Saturday, 30 January 1999
So I've got my kids for the weekend and we're sitting there watching a movie and my beeper goes off, "structure fire" in neighboring Mahopac Falls.
"Gotta go" and I'm gone. I make pretty good time down to the firehouse and jump on engine 18-4-1 and we go to assist. I'm in the cabin behind the driver's compartment; we're running on red illumination (to preserve night vision) and the six of us are donning our turnout gear and bunker pants and helmets and Scott air packs (well, I'm just a probationary member so I'm not putting on a Scott Pack, I'm just trying to find something to hold on to as we career down the road). The energy level is high since this sounds like a confirmed structure fire and not another false alarm.
We pull up alongside 3 other engines and trucks to disembark. There must be 50 firefighters there and someone says that there are visible flames coming out of the windows (I crane my neck but can't see anything past the jumble of air tanks and helmets). The Lieutenant says to me "Kelley, you're a probie, so you'll stay with the truck; go sit in the front with the driver and do what he says".
Eager to stay out of the way, I climb into the passenger seat just vacated by the captain of the company and sit there with my hands in my lap, thinking "don't touch anything, Jeff". All of a sudden, pandemonium breaks loose. There are sirens and horns. I'm looking around trying to figure out what the commotion is and realize that Everyone Is Looking At Our Truck. The driver shouts over to me "HEY PROBIE, GET OFF THE $&%*$# FOOTSWITCH!!!" I look down and realize that my jumbo fireman's gum boots are big-footing two buttons on the floorboards. After yanking my feet off the floor, I get my flashlight out and read the signs on the buttons: Sure enough, they say "horn" and "siren".
Needless to say, my Probie Gaff was the subject of some humorous comments back at the firehouse after it was all over. It seemed that everybody knew that Probie Kelley Found the Footswitches. I'm just hoping no one thinks of the name "BigFoot"; I've seen how nicknames get generated in this business.
Did I mention? The movie I left my girls watching when I dashed out of the house? "Backdraft". No lie.
Friday, 15 January 1999
After being sworn in as a member of Truck Company #1 of the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department on January 7th (I had to pledge to defend the constitutions of the U.S. and NYS to the best of my ability), I cooled my heels for a week, waiting to get my turnout gear and find out where my truck was and stuff.
They cancelled the regular Thursday training last night because of all the snow. However, there were a few folks hanging around, including the Chief and the Lieutenant of my Truck Company, Doug. Chief Smith and Doug fixed me up with some turnout gear. It turns out that us probationary members get the important job of helping to make maximum use of recycled gear; my boots had 3 or 4 generations of firefighter's names on them -- I took me an hour to buff the visor on my helmet just so I could see murky shapes through it. Now it's my favorite hat!
Lt. Doug took the time to show me every item in every compartment of Truck #1. We spent a good hour going over all the equipment and talking about how it's used and whatnot. I tried really hard to remember everything. (I just hope I have plenty of workouts at the health club before they make me carry that incredibly heavy Jaws compressor up some icy embankment!)
They didn't have a pager for me yet, but I had this old Radio Shack scanner at home, so I called up to get the frequencies (46.380 MHz) and left the scanner on by my bedside. The important broadcasts are preceded by pairs of tones. I haven't learned my tones yet, but I almost have a song composed for the tones for the Carmel Fire Department (some construction project caught fire last night around 2am).
I had given up getting a chance to go on my first call and was scraping half an inch of ice off my windshield in preparation for going to work this morning when my scanner played some tones I hadn't heard yet. Mahopac! "Downed Wires on Route 6 by Mahopac Supply"! And there I am, all dressed with my windshield scraped and my engine warm and my little blue light just sitting there waiting to be tested. I'm Off!
Some citizen is driving his pickup at a snail's pace right down the middle of my street; oblivious (or maliciously aware) of my little blue light. But I do manage to be the second responder to reach the firehouse. Everyone is so calm. I had expected to be buffeted and shoved to the side ("Hey Junior, why don't you just wait here and you can wash the truck when we come back?"). But no, I donned my turnout gear and was shown by the friendly Captain of Engine #1 where to park my butt on the jump seats behind the cab.
Hmm. Doug didn't have a chance to show me where ANYTHING is on Engine #1. I can just hear it: "You, Kelley! Bring the 8-foot Cable Fendoff Pole and a Number 3 Grounding Stanchion, On The Double!" Yikes. I tell the guy next to me: "Hey, Brian, this is my first call, so if you want anything from me, you'll have to talk very slowly, ok?" He smiles. The lights on the top of the cab are reflecting off the hose real and pump. Freezing rain is coming in to the jump seats. How do they keep this thing so clean? Hmm. "Downed wires". What did I read about that in Brady? I remember: stay more than a radius away from them. That's a big help.
We make a slow drive-by. We stop in the middle of Route 6. Someone in a pickup with a little blue light is talking to the Captain. The wires that are down look a lot like cable TV wires to me. We start up again and slowly cruise by Mahopac Supply; we whip a U-ee and drive back to the firehouse.
I hop off and switch back to my street clothes and help wipe down Engine #1. "Hey, lieutenant, how'd I do on my first call?"
"Perfect", he says.