Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fire Inspections - Are They Worthless? Or Is There SOME Value To Them?

What are some of the most worthless mundane things that we do while we're on duty? No, I'm not talking about running calls, even if it's the same place we've been to a thousand times before, and the same patient we've treated a thousand times before. Running calls is our reason for being here. 

If you're thinking fire inspections, well, so am I. When it is announced that inspections is on the list of ta-do's for the shift, there is seemingly always a collective groan amongst the members. I freely admit that I'm one of them. In the towns covered by my FD, there are different building codes, which can  sometimes drive the Prevention Division members mad. As far as the general fire code inspections go, well, they aren't really very enforceable. The courts haven't backed us up, per se. That doesn't mean we can't do them, it just means that staying in violation of the fire code won't result in a legal penalty assessed by the court.

Is there value to fire code enforcement? Absolutely. For starters, since the inception of business fire code inspections in the early 1990s, our commercial fires are down. Dramatically down. When business fires are reduced, companies don't get markedly inconvenienced or put out of business when there is a fire. People keep their jobs. Employeed people can provide for their family's needs and contribute to the local economy. To me, a very good thing.

Another advantage: if/when there is a fire, the business's insurance carrier ALWAYS want to see the latest fire code inspection results. It seems that while the courts may not totally have our backs, the insurance companies have a bigger power of persuasion with businesses. Maybe it's better that way.

So, at least for me, I don't slack off when we go do them. Besides, most business management folks I've talked to almost always thank us for pointing out potential issues that can cause a fire. Business owners and managers who have good heads on their shoulders don't want a fire, and when shown how simply and relatively inexpensively they can remedy an issue, they usually start correction efforts on the spot, if they can.

Ok, so, this week my engine company got started on our annual list of fire inspections. We drew fifty-six businesses to perform fire code inspections on this year. Not bad. We usually start on them in late spring, and get them done before summer is out. We got thirteen done the other day, including a vacant (DONE!) and of the thirteen, six are complete already. The rest really only have minor issues - exit lights not functioning, fire extinguishers needing service, etc. Nothing worth shutting down a business over. I'm confident they will be corrected before we return in three weeks. Easy work.

Now, here is the part of inspections that I do like. (Ken, are you feeling ok? You said that you actually LIKE to do inspections?) No, I said there are parts of inspections that I like. Seeing what is stored, so that if/when we have a response, we know what hazards there are likely to be (Firefighter Safety issues) and to look at how various locks are used in our response area (Forcible Entry issues) for starters.

We rolled up to a gas station and during a walk-around we were surprised to see several barrels with labels on them stating the contents were either "Flammable Liquids" or "Non-Hazardous Waste". Hmmm... So, when we were talking to the manager, we got the scoop on them. Several years ago there was an accident there that resulted in underground pipes breaking, and there was a massive flood of gasoline in that part of town. Thank God it didn't ignite! Anyway, they recovered a lot of the product at an emergency dam built on a creek (it was an underflow dam IIRC). A shipper came and picked up all of the barrels except for what we saw on the visit. We suggested they contact that shipper again, or perhaps another one.

More hmmm...

One thing I've noticed over the past several years is the demographics of my town are changing. Drastically. And not necessarily for the better. Some folks blame the economy. Others blame urban flight. I don't know, or care, what you want to call it. But the marked increase in crimes over the past years isn't due to an increase in population - it's grown, but not as fast as the crime rate. So, why do I mention this? Because with increased crime rates come increased security measures. Increased security measures means we have increased forcible entry challenges.

Drop bar at a local business. Crude? Not really. Effective? Yes! Easy to force? Well, it is if you think it through.

Note the slot on the door that the steel tab drops in to. Pad locks hold it in place when securing the door after hours.

Using a K12-type of power saw can yield fast results. Cutting the heads of the bolts off will allow a traditional force, as the bar will stay in place when we force the door open. Then we can simply remove the bar, once the door is open.
Failing that, we can also cut the hinges, but this will take more time.

So, as you can see, going out and doing fire code inspections isn't always a bad thing. There ARE advantages to it, as boring, pointless, and mundane as they seem.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and God bless.


(NOTE: Before this gets out of hand: Folks, this is NOT an attack on the volunteer sector of firefighting. I have been a volunteer firefighter, and would gladly do it again, if I lived in an area that was served by a volunteer fire department. The intent of this post isn't to slam VFDs, but rather, to point out some of the more mundane things that have to be done in the paid sector. If there are VFDs out there who perform some/all of the same non-emergency duties that are performed in the paid sector, please accept my apologies for my ignorance, and let it lay. My sincere thanks for the services you provide to your community.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All In A Morning's Work

My FD typically does hose testing every May. The weather is mostly nice, and it generally isn't too humid or hot. At my company, we split it amongst the three shifts. This year, A-Shift did everything that was on the hose rack, on the order of a couple thousand feet. B-Shift is doing the main bed, which is 1000 ft of 5" hose and 300 ft of 2.5" hose. C-Shift - my shift - drew all the pre-connects.

Last weekend is when we did it. It started out a nice morning, temps in the 70s, low humidity. However, within an hour of the shift starting, the clouds and humidity moved in, and a storm front started approaching. Ok, at least it wasn't HOT! We did get a little rain, but not a whole lot, while we were working.

Just after charging the lines and tightening the couplings.

All the sections passed. 

In all, we tested 1150 feet of hose, 750 ft of 1.75" and 400 ft of 2.5" line. The ambulance crew caught a long call just as we were starting, so instead of five of us, there were three of us doing the work, but we still got it done in short order. Set up only took about thirty minutes. That entailed pulling the 1.75" pre-connects off and reloading the speed-lay trays with already tested hose. As you can see in the pictures, there is dry 2.5" ready to be loaded (we use the triple-load). We have our 2.5" pre-connects in Mattydale style cross-lays, and pressure tested them from there, while we used a water thief and a gated wye to hook up all the small hose. The test itself was the standard five minutes of pressure. The bulk of the work was in labeling the tested sections, draining, rolling, and putting them in the dryer! Hey, it's gotta be done, so we might as well do it!

During yesterday's shift, we went to our area elementary school for the year end "Water Day". We routinely visit fourth grade classes throughout the year and finish it off at the end of the school year with a "Water Day", where we have them set up bucket brigades and other contests. Let me tell ya, the established contests usually last about 0.5 seconds, then it becomes a water fight. We keep a charged line there to refill the troughs that the kids fill their buckets with, and on occasion (read - when ever we're not filling the troughs) we set it on a medium fog setting and let it rain down. Most of the time, the kids turn on each other, but they also frequently target us with their buckets! That, even when we have a charged line pointing at them! It's a lot of fun!

Sorry folks, I didn't get any pictures while we were there. I was too busy getting soaked by all the 4th graders!

(Don't worry, we don't squirt them directly. We only have 70 psi at the discharge on the panel, so it's not a high pressure or high volume line, but it moves enough water to fill the 150 gallon troughs in about three minutes, and gives them a nice, almost gentle fog pattern soaking when we aim it at their feet!)

This one is short, especially for my usual postings. Thanks for reading!

Stay safe, and God bless!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Treasure Find! A Little Gem Of A Pumper

Recently while I was visiting my kids in Marble Hill, MO, my son and I were goofing off and stopped at the local Ford dealer where, out back, sits a 1974 American La France Pioneer pumper. And, it is for sale, too! (They're asking $5850. Contact info: Call Tee at Lutesville Ford, Marble Hill, MO, (888)419-6762 The neighboring fire district recently received a newer apparatus, and don't have room to keep this one, so it was sold.

The pumper is a 1974 American La France Pioneer, 1000 GPM dual stage pump, 500 gallon booster tank, a 30 gallon foam tank with a preconnected foam line, Detroit Diesel 6V92, Allison automatic transmission, and a 5kW gasoline powered generator. From my very quick and general look-over, it appears to have been very well maintained and is in decent shape. From talking to Jeff, one of the mechanics at the dealership and a local volunteer firefighter, he has driven and operated this engine and he says it runs like a dream!

I think my son had fun watching me light up as we poked around. He asked if I thought I could operate it. I said I think so, give me a few minutes to look it over. He accompanied me as I was doing a 360, commenting on what I saw. 

1974 American La France Pioneer 1000 GPM, 500 gal booster tank, 30 gal foam tank, 5kW generator.
There is no siren on the pumper, although it appears a mechanical siren was bolted 
at the front of the step under the officer's door. 

Fairly standard cab, but no air ride seats. Behind the transmission shifter in this photo you can see a bit of the light bar.
It's a Federal TwinSonic, but it's shortened with no speaker housing. Yeah, that dates me, I know what a TwinSonic is.

Driver side shot, shows added on high-sides. Room for 3 SCBA in the front high-side, and a shelf in the back one. Dual six inch squirrel suction lines and telescopic quarts lighting are visible. 

1000 GPM two-stage American La France pump. Has a governor vs a relief valve. 
Note the friction loss chart to the left on the door to the transverse compartment.

Close up of the gauges.

Close up of the discharges and inlets.

I tried to get the pump chart, but I think I got more of me!

Jump seat area. There were two SCBA brackets back there, but they've been removed. 
The light chargers appear to still be hooked up. 

Passenger side panel. Note the missing discharge: The #4 discharge has been angled so as to feed a preconnected 2.5" line off the back of the pumper. The only drawback is it is 2" piping with a couple 90o bends, but I think adding a few psi to the discharge pressure would overcome this if one were needing to pump a larger flow. 
The ladders appear to be in decent shape.

In the dunnage area, the booster line has been removed. Sad times, I know. However, you can see the fuel tank for the generator, and a spot to mount a deck gun. I like that the valve to control the deck gun is right there at the discharge.
You can also see the foam system - the foam tank is right behind that bulkhead. When you need foam, simply turn the ball valve to open and re-route the proportioner to activate the venturi. Remember to pump it at 200psi!

Sorry for the shadows - the sun was high, and I had a lot of glare to contend with. At the front of this hose bed is the hook-ups for the 1.5" Right Rear Preconnect and the 2.5" preconnect.

The main hose bed. I believe they had 5" supply hose. 
That's the foam tank up front. Inside those tubes are 3" suction hoses.

Again with the glare! At the front of this hosebed is the outlet for the Left Rear Preconnect, which is the foam line.

Close up of the two 3" suction hoses.

The tailboard. My son was AMAZED that there are two 1-STOP/2-GO buttons. 
"People used to ride the tailboards? WOW!" Yes, son, we did. He laughed at me when I told him in foul weather it wasn't uncommon to climb up under the hose bed cover and ride in there.
The tailboard compartment is quite spacious, and is actually 1/2 transverse - it opens into the passenger side rear compartment. Plenty of room for what ya need! Even a place to transport rookies!

So, to answer my son's question, well, by the time we finished a lap of checking it out, my son restated his question, and answered it for himself. "Yeah, I think you can operate this pumper, Dad." Yeah, I am quite confident I can. And, I'd have a LOT of fun doing it too!

Like I said above, this pumper is for sale. Sighhhh..... I don't have the cash for it right now, and even if I did, I don't have a place to put it. Some day... So, to all of you who are reading this, if you know a collector, or know of a small fire department that needs a pumper, this one wouldn't need too much work to become restored and/or operational. The paint and body is in pretty good shape, only a little bit of rust noted here and there, most notably at the fuel filler. If I had the money, this article would be about how I am embarking on a restoration project rather than just a treasure find.

Thanks for reading. 

Stay safe and God bless!


Friday, May 4, 2012

A Mystery, Even To God

When the Lord was creating Firefighters, he was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, "You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one."

And the Lord said, "Have you read the specification on this person?"

Firefighters have to be able to go for hours fighting fires or tending to a person that the usual every day person would never touch, while putting in the back of their mind the circumstances.

They have to be able to move at a second's notice and not think twice of what they are about to do, no matter what danger. They have to be in top physical condition at all times, running on half-eaten meals, and they must have six pair of hands.

"The angel shook her head slowly and said, "Six pairs of way."

It's not the hands that are causing me problems," said the Lord, it's the three pairs of eyes a Firefighter has to have." That's on the standard model? "asked the angel. The Lord nodded. "One pair that sees through the fire and where they and their fellow Firefighters should fight the fire next. Another pair here in the side of the head to see their fellow Firefighters and keep them safe. And another pair of eyes in the front so that they can look for the victims caught in the fire that need their help."

"Lord said the angel, touching his sleeve, "Rest and work on this tomorrow," I can't said the Lord, I already have a model that can carry a 250 pound man down a flight of stairs and to safety from a burning building, and can feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck."

The angel circled the model of the Firefighter very slowly, "Can it think?" you bet said the Lord. It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires, and can recite procedures in their sleep that are needed to care for a person until they reach the hospital. And all the while they have to keep their wits about themselves. This Firefighter also has a phenomenal personal control. They can deal with a scene full of pain and hurt, coaxing a child's mother into letting go of the child, so they can care for the child in need. And still they rarely get the recognition for a job well done from anybody, other than from fellow Firefighters."

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the Firefighter. "There's a leak, she pronounced." Lord it's a tear, what's the tear for? asked the angel.

"It's a tear from the bottled-up emotions for fallen comrades. A tear for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called the American Flag. It's a tear for all the pain and suffering they have encountered. And it's a tear for their commitment to caring for and saving lives of their fellow man!" "What a wonderful feature Lord, You're a genius said the angel.

The Lord looked somber and said

"I didn't put it there"

Unknown Author

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Is A Firefighter Worth?

I admit, I am somewhat of a geek sometimes. I read newspapers online from all over the place. Not just in America, but mostly. I came across this recently, out of Lincoln, RI. The Valley Breeze to be precise.

It's a letter written to by a firefighter's wife. I think it makes a profound statement. For those of you who follow my posts who are firefighters, well, we already know this. For my non-firefighting followers, well, it gives us something to think about.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe, and God bless.