I had a pretty nice Easter, all in all. This morning, my youngest boy (‘O2’) and I drove my parents to the airport in Manchester, about two hours away. We practiced using the escalator at length; up, down, up, down. Repeat. Then we drove home, stopping once to change our diaper and once for a french fry extravaganza.
When we got home, we took a nap while and our oldest boy (‘O1’) went for a walk. O2 and I tried to nap together but we eventually ended up in separate cribs.
After about an hour of sleep, I woke up to the pager. There was a brush fire in our part of town. The brush fire had been a controlled burn that had jumped to grass and was now threatening to enter the woods.
I listened to the turnout but could not respond since I was ‘PIC’ – Parent In Charge. Our department was having a hard time getting people together due to the holiday. People were freaking out on the radio about the minimal manpower and the proximity of the fire to the woods. Eventually a number of local towns were toned out.
After a while I took the baby monitor and went over to the meadow. and O1 were there and I explained to Heather what was going on. She took over the monitor and I ran back up the drive, grabbed the car, and drove over to the station. It appeared that two of the engines had left in a hurry so I closed the bay doors, then grabbed my turnout gear and left the station.
I drove over to the scene and parked on the road near a number of mutual aid trucks. Our trucks were up a hill on a driveway and the several mutual aid trucks from surrounding towns were down on the road. The mutual aid firefighters had set up a portable pond which they were filling. Large hose lines snaked into the 2500 gallon plastic pond from several pumpers and another large line ran up the driveway to where our trucks were pumping the water into a number of woodland fire hoses. These smaller lines ran up into the forest where several crews of firefighters clad in yellow and green brush suits were working.
I threw my keys under the front seat and exchanged my fleece jacket and low shoes for my turnout gear, then grabbed my jump kit and oxygen bag and went up the hill to where our trucks were located. I got to the top of the hill and said hello to the FFs who were manning the pump controls on our two on-scene trucks, engines one and three. Then I threw my first aid gear on the the hood of engine one, removed my bunker coat, and went to find the chief to offer to help.
As I surveyed the scene, I could tell that things were pretty much under control. Near the engines was a partially burned pile of pine debris that had clearly been the original burn pile. Several hundred square feet of grasslands were blackened and smoking, and the fire had clearly gone into the woods. Several crews were working in the woods while another crew was hosing down the original burn pile.
While I was getting my bearings, the chief of the other fire service in town came by with a civilian. The civilian had soot on his face and looked red and exhausted. The chief remarked to my chief that the civilian needed medical attention as soon as the ambulance arrived. My chief said that his EMT was on scene and would look him over. The other chief noticed me at that point and turned the civilian over to me.
Other than the soot and red skin, the man looked okay to me. I asked him what was going on and he told me that he was having cramps. I asked him to follow me over to a dirt bank on the other side of engine one, where we would be out of the way and things would be a little less noisy. He followed me over and I had him sit down. I made a very quick initial assessment; I looked into his mouth and nose and took his pulse.
His nose seemed clear of soot but his mouth contained some black residue. His heart rate was tachycardic; 150 beats/minute. I told him that I wanted him to rest for a few minutes and have some oxygen and water. I set him up with a non-rebreather mask and told him to huff on it. He seemed resistant at first but I explained the relationship between his heart rate and his current oxygenation and he understood. I continued my assessment, taking his blood pressure and asking him a number of questions about his activities preceeding his cramps. It turned out that he had been one of the people doing the controlled burn. Since the burn had escaped, he had been working flat out for over an hour to try to get the fire under control. He had not had any hydration in that time and he had been breathing a lot of smoke.
I took his pulse again and it had dropped to 110. I figured we were on the right track. I left him sitting with the oxygen cylinder and went to find water for him to drink.
Despite the eight or so trucks on scene representing four departments, there was no drinking water to be had. Around this time the standby ambulance arrived. I walked down to meet it and said hello to the two EMTs; an EMT-I and another EMT-B with whom I am familiar from previous calls. I explained the situation to them and they walked the short distance up the hill to where my patient was sitting. They did a short assessment and then invited the patient to go down the hill to the ambulance. I secured my oxygen gear and followed.
When I arrived at the rig I asked if I could observe; the two EMTs readily agreed and I climbed in. The EMTs listened to lung sounds and started pulse-oximetry. The pulse-oximeter is a device that clips onto the patient’s finger and measures the heart rate and the oxygen saturation of the blood. The patient’s O2-sat was a little low so they continued the oxygen therapy and started taking down the patient’s identifying information. I realized that there wasn’t going to be much more to see and so thanked the EMTs, said goodby to the patient, and left the rig. I knew from my own limited experience that the patient would not need to be transported.
I floated around for a while. I put my gear back in order and and made sure that our FFs were healthy. I eventually returned to the ambulance after the patient had left and picked up a replacement non-rebreather mask for my oxygen bag. The professional EMTs were very positive and said that my assessment and interventions were right on, but that they were seeing me entirely too often recently (four calls in a little over a week, including the mass casualty incident on Wednesday).
I went back and made myself available as labor to the department. They set me up with a hose, wetting down the burn area perimeter. I spent about thirty minutes spraying water into the grass, and then foam onto the burn pile.
We finally secured, picked up, and left the scene. We went back to the station and rolled hoses and cleaned gear. I got home about two hours after I left. , O1, O2, and I took a walk over to the meadow and enjoyed the last of the sun.
It was an entirely pleasant way to spend Easter; lots of family time, a nap, some non-critical patient care, and playing with hoses.