Firemen are such nice people!

After that I got started learning to use the cascade system. That is the system used to fill the air bottles. I filled a lot of air bottles today. And I enjoyed it. It is a very important job which is part of what made it fun. We tried to help the firefighters out of their gear as much as we could when they came to rehab and the one time I tried to remove an air bottle for one of the guys by myself I happened to get a really tall guy. I am a really short girl! That was kind of comical. He bent over for me so I could slide the bottle up his back and out of its harness, but even bent over, I could not quite reach to do it. He ended up squatting down for me to do it. It was kind of amusing. And the guys were all very good natured about everything.

When we ran out of air to fill bottles with, the crews were winding down the interior attacks. At that point it became a necessity because we couldn’t refill their bottles. This meant it was time to let the fire really burn. I got a great spot to watch the fire from. Actually I was free to roam within boundaries but I got amazing views. I took lots of pictures.

One of the fire pictures I got was a shot inside the window of a home. I couldn’t get close but when I zoom in on the picture I took I can see what it is that made me want to take the shot to begin with. It was a shot showing the flames rolling across the ceiling. It was like waves of flames rolling in layers. It truly looked like a monster in there.

My camera has a short delay so action shots are very hard to get. I missed the collapse of part of the building through the lense, but I got to see it with my own two eyes and it was amazing to watch. From 75 or more yards away the heat from it was intense! I think I could have roasted marshmallows from that far away!

Another shot I was trying to get was really cool. There was a thin tornado of flame and smoke that appeared several times. It was really awesome to look at. I snapped several pictures trying to capture it but the pictures did not do it justice. It was so cool though.

The department even hooked us up with lunch! They put burgers on the barbecue for us and they were not skinny little mystery meat burgers either. They had all the trimmings, and also chips and sodas. There were a lot of happy firefighters there!

I was pleased and excited to see three female firefighters there. There were probably more of them but I met three. Two of them were built very much like me, only a shade taller. Not too much taller. The third one was my height, but she was skinny and strong. She was very nice, too. I really enjoyed getting to meet her. She let me take her picture when she was in rehab having her blood pressure taken. I didn’t get to be in the picture because I wasn’t the one taking the blood pressure, but I wanted photo documentation of the kinds of things I did today.

I really had a good time working at this fire today. The crew at rehab was really awesome to talk to, work with and get to know a little. I really hope to be able to come back and do this again some time. I know it is silly, but I was happy to come back smelling like smoke. Just another way to keep the memory of what I got to be a part of today.

Thanks Bro for your part in getting me involved so I could play. Thanks to the department for allowing me to participate. I am very grateful.

Well, that is all that I have to report. Thanks to all of my team for supporting me and for continuing to read this blog. Your encouragement means so much to me.

I don't have time to load and figure out how to post photos of my trip, but I will try to get some posted in the next week. If worse comes to worse, I'll post them on my facebook and leave the link here in my blog.

Until next time… Stay safe!

Hotflash out.

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