I ended my patrol shift at a structure fire, and wrote my first "Crossing Fire Hose" ticket. I knew my brethren in the red hats* would give me hell if I just let it go, and I hadn't gotten to help with the fire, proper. (Always a bride's maid, and never a bride.) We had to run a 5" line diagonally across a major intersection, and it's harder than you'd think for one car to stop down all traffic and let them understand that they have to turn around and go elsewhere. I will make a guess that every state in the Union has some kind of law about this, so that we don't have to have a man guarding fire-hoses from each direction; the law says don't cross it without permission.
I am perpetually reminded that people are creatures of habit. If I throw a roadblock in the way of their routine, a surprisingly high percentage of the population simply cannot conceive of an alternate course of action to take. I have commented before on how people suddenly taken out of their comfort zone in expect to be told where to go. I kept having people drive up to a blocked intersection in the middle of a downtown (admittedly, a small downtown) grid of streets, asking me how they were supposed to get to work, and then still not figuring out the answer when told that this was the only intersection being blocked. They literally had to be told to make a U-turn, make three lefts, and a right, to perform the detour. Sure, if I'd had the manpower, it would have been great to have blocked the streets a block away in each direction. But I didn't, and the blocked intersection was visible from blocks away in each direction. I worry about our future, and the people that I serve.
I had one man tell me, quite upset, that this would cause him to miss his morning coffee at the convenience store he wanted to get to. When I pointed out that there was another one conveniently located along his route to work, he dismissed that as an impractical option, because he didn't know right where the coffee-maker and cream and sugar all were at the other convenience store. Mind you, we're talking about another store in the small rural town that he lives in, which he drives by almost every day. Not an option, to him.
One of the other cops that came over to help me chatted about the fire stuff we saw. He mentioned that he heard a lot of fire alarms going off, and I wondered about that, having heard none. Then I realized that he was hearing the PASS alarms on Scott SCBA air packs. The PASS alarm has a sensor on it that detects if the pack has not moved in about 20 seconds, and sets off a pre-alarm, and then goes into full-alarm. When the firefighter hears the pre-alarm, he does a little duck-waddle shimmy with his butt, to shake the pack and tell it that he's fine. Occasionally, when the pack is doffed, the alarm is not turned off properly (the bottle has to be turned off), and they'll go off.
Earlier this week, I did a shift at the FD, and practiced getting better at engine pump operations. Yes, I still need to attend the official classes, and no, I don't think that I'm qualified to be an engineer. But if there's a structure fire, I can get your engine placed pretty well, get it into pump gear correctly, prime the pump and get it up to the pre-set RPM or pressure (we are spoiled with a high-end pump system), crack open the water re-circulation cooling system, get water from the tank to the correct hose (front, rear, or two cross-lays, or deluge), and open the intake valve for water from the tanker we'll have come out to nurse from.*** I can also throw out a portable pond to draft out of. That will get us out of 90% of our problems, in our fire district. Areas that I need to work on: actually drafting, and putting on 5 inch hydrant supply hoses (we've got two different kinds of adapters, and while I can figure it out, I need to get proficient, so that becomes a task that I perform without really having to think about.) I drive that engine pretty much where ever we go when I'm on duty, and I perform the check-off's of the engine when I work a shift. (Others do it in 10 minutes. I generally take more than half an hour.)
It still amazes me a bit, sometimes, that it is common practice to let an unpaid volunteer get into a quarter million dollar piece of apparatus and go to work. Even more impressive was that I did it just a couple of months after starting with them. This is why they vet the firefighter applicants, and why one of the biggest reasons to dismiss an applicant is for traffic violations and accidents.
*Figuratively speaking. Actually, in our fire department, the color of the helmet denotes the rank of the firefighter. The Chief's is white. A captain's is red. A lieutenant's is black. Mine is yellow**. I just think of the "red hat" as the firefighter, and the "blue hat" as the police officer. There are two of us who are on both departments, currently (the other guy is a full-time firefighter). I'm seriously thinking about making us red and blue hats that have both logos split down the middle, just for the fun of it.
**Even though it's the basic brand and not really mine, per se, that Morning Pride yellow helmet tricked out with goggles, an LED light, and blast shield runs north of $300, making it the most expensive headgear that I've ever had.
***One thing that I really didn't know as a cop was that one of the first rules of the firefighter is to not use that 1000 gallons on board the engine, if you can possibly avoid it. That's to be kept in reserve, in case there's a problem with the water supply when the firefighters are fighting. There have been instances of engines arriving on the scene of structure fires, putting maximum output out of their deluge gun, and then being unable to do anything even after the tanker arrived, later, until the engine tank was refilled. Or so this rookie is being told.