Thursday, July 28, 2011


That the Probie was not a rocket scientist was apparent. Like all, he had to go through an initiation—hazing some would call it. Unlike most, he fell for everything they threw at him.

The water fountain was a case in point. A standard brown industrial model with a silver curved outlet and drain in the center of the bowl; identical to the type the kid had to have seen hundreds of times before in elementary school. The three guys working him over weren’t much past him chronologically. They were ages older experience wise, however.

“Don’t you know one of your jobs is to make sure this water fountain is full,” one of them told him.

“Jesus, you don’t want it to run dry,” said the second.

Unaware, the Captain walked out of his office and dumped the remnants of ice and water from a cup into the drain and turned back.

“Holy shit, you don’t want the Captain having to fill the thing for you do you?” said the third. The Captain pretended to hear nothing and with a slight shake of his head, returned to the stacks of paper work in his office, having seen this, or similar routines hundreds of times before.

From the look on the rookies face the three knew they had him hooked and proceeded to other tasks while watching the kid out of the corner of their eyes. Probie found the largest pot he could in the kitchen and proceeded to fill it with about five gallons of water. Lugging it over, he tipped the awkward vessel up to fill what he was convinced was the fountain reservoir. The drain, not sized to take more than the small stream from the quarter inch outlet, immediately overflowed, soaking the kid and the surrounding floor. The Captain walked out of his office, surveyed the wet floor and Probie, shook his head again, and returned to his office. The laughter from the three “older” firefighters was loud, but another lesson was learned, and tradition passed on.

Monday, July 25, 2011

RIP Ralph

We lost Ralph this past weekend, a shock due to the unexpectedness. I have to believe he's in a better place now, and will be playing golf every day while waiting for the New York Giants to take the field this fall.

I'm guessing there might be an ambulance up there, hopefully orange and white in color. It probably doesn't get much use, but that will be fine with Ralph; he spent more than his share of time running calls in one on this earth.

If there is an orange and white camper, as we used to call it, up there, he's staffing it with John, who we lost a few years back. Ralph and John were the Mutt and Jeff of ambulance officer's who could finish each others sentences and were inseparable.

Ralph's wonderful wife Pat asked for the picture of the three of us for his wake. She said it meant so much that it was in the book. It means a lot to me that she would think so but feels so very strange to look at it now as the last man standing.

RIP Ralph, you will be missed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Why?—a simple question firefighters should be asking more.

Why don’t we have more cost effective access to technology? From the time the first firefighter entered a burning building, visibility—seeing through smoke—has been an issue. Bulky hand held infrared cameras became the so-called solution. Heavy, costly, and typically limited in quantity, they gave one or two guys the clear knowledge of what’s around them while everyone else continues to do it the old fashioned way—blind. Why doesn’t every SCBA face piece have a head’s up display with an infrared picture?

We’ve known for around two hundred years that sprinklers are our best friend in controlling fires and yet they aren’t required in new construction in some states. One state—Pennsylvania—actually repealed their mandatory sprinkler law after a rabid lobbying campaign by the building construction boys. Why?

We continue to open roofs manually that we’ve reached with aerial ladders or platforms. How come there isn’t an automated device attached to the end of the stick that can quickly and safely open the roof, controlled by an operator on the ground or ladder. Why?

How come we train our people in artificial environments that bear about as much relation to real burning buildings as Congress does to a deliberative body? Ooops, I forgot. We used to train in real environments but can’t anymore. Nevermind.

Finally, do you, like me, wonder why the simple practice of painting a piece of equipment, that is used in hundreds of industries, the color red and putting the word “fire” in it’s name automatically increases the price three fold. Why?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Technology, a wonderful thing?

Technology can be a wonderful thing—sometimes. Twice in the last month, I’ve been able to watch video of fire ground operations, and see my son go in the door—exciting and heartwarming stuff—at least to me.

“Michelle, come see this, it’s great.” She stared silently at the computer screen, hearing the sirens from incoming apparatus, the breaking of glass in the building, the thump of ladders hitting the exterior walls. Music to my ears. Her face had a pinched look, lips drawn together.

“There’s Mike,” I pointed to a firefighter going in the doorway of the burning building. There was a narrowing of her eyes.

“Are you trying to make my acid reflux act up on purpose?” she asked.

“Why, this is just good solid work here—nothing out of the ordinary or exceptionally dangerous.”

I don’t want to know if that’s what he’s doing all the time, and I definitely don’t want to see. Look, there’s fire up there over his head where he just went in,” she said.

“That’s fine,” I said, “they’re getting it from the inside.”

“Thanks, I’ve seen enough. I don’t want to know.”

I remember my Mom used to enjoy seeing an occasional fire, until I joined. Then her reaction became similar to Michelle’s. I guess it’s a good thing YouTube didn’t exist when I was coming up……