Friday, August 9, 2013

Busy Year

It's been almost a year since I've posted.


Sorry, I hope you're not too heart broken. My last post eluded to changes in my household, and as of this writing, that change is now thirteen months old! To say time has been short is to say water is wet. I'll try to write more, I promise.

It's been interesting over the last year to say the least.

I'm still just an ordinary fireman, an Engineer at Engine Co. 3, C-Shift. Yes, I'm one of those !@&€¥®©¿% C-Shifters. And proud of it!

I've been here for a little over a year and a half now. Got a decent crew, makes coming to work pretty tolerable. We've been molding as a crew, had a lot of fun times together and have become a pretty good team. While we've been responding to others' emergencies and tragedies, we've made quite a positive impact in many lives.

We're also recovering from our own tragedy.

I took some vacation time in May so I could attend my oldest daughter's high school graduation. It was all the usual pomp and circumstance, and why not? They earned it. On May 3, 2013, my oldest walked across the stage and got her diploma. As of this writing, she starts college next week!

While in the school, I had no phone signal. When, after the ceremony, I'd gotten back to my car, my phone started ringing. It was one of the guys on my crew. He asked if I was sitting down, and I knew there was bad news. I figured we had a LODD.


Another man on our crew, Matt, is dead.

I was completely shocked. How?



He was in his late twenties, married just over a year, and was quite squared away. He and his wife were a beautiful couple, and it was a joy for me to hear him talk about their adventures together.

Matt had a wicked sense of humor and an infectious smile. He was very professional, and always wanted to bring others up. He was competent in his skills as a fireman and as an EMT, and was one we could count on.

Don't take this as my blowing sunshine - he was, to me, a pesky little brother. Little as in younger, shorter, and he was a wiry fella too. (I make no bones in describing myself - I'm what I call a non-petite fellow, and my love of food is why. I own it.) Like me, he was quite opinionated, stubborn, and willing to share how he felt about something. Maybe that's why we got along, but also would have what I'll call "spirited" discussions. Not all the time, not every shift. And not any different than any other members of any fire crew. Believe me, I was just as much a pesky big brother to him. The key point: we were brothers. I loved him.

I first met him when I was an Engineer at Engine Co. 2 on A-Shift. We worked together for several months until I transferred to Ladder Co. 1, C-Shift. Shortly after, he also transferred there, but on A-Shift. We'd see each other at shift change and on occasional trade days and overtimes. We were there for several years, and about the time I transferred to Engine Co. 3, he transferred to Engine Co. 5, now on C-Shift. We saw each other at trainings, calls, and on the occasional detailing to each other's stations. Matt transferred to our crew last winter, and fit right in.

Like I said earlier, Matt's skills were solid. When he and I were on the ambulance together, I never wanted for anything. He was right there with what I was about to ask for. In a fire, too, he could be counted on. My last two fires with him were this past spring.

One was a house fire. We were on the ambulance and were first in. We geared up and went in with the hose crew to pull ceilings for them. The fire started on the back wall and extended into the attic. He and I worked quickly together and cleared the ceilings. The guys on the hose stopped the fire in its tracks. Damage was minimized, that family didn't lose many of their belongings, and were able to rebuild their home, and their lives, quickly. It feels good to be able to help people like that.

The other fire was in a two-story four-plex town home. The end unit on the Delta side had a fire in the pipe chase where the fireplace flu pipes ran. The pipe chase was fully involved and the fire extended into the attic. That shift I served as the acting captain, Matt was the nozzle man, and another fireman named Andy was the back-up. We were first in. We stretched to the front door and made entry. The fire was burning through the wall above the mantle. Matt hit it quickly. We then had to move upstairs. I sent Andy to the door to hump hose in to the stairs. I sent Matt up the stairs to the landing, and I passed hose to Matt from the base of the stairs until Andy got to me.

When I got to Matt's side, it was pitch black and fairly warm. We couldn't see any fire, but we could hear it. Matt opened the nozzle and gave a good blast. After he shut down, we couldn't hear the pop-crackle of the fire in that room anymore, but could hear the hissing of steam. We could hear fire burning above our heads. I used my axe to make a small hole in the ceiling, and we felt more heat. After twisting the knob to a fog pattern, we shoved the tip through the hole and blasted the attic. Command called on the radio advising that all he could see now was steam coming from the building. Matt asked me if we should vent that window. I said what window? He said the one over there. I said Matt I can't see you at all, nor where you're pointing. He and I both laughed and he then said to my left. With the window vented, we could now see and check for extension.

We were pleased. This time there was more damage, but that family, as well as the other families would be able to get on with their life, sooner rather than later. Still a good feeling. 

So Matt died. 

I spent the next several weeks thinking about every conversation between us that I could recall. I was looking for any sign at all that would clue in to why. I can't find any. At all. He had everything going for him. He and his wife were madly in love with each other and both in careers they love, in a good house for them to start a family in when the time came... 

I don't know. I wish there was something I could have seen. I know I'm not the only one.


Look, I'm not trying to write this as a pity-party. Far from it. I'm writing this because if you're suicidal, there are plenty of resources out there to help you through your crisis.

Here is a good link (you may need to copy/paste it into your browser address bar) for anyone who may need it:


R.I.P. Matt. I love you, Bro.
And I miss you.

This post is dedicated
 to the memory of Matt Young.