Whew.

I was on bug duty this morning; every day until 1 pm. This means that when a bug comes in that is of a certain criticality, I am supposed to work on it. The severity has to be such that the issue blocks a large number of people from working. I was working on a bogus bug when the FD got toned out for a house fire. I was frustrated since I really couldn’t go. Conveniently, the page was cancelled immediately; the alarm company called and said the homeowner had been testing the system. I was okay with the cancellation; it was hot, humid, and raining.

So, there I was, working this bogus bug when our sister FD got called for a house fire a few minutes later. The bug was only blocking a single user and seemed to be related to issues with the user’s environment; a self-inflicted injury. D’oh! I updated the bug to ask for clarification of the severity and went over to the fire station. I helped get a truck out the door and then I came home again; back to work on the bug.

I was working on the bug and listening to the radio traffic. The FD chief in command was trying really hard to find SCBA-qualified firefighters. I’m now an SCBA-qualified firefighter; SCBA certification is part of the Firefighter I training. The bug was still waiting more information from the user; technically, I didn’t have to be working it. So off I went.

I went up to the fire scene, suited up, and picked up an SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) off of our engine. I went over to command and presented myself. I was placed with a crew of three pro firefighters from a nearby town and sent into the burning building.

The building was a small house. It was late enough in the fire that the major flames had been knocked down. The fire had apparently started in the kitchen and spread fast. The homeowner had been seen leaving an hour or so before but hadn’t returned. There had been a possibility that there was a woman in the house but a hasty team had not found anyone.

The house was a shambles. There was smoke layering near the ceiling; about face level given the low ceilings. There were melted things, water, ash, soot, and building debris everywhere. I used a pike pole to pull sections of ceiling and wall in the kitchen apart so that we could get at the flames and embers with a 2 1/2 inch hose. Given the humidity, my facepiece kept fogging up on the outside and I had to keep wiping it off in order to see anything.

Due to the heat and humidity, they were rotating the interior crews through quickly. I was inside only for ten or fifteen minutes and then my crew was sent outside. The officer with my crew told us to take off our coats and we stood around in the hot rain and drank cold water.

Some time later, I happened to be standing nearby when the homeowner arrived and came over to talk to the commanding chief. He was quite calm; calmer than I would have been seeing my house in ruins. He asked the chief about his dog and his fish. I had seen his fish tank and knew the fish were done. Well done, really. I hadn’t seen the dog, though. The homeowner stated that the dog had been in the back bedroom. When I had been inside, I had briefly gone into the bedroom and checked for human-sized objects on and beside the bed; there were none.

The deputy chief from that department had me come with him and we went back inside to look for the dog. By this point, the fire had been put out inside the building and efforts were focused on peeling back the roof and putting out the remaining embers. The back of the house was still really hot inside so we stopped to break some windows. Technically, we were providing passive ventilation by ripping the windows out.

The deputy and I went back in after ventilating. We carefully searched the house, starting from the back bedroom, until we reached the living room. This room had been very heavily damaged by fire, smoke, and water. We finally found the dog in a corner, partially covered with debris. We radioed back the bad news and asked if we should recover the body; the homeowner did not want to deal with it yet so we were told to leave it. We went back outside.

I took my gear off again and was getting ready to sit down when I heard our pager tones from someone’s radio. There was a medical call in town. My department’s deputy was standing nearby and asked me to respond to it. I threw my wet gear in my car and took off, arriving behind the ambulance but in time to help out with a few odds and ends; among other things, I backed the ambulance around for easier access to the patient, my first time driving an ambulance. The call was nothing serious.

I went back to my house and dealt briefly with my bug again, then went back to the fire. Everything was winding down; I helped clean up, then went back to the station. I cleaned two SCBA masks, swapped out partial and empty bottles for full ones, then took the engine for fuel.

One of the guys on my FD got scalded when the fire was initially being attacked; he was working internally pushing the kitchen fire out of the kitchen window when an outside crew sprayed water into the room he was working in, through the same window. The thermal layering was upset causing the superheated air near the ceiling to circulate down; instant steam. Somehow the back of his neck got burnt. Nothing really bad; sunburnish.

I took the NREMT Intermediate exam on Sunday. It was long. I won’t know the results for several weeks but I have been told unofficially that I passed the practical portion of the exam. I’m somewhat happy about that, but I’m antsy about the full results. I want to know!

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