Wednesday, September 16, 2009
First In.....Last Out
First In....Last Out. That is one of the Fire Depts Mottos. (What's a motto? Nothing. What's a motto whichu?).
Opps, this is a serious post.
First In....Last Out. That is one of the Fire Dept's Mottos.
After the attacks on September 11, 2001, I HAD to do something. I had often considered becoming a firefighter, but honestly didn't think I would be able to do it. Then, after that horrible day, I made up my mind that I COULD, and with close to no hesitation, I did it. It changed my life.
I cannot think of any thing in my entire life that has brought me more joy than being a firefighter. Yes, God, children, family... but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that there isn't a single thing, a "Me" thing, that I would rather be doing. Now that's lucky. It isn't often that we can selfishly do something for ourselves that does so much for so many.
I didn't become a firefighter until I was 39 years old. That is considered a bit late in life to start, but I made up my mind, went through vigorous physical training, never ending (and yes, sometimes boring) classes on how sprinkler systems work, building construction, and friction loss (that is how much water (gallons per minute) is lost due to length of hose, terrain layout, and appliances that are connected to the hose).....a very LONG class.
For 9 months, in addition to working my regular crew, I went to classes and trained 2 nights (5 hrs each) a week and every other Saturday for 8-10 hours. Sometimes it was over 100 degrees and we would be wearing 50 lbs of gear while running an obstacle course. Sometimes it was so cold that I couldn't feel my soaking wet hands while flowing water. There were written tests, homework, tests on speed, tests on endurance, endless hours of pulling out thousands of feet of hose, loading it all back in the engine, just to turn around and pull it out again....and again .... and again.
As I have said before, our Fire Academy is run in a military sort of way. You stand at attention, you march, you address officers, and never question an officer or an order. If you mess up, YOU don't just do push ups. Your ENTIRE CREW does push-ups. You don't mess up often.
We learned about hazardous materials, what the codes mean on all those bins that the trucks are carrying around and we even had to be decontaminated a few times---NOT FUN BEING COLD, WET, SPRAYED DOWN MORE WITH A HOSE, AND STRIPPED COMPLETELY DOWN TO NOTHING WHILE THEY ARE SPRAYING YOU!!! (ok, for class, we were allowed to wear our bathing suit and shorts under all our gear....it helped everyone keep their minds on what we were supposed to be learning).
A lot of people don't realize it, but when the water is flowing out of the hose, it is almost impossible for 1 person to hold on to it. And if you drop it....well ....you DON'T drop it. The nozzle could easily get jerked around and someone could be badly injured or even killed.
We learned to cut cars open to get victims out and how to put out car fires, sometimes crawling partially into the burning vehicle to get the job done.
There were also hours spent dragging that hose through abandoned buildings and special buildings made for such things (usually 3-4 stories high). You go in and have to find the "victim" (a 150 lb dummy) , get "him" out, put out the fires, keep continual contact with your partners and team.....oh and you can't stand up. You're crawling. It's pitch dark, smoke filled, and fire around most corners. (quite warm in there too). During training, there are instructors in there too. Sometimes they will hold back one of your partners while your doing your job. You BETTER realize you have lost your partner.
I LOVED EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF IT. (ok, the water sprinkler class had me nodding off a few times)
Before I graduated from the classes, I had to wear a blue helmet (I'm wearing it in the picture for my blog). The blue helmet let other firefighters and officers know that I was a Probie. That meant when I was working my crew shifts, all I was allowed to do was what they call "grunt work". Lifting, salvage, overhaul, and lots and lots of hose rolling.
FINALLY, I graduated and received my YELLOW HELMET!!
I had made it and am a Virginia Certified Firefighter.
Oh, I almost forgot, I also was taking classes for EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).
(not to mention trying to run a house and raise 2 young boys)
I ended up getting the following certifications..
Virginia Firefighter 1
Virginia Firefighter 2
MAYDAY, Firefighter Down
EVOC - Emergency Vehicle Operation Class 3 (that means I can drive a fire engine)
Hazardous Materials Operations
4 FEMA Certifications
Basic Pump Operations
Mass Casualty Incident Management Module 1
Mass Casualty Incident Management Module 2
Emergency Medical Technician
I cannot even begin to explain the love I have for this mission in my life.
So now what?
To be continued.....