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Monday, March 31, 2008

A Long Friday Night

On Friday evening we decided to put on our own physical agility test based off of a physical agility test that the city of Eureka uses. You start out with some running and some stairs, then you raise 50 feet of hose to the second story, then you move 12 hose packs from a truck to the ground and back up, then 50 swings with a sledge hammer, run 100 feet with a charged hose, then run 20 feet with 100 pounds of hose on your shoulder. All this in under 6 minutes. We all did it with time to spare but we were tired. That night we got a call at 0330. It was for a vehicle over the side down on the grade. We spent the next 45 minutes searching for this stupid car, in conjunction with Riverside county Medic Engines 36, 37, and an AMR medic unit. It was finally decided that it was a solo car spin out (non injury) a couple miles away from the location where it was supposed to have been. We all snuggled back into bed and none of could sleep. Bummer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mr. Toads Wild Ride

Our shift change is at 0800. We usually try to get to work early so that if a call goes out close to shift change the oncoming crew can take it allowing the other crew to go home. So at 0730 this morning there was a mixed crew here. The tones went off for a TC in Riverside county on the grade. Five of us got dressed and jumped in the engine and rolled for the call. If it sounds like a fun call the crew that is ending their shift will usually decide to run it.

We pull up on scene to find a bystander parked by the guard railing and an old woman walking in the brush. On further inspection we see a pickup truck way off in the distance in the brush. We look at the guard rail but it is completely intact. Turns out that she had misjudged the turn and went off the side of the road about a quarter mile back up the highway. She then plummeted several feet and landed in the riverbed, never hitting the brakes. She and her husband (who is legally blind...what a ride that must have been) then drove for about a quarter of a mile down the dry river bed bouncing over brush and piles of dirt 4 feet high. She finally came to a rest on the far side of the river bed.

When all is said and done, he was upset at her for wrecking their truck and was letting her know that he would never ride with her again. Both of then denied any treatment and signed out AMA. We helped both of them hike back up to the roadside where we let them sit in the back of a CHP car awaiting a family member to come pick them up.

In this first photo you can sort of see where she drove off the highway. It's back behind the engine where the sunlight is under the V in the mountain. All three shots are taken from the same spot, just in front of the engine.

She drove full speed down this dry riverbed.

That's her pickup truck off in the distance. We popped her hood open to disconnect the battery. The truck was in surprisingly good shape for all the off roading that it just did.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Auto Ex

Auto extrication is a mix between science and art. Fire departments frequently get vehicle from the junkyard to practice on. We met up with Cal Fire Engine 3586 and spent several hours learning the finer points of dismantling a vehicle. We started out with a 2 door hatchback and removed the windows, doors, hatchback, roof, seats, and steering wheel. We also cut a third and fourth door into the car for the rear seat passengers and tilted the dashboard up to make for more knee room in the front seat. It's amazing what can happen when you give a bunch of guys tools and a car to destroy. The only reason that the car was not cut in half (literally) was that it would have made it difficult for the tow truck driver to take away.

This is Tony, a Captain with CDF. He is our local auto extrication guru.

Eric looking on making sure that we are all being safe.

We thought about going after the Captains truck (in the background) next.

Auto Ex

Time to take a needed break.

We cleaned up after ourselves when we were done. Everything stacked not so neatly back into what was left of the car.

Permit Burn

In the Morongo Valley a citizen can get a permit to burn off some of their vegetation. In order to be able to do this they have to have 30 feet of clearance in every direction from the fire. They also must have a garden hose so that they can put the fire out. There are also restriction as to the size of the fire. The day of the actual burn they have to call the county to see if it is a "burn day" and they have to call their local fire station and let them know that there is going to be a permitted burn going on. That way when someone freaks out and calls the station or 911 we don't get toned out.

On Friday morning a citizen just to blocks down the street from us did all this. I talked to him at 0700 and made sure that he had done everything he needed to do. I then let my engineer know what was going on. About 30 minutes later we received a knock at the door. A woman had seen smoke and stopped to let us know of the fire. We assured her that we knew and that it was a permitted burn. About 5 minutes later the phone rang. Our comm center (dispatch) was informing us that they had received multiple calls on the permit burn and that one caller said that there were flames visible from across the highway above the roof tops. This got our attention. We quickly suited up and started in that direction. As soon as we had cleared the station we could see a huge header (column of smoke). Upon our arrival we discovered that the citizen with the burn permit had done everything but follow the directions about the size of the fire. The fire was about 15-20 feet across and 4 feet tall in some sections. Eric asked the man if was able to put out the fire with his garden hose. The man assured him that he could and then, when he tried, found out that there was no way to put the fire out with a garden hose. Mongo and I were then instructed to grab the 1 3/4 inch cross lay and put the fire out. We promptly covered the entire pile with water and foam. It took about 30 minutes to get all the little hot spots out. We had to call a CalFire engine 3586 to come down and take a report. The State fire inspectors will now have to come out and see if they are going to reissue a burn permit. The poor guys now has a large soaking wet pile of brush that is partially burned that he may not be able to burn any further. At least we got there before it got too far out of control.

Friday, March 21, 2008


At MVFD we now use EPCR (electronic patient contact reports) to document what we have done on a call. Most of us are of the mind set that the computer should be used for a wheel chock. We had a call last night for a man with trouble breathing. My Engineer was trying to get the computer to work while I was working up the patient. He got so frustrated because we (I had an EMT helping me) were firing off information to him faster than he could get it into the computer. He finally took the computer back to the engine and grabbed one of our trusty paper patient contact reports. Later on it only took me about an hour to get all the information transferred into the computer. The problem is that the programmers and no contact with the end users. The system is a nightmare to work. As for my patient...he was treated and sent off to the hospital, completely unaware of the problems that we had.


He he he.

The call came in a little after 8 in the evening. "Medic Engine 461, mutual aid response for a vehicle fire at highway 62 and Indian, highway 62 and Indian." We very quickly got dressed and jumped in the rig. We were dispatched to help out Riverside County Engine 37 and they had a 3 minute head start on us. Pulling up to the intersection we noticed flames on Indian just west of highway 62 and also we noticed that Engine 37 was going to get there before us. We contacted dispatch and let them know what we had and they let us know that there were reports of a 55 gallon drum on fire. As we approached we noticed that it was not a car fire but just a 55 gallon drum that was fully engulfed. Engine 37 pulled just passed the drum and we stopped just short of the drum. Mongo, one of the firefighters I work with, and I quickly jumped out and grabbed the bumper line. I grabbed the nozzle and approached the fire. It took all of 5 seconds to get the fire out but it was still a fire! Eric talked to the Captain from Engine 37 and we released them from the call. Later, Eric told us that the guys from Engine 37 were really bent out of shape that we got their fire for them. We mopped up and CHP called CalTrans to come pick up the fuel drum. We left the CHP in charge of the seen and went back to the station.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I've recently been informed that there have not been enough pictures on my blog. These posts are in direct response...

This is Brush Engine 461. Designed to go off road so that it can quickly attack a brush fire and extinguish it before it gets out of hand. It has a pump and a 500 gallon water tank.

This is Medic Engine 461. We still need to get new decals for the side that indicate that there is a paramedic on board. I usually sit on this side of the engine in the rear seat.

Another shot of Medic Engine 461 from on top of Engine 462. Highway 62 is in the background.

This is Engine 462. It used to be a logging truck. The hood of the truck is about 6 feet 6 inches off the ground. The firefighter in this photo is over 6' tall.

Engine 462 is huge. I love that there has to be a light bar on the bumper because it is so tall. The roll up door to this station had to be modified so that this engine could park in here. Notice that it indicates on the grill that this is a high tech fire apparatus...well, was a high tech fire apparatus.


This is what it looks like about 90 minutes after I leave home in the morning. Just up over the horizon is the turnoff for highway 62 which leads to, among other places, Morongo Valley. It's right where there are hundreds of windmills.

This is a daylight shot similar to the last one. This time I took the shot on the way back from the Department of Health Services, while on duty, so I'm in our brush engine.

These last two shots are pictures of my district (the area that I cover). As you can see there is not a whole lot around. That is highway 62 in the photo. These shots were taken from our second station (yes, we have two stations) in a slightly less populated section of town.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


This is Eric. Sorry this photo is a little blurry. It's hard to make it out but someone at the station bought liver cheese. It smelled as bad as it sounds. We think that it was the Fire Chief that bought it.

This is more like what we eat on my shift. Here we have BBQ ribs, BBQ sausage, rice, salad, and chips with guacamole. Other nights we've had salmon, shrimp, steak, chicken, meatloaf, and chili. Depending on who is cooking, (some people at the station have made a horrible reputation for themselves at cooking) I eat pretty well.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Win Some Lose Some

Early on Tuesday morning I got up and left work for the city of Carson. There I took the Los Angeles County Fire Department written exam. Most of you know that his is the holy grail of departments for me. I think that the test went well but there was a psychological portion and it's tough to tell how you do on those. Upon arriving back at the station I was informed that while I was away they had had a structure fire! This is what every new firefighter hope to get to go on...and I missed it! Over the next day and a half my engineer would remind me that I had missed a structure fire. He would say things like "I smell smoke. Oh yeah, we had a structure fire this morning." The nest way to give you an idea of what it was like is for the rest of this post, every time I write structure fire, imagine him giving me a hard time.

About 3 that afternoon we got a call from a citizen stating that there was a guy on a dirt bike that was riding around in the brush. The citizen was concerned about the possibility of the bike starting a fire and said that she was going (structure fire) to call the police. About a minute later the tones went off. "Medic Engine 461, MBA, respond for a motorcycle down on highway 62 at Park, highway 62 and Park. Sheriffs department on scene." We took a quick look outside because that is the intersection in front of the station. Since it was not visible from the station we got into our turnouts (structure fire) and headed out onto the highway. We found the officer about half a block down with his suspect sitting in the sidewalk. The suspects only injury was to his right pinky finger which was bleeding and pretty tore up. Lucky for us he refused transport to the hospital. Turns out he was trying to run from the officer (structure fire) and was pealing out when the officer decided to ram his back wheel, which sent him flying.

While we were talking to the officer a citizen stopped on the far side of the highway and screamed that there had just been an accident about a mile up the road. We quickly cleared that call we were on and informed San Bernardino that we were responding (structure fire) to another possible TC. When we got on scene we found another SO talking to a woman that had swerved to miss a pillow in the road and ended up spinning out into the desert. It was a non injury so we cleaned up the pillows out of the road and went back to the station. The rest of the night was uneventful.

On Wednesday we had training on our new electronic patient contact reports. The only thing that excites me about this new way of reporting is that the information is stored on the laptop so that if you run a call on a person more than nice, (structure fire) all you have to do is put in their name and it will fill in the medical history, and address, and things of that nature. It'll make running on the frequent flyer's easier.

Frequent Flyers

The familiar call came out to respond to our friends (term used loosely) Bob and John (names changed). Bob is a 79 year old male with his right leg amputated. He also is on home oxygen and has respiratory problems. His roommate, John, is a 48 year old drug addict that is abusive when drunk (which seems to happen often). This time we were called out by the San Bernardino Sheriffs officer that was on scene. Bob was complaining of some shortness of breath and he looked like he had been really beaten. His entire abdomen and part of his back were bruised. His right arm, which was injured in our last call out there, was now showing signs of compartment syndrome, a condition in which the appendage fills with blood and ends up cutting off the circulation to the rest of the extremity. This is very serious and can require surgery to repair. After talking to Bob he informs me that his shortness of breath is no worse than usual. John kept interrupting as we are talking to Bob trying to find out where all the bruising came from. After repeated attempts, by myself and our Engineer, to get John to shut up the situation was rectified by the SO. I looked up just in time to see John flying through the air and land face first into the linoleum. He was arrested for suspected domestic violence. After he was in the car we managed to talk Bob into going to the ER to get his arm checked out. I found out the next day that John pissed off a couple of the guards in jail and had a rough night. It couldn't of happened to a nicer person.

Possible OD

"Medic Engine 461, MBA, respond for a possible overdose at 1234 5th Street (address changed for patient privacy), 1234 5th Street. Stage for SO (Sheriffs Officer)." We jumped into the engine and started towards the location. We informed San Bernardino that we were staging about a block away awaiting the arrival of the SO. We do this so that if there is a dangerous situation the cop gets shot at or stabbed or attacked and not us. Selfish but we know how to patch him up, plus he has the gun. After a few minutes we asked for an ETA. San Bernardino got back to us with an unknown ETA. This can get very frustrating to a paramedic since there could be someone dying in that house and we can't do anything about it. A couple of minutes later dispatch informed us that SO was delayed and the we could proceed at our own discretion. We decided to go on in. At the house we were met by the son of our patient who informed us that his father had taken a bunch (technical language) of Vicodin. We went inside to find his father naked from the waste down in the kitchen, having fallen and knocked over the water cooler. He was in an awkward position and was a little out of it. Just then the ambulance got there. I asked them to bring in a backboard so that we could C-Spine the patient. This was a tricky procedure because our patient was incontinent too. We finished out assessment and loaded him up. When I called the hospital they wanted to know if I had given him any Activated Charcoal (medication given to people that take pills). The MICN (nurse that I talk to on the phone) seemed to get a little upset that I hadn't done that yet. Sometimes it's hard to make them realize that there are only so many things that you can get done in some situations before you send that patient off in the ambulance.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drive Thru Needed?

I figured out that I'm working (so called because I am collecting a paycheck not because of call volume) 200 of 240 hours not including commute time. I miss home. The plus is that I have 7 1/2 days off starting Wednesday afternoon!

On Saturday afternoon we had another knock at the door. By now I realize that knocks on the door are usually from people that should have called 911. The woman at the door informed us that she had a friend in the car that couldn't breathe. We grabbed our equipment and walked over to the car. Turns out that the man used to be a heavy smoker and had emphysema. The last couple of days he had had a cold and his breathing was becoming more labored. By the time that he decided to seek for help he could only talk in 3 to 4 word gasps. We called for an ambulance and started him on a breathing treatment. I plugged in a line and the ambulance showed up. Turns out they were on their way back from dropping another patient of at Desert Regional Medical Center when they got this call so they were close. I'm still amazed that people don't use the 911 system in this community. Maybe we should put in a drive up window.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

On the Edge of the Middle of No Where

The call came in for another ill person. At least this time it was after 8 in the morning. We jumped in the engine and started up Highway 62. We then turned left on a small paved road. Soon the pavement ended and a dirt road started. Then the dirt road turned more into a water run off drainage ditch about the size of a dirt road. Eventually we came to a long drive way (term used loosely). We parked the engine at the bottom of the driveway so as to allow the ambulance a way up to the house. We then grabbed our gear and started for the house. About half way to the house we decided to cut up the mountain side straight to the house. Along the way I discovered that every plant in the Morongo Basin has thorns of some sort. I got stuck several times. Ironically, our call was for a woman that had been stuck by a cactus a couple of days ago and the wound had become infected. We did a quick assessment and waited for the ambulance. In the time it took MBA to respond we were able to learn quite a lot of the life story of our patient. I'd blog it but it wasn't that interesting.

"It's 06:00, what's the "o" stand for? Oh, my God, it's early."

So it was at 5 am that the call came in (bonus points if you can name the movie the quote is from). That just means it's earlier. It's the worst time because by the time you are finished with the call it's too late to go back to sleep. The call came in for an ill person. That's dispatcher speak for BS. We arrive to find an 83 year old woman walking towards us from her trailer. She is ready to go to the hospital now. After convincing her that the hose bed would be a little breezy for her she let us in her house. Her only complaint was that a cyst on her thigh had burst. There wasn't any excessive bleeding or any other life threatening problem. In fact, her roommate, who was a nurse, bandaged the open sore. She just wanted to get it checked out and didn't have a car. Her reason for calling us was that everyone else she knew that could take her to the hospital was asleep. So were we! Oh well. She was a nice old lady and at least we were able to help...sort of.

Possible DB

On Monday evenings at MVFD we have explorers come over so they can learn about being a firefighter. This last Monday explorers was interrupted by a call for a man down, possible DB (dead body). We quickly made our way over to the address and found the wife outside, and very upset. I walked inside the bedroom expecting to find a dead guy (especially because of the wife's reaction) to find a man laying on the ground looking up at me. Turns out he was a little out of it. He is a diabetic, with a blood sugar that was a little low. He answered almost all of our questions correctly. He wasn't quite sure how he got on the ground but denies any pain whatsoever. We gave him some sugar to take orally and started an IV just in case the sugar didn't bring his blood sugar up fast enough. When we were loading him up on the ambulance he started called the MBA paramedic a terrorist and stating the he wanted to go back to Vietnam. I'm glad that I didn't have to ride in the back of an ambulance with a patient calling me a terrorist.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Another Walk-in

Friday morning we had a woman walk up to the front door stating that she had had chest pain since the previous night. She said that she had a doctors appointment later that day but wanted to stop by and get her blood pressure checked. She had, at that time, chest pain with shortness of breath, high blood pressure, a headache, ringing in the ears, and a case of anxiety. We worked her up and waited for the ambulance to arrive. I don't get it. Maybe people in small towns just don't understand what happens when you call 911.
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