WheresDaFire.com – The Blog

WheresDaFire.com – The Blog

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Over Cautious? Maybe… Maybe not

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Many times when we go on accidents and rescue calls, we can become a little complacent. Especially if we have had a busy day. I was asked, recently, about a car accident that we had responded on. It was just down the street from the station and in a less than desirable neighborhood. It seems the car had been going a “little too fast” for a gradual turn and had gone into an apartment complex. It ended up against the building. Well……… to be a little more accurate, on its rear bumper standing against the building. The two occupants had opened the doors and jumped down to the ground. Fearing the worst, they had taken off running to get away from the scene. After about one hundred (100) feet, the driver fell face down to the ground and laid there. The passenger left the scene never to be found.

On our arrival, we checked vitals and found them alright. When we asked where he hurt, he said his neck and his lower back. Witnesses had told us about the accident and how he had taken off running, so the first impression was, “Ok, if he was running he can not be hurt that badly. Well, training and caution kicked in and we decided to take full “c” spine precautions, so we “packaged him up. Backboard, stiff neck and the works. We moved him onto the backboard, as a unit, with all three of us log rolling him. Once he was on his back, we adjusted the “c” collar, or stiff neck, so he could breath yet stay secure. We put the head restraints around him and taped him down. The new stuff attaches easier, but you have to remember, this was “back in the day.” After we had totally secured him, IV’s started and everything, he was taken to the ambulance and transported to the local trauma center.

After getting back to the station, we critiqued the call and decided that we had done everything we should have.

Later that evening, my captain’s office phone rang and it was dispatch patching through the trauma doctor. The doctor asked if we were the crew that had sent in the accident victim on the backboard, and I confirmed that we were. About this time, a million things were going through my mind, not the least of which was that he was calling to complain about over doing the call. The doctor went on to say that initially he had been skeptical about the “packaging” after hearing that the patient had run from the car. But like us, training and caution had kicked in and he had decide to do a CAT scan. Well, as it turned out, there were fractures to the spine at the base of the skull and the lower back. In fact, there were several severe fractures. The doctor said that if we had moved him, any one of the fractures could have severed the spinal cord causing paralysis or perhaps even death. He complimented us on the good care and training, said that it had taught him a lesson too, and to keep up the good work. Needless to say, we were all grateful, we had stopped and used training and common sense instead of snap judgment.

I am sure that your departments spend a lot of time teaching and training you in caring for accident victims. You may grumble and complain, but I promise you that just one incident and phone call like this, and all of it is very worthwhile.

Take care, study and train hard, and remember it is usually always better to error on the side of safety and caution.

Captain Jep

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Shhh – What can I Hear?

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My wife is forever commenting, to friends and family, “I have heard that story over and over again.” I guess after forty three years together, you do hear the same stories a lot. Well, as long as I don’t tell them, and then tell them again like an eight track tape (you do know what an eight track tape is or was?) I still am alright, well maybe some would argue but….. The reason I bring this up is that sometimes I don’t know exactly what my subject should be, so I ask her for an idea. Today’s subject is from her archive of listened to repetition.

Early one morning we received a fire call of a house on fire with fire coming through the roof. First off, sometimes waking up properly is a challenge, and then to hear “fire coming through the roof” really gets the mind and body going. As we arrived on scene, we realized it was a model home that truly did have fire coming through the roof. “Back in the day”, we had three man engine companies, so we dropped the fireman off at the hydrant with the 5″ supply line and proceeded to the fire. I pulled the 1 3/4 inch pre-connect, helped the engineer hook up the supply line, don’t even want to go in there without water, and the tank wouldn’t be enough, and headed into the house. By then firefighter Jones was there and helping with the line.

We kicked the front door and cautiously went inside. To our amazement, there was only light smoke and we could see clearly throughout the entire house. We dragged that hose and checked every room. Finding nothing, we returned to the entry way to evaluate the situation.

Why the entry way? Since we did not have any idea of what we had going on, we needed to be next to our escape entrance, for obvious reasons.

Since there was only two of us, it was not hard to stop and listen. Why? My firefighter wanted to pull the ceiling and attack, but with a few stern words, he stopped and listened.

Have you ever heard fire burn? Have you ever heard wood crackle? You can if you listen. Now you have imaging equipment. Use it. We didn’t have it. As we listened, there was a distinct thud, then another thus, right over our heads. I told Jones to get outside now. He started to argue saying again that we could pull the ceiling and fight the fire.

Every instinct in me said get out now so I “helped” Jones out the door and followed. Two and a half steps out, all 1800 square feet of tile roof came clear to the floor with the roof a/c unit, which had been right above us. Needless to say, I was grateful for training, learned instinct, and everything else that prompted an immediate exit.

We regrouped and put out the fire, grateful for another day.

The arson investigators found that the cable guy had installed the cable behind the

heat-a-lator fireplace. Seems the cable was too short so he hammered the vent pipe and put the cable through it. So when the gas fire place was lit, and left for the night, the fire went up the wall into the attic. Took a little while, but it got there. Cable company bought a house…………

So next time you are in a fire and can’t see anything…SHHH and Listen.

Please take care and be safe out there.

Captain Jep

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Business Inspections

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Tired of sitting around the fire station? Got all of the hydrants serviced and logged? Let’s do some business inspections.

What is a business inspection? Quite simply it is inspecting the businesses in you “first in area”. Or in other words, the area your station covers initially on all types of calls.

Surely you have some businesses… 7-Eleven? Circle K? Home Depot? Do you get the idea? And why do you need to know about them? A 7-Eleven is just a Mini-Mart right? Sure and what do they carry? They have a fountain drink dispenser right? All that is, is syrup, lines, and SEVERAL BOTTLES OF COMPRESSED CO2. Oh sure, you can use CO2 to put out fires, but what happens to a compressed gas cylinder when heat is applied to it? You are correct. A real big, bad explosion, with freezing gas going all over that will severely burn you. Do they carry alcohol products, especially whiskey and such? Ask the HAZ-MAT crew how toxic that is on burning or explosion. What about all of the plastic containers? They burn like petroleum. Funny thing, I guess that’s what they are made from………..Hummmmmmmmm. These are just a couple of things to think about, in your smallest business. What about Home Depot with their propane, paint, paint thinners, lumber, and thousands of other things.

Now you know why, lets do “how.” The first thing is to approach the store owner, or manager, and ask permission to do a fire inspection. If they should ask why, tell them that is for their benefit, as you need to familiarize yourselves with all of their building. Accidents and fires rarely occur at convenient times, and usually in the most out of the way locations. At 2 AM, it is difficult at best to find your way through a smoky building, but even more difficult and hazardous if you are totally unfamiliar with the building. After you get permission, you fill out an information card with all of the pertinent information. Owner and managers names, home addresses and ALL contact phone numbers. If they question addresses, tell them that in some cases there may not be any other way to contact them, except to send someone to physically contact them. Of course if they would rather not be bothered……. Also get the name, location, and phone number of any alarm company that they may subscribe to. Fire or burglar. They may be the first ones to contact the Fire Alarm Office, and it’s nice to have something on file to verify the exact address of the business and all of the hazards and such associated with it, and also to verify the call is legitimate. Plus, after you are on scene, you may want to check with them to find fire zone locations and any other information they may have. They can also tell you if a responsible person is en route to your location.

A sketch or full scale drawing with all walls, rooms, fire escapes, and hazards, CO2 cylinders, alcohol storage, propane storage, and any other important information can be helpful also.

Be sure all fire escapes are clear and operational. All too often, they are used for storage for boxes, mops and mop buckets, and anything else they have no particular place for. Make sure they are not manually dead-locked, with slide bolts, crossbars, locks, or something similar. Small businesses will complain about loss, or security, but there are many types of fire exit hardware that is secure, safe, and legal. Familiarize yourselves with several different types, and especially what you local codes require… that way you can give the managers or owners an idea of what is available.

Make sure a fire exit plan is clearly posted, and all exits are clearly marked, with appropriate signs, according to local codes.

Make sure all isles are clear for egress.

Make sure all storage is safe, and if fire sprinklers are required, the storage is clear of the sprinkler heads and kept at the required levels and distances. Also, it is important to watch for heavier things that are stored on top of cardboard boxes that may collapse under the weight and especially when there is a possibility of water damage from sprinklers.

Inspections should be done no less than annually and some semi-annually.

It’s really hard to cover all areas of inspections, but hopefully I have given you a basic start. There are many books available to help.

Take care and stay cool. IT’S SUMMER!!!

Captain Jep

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The Hydrant – Service It We Must (Yoda)

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Today’s blurb is going to be a little different. Last time I mentioned the Hydrant – Our Silent Friend, but now it is time to look at taking care of it. Why? That’s a good question. Hopefully you will never need to use a hydrant, but unfortunately fires happen and the last time I checked, water was the best way to extinguish them. I know that in my prime, there were hydrants that I could not take the cap off: the 2 ½ or the steamer connection. I have put a large hydrant wrench with a cheater bar and standing on it still wouldn’t break it loose. I don’t know whom is responsible for your department’s hydrant maintenance but let’s play like it’s you.

The first thing you need is to have the location of all hydrants in your town or city.

Next they need to be divided into districts, either by station area, run area, or generalized area for service consistency and responsibility. There is nothing worse than having a task that everyone thinks that everyone else is doing it.

Now that we have the areas divided up, lets make out a card on each hydrant. You will need its physical location and map or district coordinates if you use map books. That way, after you paint the number on the hydrant, oh yes, you need to do that too. You can do that however best suits you, but we have found that by starting at the top of each hydrant, map, or fire district, we start there with 1. For example district # 2921-1. This would mean it is in the top left corner of fire district (map page) 2921. And so on throughout the district. By doing this, the maintenance, accidents, or whatever on that hydrant are always available for reference. You also need a columns for service dates and repairs, and amount of water flow.

Now it is time to actually go out and service the hydrant. You will need a grease gun, oil for the oil filled ones, an allen wrench and a small adjustable wrench or open end wrench to remove the oil plug in the bonnet… And a can of spray graphite. You can purchase this from companies and it has penetrating oil as well as graphite. This is used on the threads after the caps have been removed.

Now we are standing in front of the hydrant, clean away the weeds, debris and stuff, then remove all of the outlet caps. Check for a clean barrel, no leakage or rust, or foreign objects, tennis balls, rocks, or intentional blockage. Now check the threads on the outlets. If they are rusty, clean them with the wire brush. You did bring a wire brush, right? Oh I forgot to mention that, well, bring a wire brush. Now the threads are clean, spray them with the graphite spray and replace the 2 ½ inch caps and tighten them. With the steamer cap off, turn on the hydrant and check the flow. If you need to know the flow in gpms, use a piedo gauge, and record it on the card. Now spray graphite on the thread and replace and tighten the steamer cap. On some hydrants there is a grease fitting in the operating nut, that’s what you use to turn the hydrant on. Give it four or five good pumps with the grease gun. If it is an oil filled bonnet, remove the plug and check the oil level. Refer to the manufactures recommendations. Fill to proper level, replace the plug and you are done.

That’s number1, only 299 left to go……………………………….

Take care. Hope this has helped.

Captain Jep

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Fire Hydrants – Your Silent Friend

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Lurking on every street and hopefully on every street corner, is a short multi-colored friend. Some are red, some are green, many are yellow, and some even get painted to look like Snoopy, Uncle Sam, or something like that. What are they? Well in case of a fire, they are our best buddies the FIRE HYDRANT. Where is the closest one to you right now? In front of the station? Down the block? Are you at home? Where’s the closest one to your home? Why? If the neighbor’s house or shed or heaven forbid, your house should be on fire, and the first in engine has to search for it, it can mean the difference between a small fire and total loss.

If you live in some big cities, the hydrant is carried on the fire truck and is connected to a fitting in the sidewalk. In this case, you probably don’t have to worry too much because the fire department has to know where they are. However if you live in a rural area, and work for the fire department, or volunteer, the hydrant search can be a classic.

Here in Las Vegas, we put blue reflectors in the street to mark hydrant locations. That way, in the daytime we can see the hydrant and at night the headlights reflect the blue marker.

When I first started, in 1973, there was still a lot of open land, (desert) between homes and building, so we had problems with weeds too… especially if you are where it actually rains. We had some once, I think… Anyway, weeds and grass grow fast and can cover hydrants in a matter of weeks. If you don’t have a maintenance program, you can have a real problem. In many rural areas, they enlist the help of people living by the hydrants to keep them clear. The incentive? Having water for the fire burning in their shed, house or barn. Usually, by requesting help, this can be a very beneficial thing. Of course, checking the fire hydrants on a routine basis, is a real necessity.

I happen to know of one small community, where a developer had put in several fire hydrants. Eventually the local fire department decided to check their flow. They opened the steamer connection to find spiders and dust. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the developer had not even run the water main, but had simply dug a hole and dropped the hydrant into it. The closest water was almost a mile away. Well, he did run a three (3) inch line to supply the homes. Can you imagine the embarrassment for the fire department if they would have had a fire and tried one of those hydrants.

While we are on this subject. Testing the amount of flow is critical also. Too little flow can come from a partially closed key valve, blocked valve or line, or too small of a water main reducing the available water supply. It is far better to find this out in advance, than to find it out with someone screaming for help while you are trying to supply the engine with water.

Another reason for maintenance? Try getting the caps off a hydrant that has not been opened for a while. I snapped a big hydrant wrench by standing and jumping on it. The developer had purposely tightened the caps because he had poured concrete around the hydrants the day before. And he had shut off, at the key valve, all of the other hydrants. Thus we had one 2 ½” outlet, through a meter, to combat six newly constructed homes, fully involved. What I’m saying with this, is if you have a construction site, stay on top of it. You won’t regret it.

I hope this has given you a few thoughts and reminders about such a small, simple, necessary thing.

Be careful and take care of the stubby little yellow guy. He’s a wonderful friend if taken care of properly

Captain Jep