I don't think it has been said here, other than in small mentions here and there, that I joined our volunteer fire company in Middlesex Township a couple of months ago.  I am not sure of the exact number of incidents that I've gone out on, but the number is probably around 8 or so, though most of them have been cancelled while enroute to the station, or after we got the truck out, etc.  It is often that case that people report a "fire" or "possible fire" when it actually isn't, and the county dispatch systems often are setup to dispatch two stations whenever there is a fire, and so we'll get paged for a neighboring township, and then once a township chief gets to the location, sees that it isn't a big deal, and is either not anything, or can be handled without help, etc.

There were two calls in the last two days (which is more than normal, the average is somewhere around 10-15 a month; and I just found out that I missed another call yesterday while we were in Pittsburgh) where I was actually useful (as opposed to the first fire I went to where I was told to, "stay with the truck", and so we (myself and a junior, defined as under 18, no matter the level of experience) just sat around and directed some other fire company's trucks where to park.

Yesterday's call was a vehicle accident who collided into the back of a bus that was stopped.  The skid marks were pretty long, so he was probably going pretty fast.  Though, I have no idea why the bus company thinks it is a good idea to have their bus stop (apparently every day, some sort of commuter bus) blocking a lane and have the people cross over the 5 lanes of traffic to get on the bus.  I gather that the accident happened because a second car stopped next to the bus to let the people cross.  I put the oil-dry/kitty litter or whatever it is on the ground where the vehicle's oil and coolant, etc. were leaking out.  I picked up various bits of metal and plastic and helped direct traffic a bit (people pay a lot more attention to someone wearing fire clothes than without - I tried to direct traffic around a huge vehicle accident the other day, and some people got really upset at me holding up traffic (at a light) giving directions to folks.  I hope that they finally realized what was going on when they sat in traffic for an hour, and maybe next time won't be so upset...)

Today's call was a fire in someone's yard, lots of dry grass at ~97 degrees in the sun.  So, the other guys let me do the spraying and the chief gave me instructions about where to spray.  It was pretty hot, and hopefully I'll get the summer clothes soon - right now I just have the full suit, which is really hot, even when inside an air-conditioned building, and I imagine really hot when inside a building on fire.

I went to my first fire class last weekend, and was joined by a bunch of kids, though there were a couple people my age, and a good number of people in between "kid-age" and myself.  It was pretty fun, and I did learn some things - the SCBA (like SCUBA, without the U, which we would have been glad for) appartus class was informative, though I was paired with the least knowledgeable instructor, so she couldn't answer any of my questions.  I can finally tie a bowline knot - that was a knot I never mastered in scouts.  I'm not sure if it is because I am now smarter than I was 25 years ago, or if the instructor simply explained it better - I think it might simply be a different way of explaining it.  We learned some good ways of lifting up various items (axes, big heavy pieces of equipment, pike poles, etc.) using some knots and lifting methods, and that was useful.  The class was split up into groups, with a chief randomly assigned.  Our chief did better as the weekend went on, so I'm sure he learned some things too.  We got made fun of a number of times, "fire fighting is all about being made fun of", primarily for not keeping our group together, so we did eventually learn that lesson.  I also learned a couple tricks about putting up a ladder against a building by myself.  I didn't learn anything at the hose class, that my company hadn't taught me a couple weeks ago at a dry hydrant training, and I received one bit of misinformation that is widely believed in firefighting circles.  When spraying water on a fire, you should rotate the nozzle clockwise.  Why?  Because of the coriolis effect.  If you go counter-clockwise, it will suck the fire and smoke towards you.  And in the southern hemisphere you would go counter-clockwise.  I was sure the instructors were pulling our legs, but they insisted it was true.  I searched around on the internet, and can find some people claiming that to be true, and one analysis where they try to figure out what is really happening, and if it really happens.  And Heather and I discussed it for a while, and decided that it couldn't possibly be true, because if it did matter, you would have different rotations based on what direction you were spraying, and not only which hemisphere you were standing.

Apparently, it is now on a firefighter test though I wonder if only the clockwise part is on there, and not the reason why.  I asked my guys, and one guy didn't know anything about it, and another, more knowledgeable guy, said yes, you do go clockwise, but the reason is that the fog nozzles (nozzles that can switch between straight stream, and different shower types) have a rotating piece in them that changes the direction of the water and air flow, and he says it will suck and blow the smoke depending on which way you rotate.  He asked me today if I tried it out on the grass fire, but there wasn't enough smoke to test the theory.

There was a lot of wasted time, and I wish there was a better way to organize the class.  It is called "Introduction to Basic Firemanship", so arguably, it should be a basic class, but it would probably be good if the group could be split, or give more direction to allow people who understand stuff to help other students, rather than force the more advanced students to crawl along.

The Red Cross was there with a therapy dog, and they asked to take my picture with the dog, and I signed a photo-release document, so I might show up in some Red Cross literature somewhere, which would be kind of fun.

My department gave me a new suit, as opposed to most of the students, who had gotten people's old stuff, and didn't fit, etc. so that made Middlesex look pretty good.  My chief said my clothes are too shiny, and I made some effort to get them dirtied up, but didn't succeed very well.

Jon in a firesuit

Posted by Jon Daley on June 9, 2011, 4:57 pm | Read 2637 times
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