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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Structure Fire

"Medic Engine 461, Engine 3582, Medic Engine121, Ambulance 121, Riverside County Medic Engine 37...structure fire."

Eric and I were the only one staffing Medic Engine 461 this day. We were just clearing from a smoke investigation call (which turned out to be nothing) and headed back to the highway when we heard this call go out for us. We immediately stopped the engine, bailed out, and jumped into our turnouts. As we turned onto the highway we could see the smoke. Our Fire Marshal was driving the water tender to the previous call. When the structure fire call came out he was literally around the corner from the fire. He called dispatch on the radio and reported a single story residence with heavy involvement (meaning it was burning good).

As we approached the scene Eric told me to tag the hydrant with a 4" line. As he slowed down I jumped out. In under a minute the engine was driving down the street toward the house. As I started to connect the hose to the hydrant a city board member came running up to me and told me he would take care of it and that I was needed at the engine now! I ran about 300 feet to the engine and was met by Eric yelling that there was a rescue. Normally firefighters (at least in California) follow a 2 in 2 out rule. This means that in order to "go interior" or enter the burning building, there must be two firefighters going inside and two firefighters outside just in case something goes wrong. The only time that this rule is broken is when there are reports that there may be a person still inside the burning building. I quickly grabbed the 1 3/4" preconnect (an 1 3/4 inch hose that is already connected to the engine so all we have to do is pull it to the fire and flow water) and hustled for the door. As I was masking up a plume of dark smoke blew into my face. That was the first time that I have encountered smoke like that and I won't soon forget it. It burned. After masking up we tried to make entrance to the building through the front door. It was so hot that as soon as we moved the stream of water, that area would immediately reignite. We decided to try the back door. It led us into the back bedroom which was also ablaze. Smoke was almost down to my knees. Eric yelled at me, "get in there!" We got down on our hands and knees and crawled in.

It's a strange world inside a burning building. There is so much smoke that you can't see. You grope your way around trying to figure out what is around you while looking/feeling for a person. The heat from the fire forces you to get low to the ground. When the water hits the fire it turns into steam. The steam brings the heat level in the room lower so you are forced to crawl a little lower. You can see a large orange glow in the direction of the fire. Fires also crackle. I'm sure most people have heard a camp fire crackle. Imagine that inside a room, and a lot louder.

We crawled inside the back bedroom and knocked down the fire. We did a rapid search of that room while advancing. On my right I found a hallway that led past the kitchen to the front room. That hallway was really hot and I could see the orange glow somewhere on the other end of it. I started to put water on it from where I was. Around this time a burning piece of the ceiling fell on my head. Thank goodness for helmets.

At this point Eric and I were running low on air so we backed out. He ran to the engine to swap out his air tank and to grab one for me. When he got to the engine he noticed that CalFire Engine 3582 was on scene and their firefighter were masking up. They set up some horizontal ventilation and attacked through the front. We continued through that back. Medic Engine and Medic Ambulance 121 (from San Bernardino County Fire) and Medic Engine 37 (from Riverside County Fire) also showed up. Within a couple of minute we had the fire extinguished. After a secondary check we determined that there was no one inside. The neighbors, we discovered later, had pulled the kid with down syndrome out.

We spent the next 4 hours there doing an investigation, overhauling the place (removing everything that burned and trying to salvage what we could for the family), and cleaning it up some. It took another 3-4 hours of cleaning back at the station to get all of our equipment clean and put away.

Possible 5150

We received a call for a possible 5150 (medical terminology for a person that is either a danger to themselves, others, or is gravely disabled). Because of the nature of this call we were told to stage and wait for PD to arrive. while responding dispatch let us know that there was another call in our area, this one for shortness of breath. We decided to divert to this call and let Engine 3586, from Yucca Valley, take the initial call.

Our patient ended up being an 18 year old girl that had just had a argument and broken up with her boyfriend (assumption on my part). She was just having an anxiety attack and with some oxygen and some calm words she mellowed out. By the time that the ambulance got there she was doing OK. We sent her to the hospital to get checked out anyways because she felt like hurting herself.

We cleared that call in time to meet up with Engine 3586, who was still staging for the initial call. We decided to respond with them just in case a medic was needed (3586 is a BLS engine). Turns out it was an old lady with dementia problems that no longer recognized her caretaker. When he would come over and check on her she would flip out. We sent her in to get checked out as well.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Call!

We (Eric, Jason , and myself) actually had a call today where we were not canceled. The call came in around 1100 for a woman with cardiac problems. We pulled up and grabbed our stuff. As we made our way to the front door Eric yelled, "Get in the house quick! There are dogs coming!!" Unfortunately the door was locked. Fortunately for me I had Eric between me and the dogs. Fortunately for him the dogs were all bark and no bite.

Our patient had a very significant cardiac history (she had had one bypass surgery already and was waiting for an operating room slot to open up for the next surgery) and was experiencing sever chest pain with shortness of breath. We gave her some oxygen, aspirin, and some nitroglycerin which helped a little with the pain. We had her on the monitor and we were unable to start an IV with 2 attempts (one by each medic on scene) By then MBA was on scene so we let their paramedic intern take over. We quickly loaded the patient up and sent her on her way. I bet that she gets her bypass now.

Lessons Learned

Last night we were relaxing on the apron (driveway in front of the apparatus bay) when we got toned out for a vehicle fire. We quickly (and by quickly I mean we were literally running) got dressed and headed out. The call was located down the grade in Riverside County. As we switched to their radio frequency we heard Engine 37 go responding. We could tell by their voices that they were hurrying too. They knew that we were responding and that we quite frequently beat them to calls in their own area. It turned out that the car was not located on highway 62, but was about a mile or so east of that location. Since it was a little closer to Engine 37's station they beat us by about 30 seconds. The car was totally involved and we just missed it. I guess 37 learned that if we are responding they better hurry.

Monday, April 21, 2008

And How Many Servings Was That?

Like most Americans the guys on my shift, myself included, are trying to reduce out waste size. In this attempt we spend at least an hour each day in physical fitness training. The problem is that we also enjoy eating. Eric is a great cook so we quite often eat more than we should. This last week though, Brett (aka Mongo) out did us all. One night he was hungry so he decided to eat a bowl of cereal. Instead of eating one of the semi healthy cereals (like plain Cheerios) he decided to get a huge bowl of Fruit Loops. Eric and I quickly started to make comments about Mongos choice of cereals, size of bowl, and lack of exercise that day. We figured out that he was eating over a half pound of sugar! Brett was quite astonished when I pulled out a measuring cup and showed him exactly how much one serving actually was. Immediately after finishing his bowl he went for a jog on the tread mill.

Nutritional information for Fruit Loops.

Equivalent of one serving.

Eric taunting Brett with a little more than a half pound of brown sugar while Brett tries to run off the Fruit Loops.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fire Explorer

At station 461 we have a small fire explorer program. It's kind of like boy scouts but they get to learn about the fire service. One of the more exciting things that the boys get to do is a ride along. This last Saturday one of our explorers spent the day with us. Unfortunately we didn't get any calls but he did get to train with us. We got him all dressed up in turnouts and a BA (breathing apparatus) and taught him how to tag the hydrant (process of connecting the engine to the closest hydrant to the fire). Being 14, Cory, our explorer did not quite have the enthusiasm for training that we thought he should have. The punishment this time was quick and wet. While he was on his knees connecting a hose to the hydrant, Mongo grabbed our 1 3/4 line from the other side of the engine and sprayed him. It was amazing how quick he could move when properly motivated. At least he was in turnouts so he wasn't soaked all the way through.

Here is a photo of a couple of our explorers at a fund raising event the had. The one not in costume is the one that we soaked.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


At about 11 in the evening on Thursday we got a knock on the door. Our first instinct was we were getting a call. It turned out to be a couple of our local CHP officers. Turns out that they confiscated a couple for mortars from a driver and since they didn't have a launcher, decided that we were the place to drop them off. We invited them in and gave them some pie. Of course we apologized about not having any doughnuts.

Later that night we got a call for a vehicle leaking gas at the gas station right around the corner from our station. The truck had been in an accident earlier that day and when the woman finally gassed it up she noticed the small leak. By the time that we got there the gas station attendant had already put kitty litter down on the fuel spill and stopped the leak. CHP was there and they told us to go back to bed. Firefighters don't tend to argue with people with guns so we went home and back to bed.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Lazy Week

So this last shift was a slow one. So what do we do when there is nothing much going on you ask.

Well, on Thursday we watched training videos, did station projects, helped Engineer Griffith's study for Mt. SAC, helped our firefighter apprentice study for his National Registry EMT exam, and we ate pretty well (enchiladas). We also ran one call for a domestic dispute. Turns out that the patient had just been knocked to the ground but she couldn't get back up without help. We sat her in her chair and let MBA deal with the paperwork.

Friday morning we got up at our normal our (about 0700) and had breakfast. By 0830 it was very apparent that all of us were still extremely tired (possibly due to the weather changing) and it was decided that we seeded a safety nap. So we got up at noon. I know, rough life. We then had lunch and helped everyone study. That night we ate well again (salmon, muscles, and asparagus).

On Saturday we ate breakfast at one of our few local restaurants, had a girls softball team wash the engine, cleaned the station, watch some more training videos (which included comparing and contrasting an episode of Emergency to how we do things today in the fire service), had a small lunch, had steak and potatoes for dinner, watched a movie and went to bed.

What we really wanted the entire time was a good call.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Uncertain Future

At the MVFD our engineers act as our company officers. My engineer, Eric, has been trying to into paramedic school now for several months. Over the last couple of weeks I have been helping him study while he tries to get into Mt Sac's paramedic program. This week he found out that he has made it. He starts at the end of this month. The problem is that at the MVFD we are losing an engineer. We don't have any one else that can drive the engine, or be a company officer. There may be times when it is just me and a reserve firefighter staffing the brush engine (I don't need a class B license to drive it). At the end of this month we also lose Mongo (Brett) who has been picked up for a season with the US Forrest Service. So starting at the end of this month I'm the only full time employee on my side of the week. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


For the second week in a row the tones went off before 0730 on Thursday. Luckily for the crew getting off duty, my shift was all there and we took the call. It was a call for a man with chest pain and while we were responding dispatch informed us that the patient may want to go to the hospital in his own vehicle. When we got there we found a man that had chest pain and was spitting up some blood that wanted to go to the hospital without us. After trying multiple times to get him to go in the ambulance, which by this time had arrived on scene, we signed him out AMA. This is where the call got interesting. The hill that we were on was very steep. So much so that the engine had a hard time staying in place even with the wheels chalked.

The EMT driving the ambulance tried to make a three point turn on a little side road but never made it to the third point. He got high centered on the dirt road and buried his rear bumper in the dirt. The problem was that the ambulance was now blocking our only way out. So we tried to get them out. First, by digging them out.

Then, by putting rocks under the tires so that they could get some traction (which almost worked).

We then tried cribbing (pieces of wood used for vehicle stabilization), which didn't work.

A frustrated EMT.

We then decided that we had to risk using the engine on the steep slope to pull the ambulance out. The ambulance paramedic (Melissa) seems a little embarrassed. As you can see in this shot we are on a good size hill with a nice view.

With the use of some large rocks we kept the engine from sliding down the hill while we jacked the ambulance out of it's ditch. Everyone was a little dirty after this call. We still are waiting for our ice cream from this ambulance crew.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Auto Ex Video

Sorry the videos are small and grainy. It's all that my phone can do. Here is a video from my auto extrication day.


Here are a couple of videos of our physical agility test that we set up. We all took turns racing through several events. I managed to get the fastest time this night.


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