This evening I went to the firehouse. We get together almost every Tuesday; one week a month is the business meeting, the rest are training or maintenance nights.

Within my volunteer fire department, I have assumed the role of techie for the department; I maintain the bits of electronic technology. This works out to mean that I provide advice and occasional technical support to other members using the firehouse office equipment and that I have been made responsible for performing maintenance of the two pieces of ‘technology’ used in the actual work of the fire department; a thermal imaging ‘camera’ and a gas detector. I have devised and perform monthly maintenance checklists for these tools as per the usual standards for any complex tool. Function must be checked, batteries switched, occasionally drained, and recharged, and the gas meter must be calibrated.

These devices have tended to be rather opaque to the rest of the membership; I have become the keeper of the gadgets mainly because I have been the one to pick up the guides and figure out how they worked. I put together an outline for teaching these two items and presented it to interested fire department members this evening. There were only four other members present; I felt this worked well in that the devices are rather small and I was concerned about being able to show the functionality to a larger group.

The thermal imager is a device that shows heat on a four-inch CRT. It’s handy for several tasks; finding the source of fire in a smoky atmosphere, checking for extension (the fire moving within voids in walls and ceilings away from the obvious and extinguised source of fire), and search and rescue, indoors (smoky atmosphere) or out (searching for ejected or wandering victims in darkness or fog). It has a little green cross on the display; when you point the cross at something, it tells you the temperature of the point under the cross. It’s a rugged little thing and is pretty much designed for use while crawling.

The gas meter detects oxygen deficiencies, combustible gases, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. It takes an annoyingly long time to start up and is very noisy, beeping loudly at every excuse. It does have two alarm levels 1) something is wrongish and 2) scram or die. Perhaps useful. The device demands that you calibrate it every thirty days. This involves hooking it up to a bottle of foul-smelling gas for a few minutes.

After I finished the class, we took two engines over to the town garage and sprayed some foam from Engine 1 directly and from Engine 3 via a handheld foam unit that we’ve recently acquired. I drove the captain in Engine 1 to the garage. Once there, I operated the pump on Engine 1 and gave helpful advice to the FNG handling the hoseline.

Engine 1 being a minipumper, we exhausted the 300 gallon tank in ten minutes or so. The captain and I took Engine 1 to the hydrant in town to fill up. In our rural district, we have one positive-pressure hydrant in town and several dry hydrants in various other places. The dry hydrants are basically capped pipes leading into a nearby pond; the positive pressure hydrant pumps water from the river. The positive pressure hydrant is more straight-forward to use as the operator doesn’t have to worry about getting the pump to prime in order to suck the water from the hydrant; the water squirts into the engine’s tank all by itself.

The water-supply strategy in rural areas revolves around water relays; an engine will set up at a hydrant, stream, river, or pond to pump water to a receiving tanker. The tanker (actually series of tankers), once filled, goes to the scene and dumps water, thousands of gallons at a time, into large folding pools. The water supply engines on scene then draft out of the pools to charge the attack lines.

We finished filling the engine without issues. Just as we started to put everything away, we got toned to a car accident on the bad curves. The bad curves are responsible for several accidents a year. The accident was called to dispatch by another FD member who had left earlier, not having to participate in filling Engine 1. He stated on the radio that there were no injuries.

We cruised on over to the scene of the accident. I was really stoked since it had been several months since I’d driven an engine to a scene. Lights! Siren!

We got there and parked the engine near the accident vehicle. A pickup truck was on its hood on the side of the road. Two young men were standing nearby. I went over to talk to the men; they were fine, they didn’t want me to touch them, they refused care. They were both unbelted during the rollover but sustained no serious injuries. They both climbed through the squashed passenger side window of the truck. I asked them a few questions and they seemed alert and oriented. They each had a very small laceration on the index finger of the right hand for which I gave them each a bandaid.

When the ambulance arrived, I went over and spoke to the lead tech, an older, grizzled I-tech. I’d had some issues with him in the distant past though he’d been apparently warming up to me a bit in the past few months; nothing too close, though.

I explained that the two men were unbelted passengers of a rollover, that they both refused examination, that both denied striking anything in the truck, that both denied head or neck pain or numbness or tingling in the extremities. Also, that the two had minor hand lacs. We exchanged the usual statements regarding unbelted vehicle occupants and lucky near-patients. We agreed that accident mechanism, unbelted rollover, was sufficient cause to worry about their spines.

The ambulance EMTs went off to talk to the patients while I went on to other fire department tasks. After a bit, the lead tech came over to where I was standing. He explained to me that they had had much the same interaction with the occupants that I had had but that they seemed to be okay. Finally, he said, “I’m happy with it if you are.” I said that I was.

I was a bit taken aback; once the ambulance got on scene, he was in charge of care and I was no longer a part of it except as needed by the crew (assuming an ‘i’ on the ambulance crew – there always is). Even so, the tech specifically came and spoke to me about his findings after the call, before they left to return to their base, and asked if I agreed. It was a change from the usual situation, where the ambulance techs would clear with the FD incident commander before leaving but not any other EMS person on scene. Certainly not me.

I was on an overdose call in town a few days ago. The paramedic that is the vice-boss at the ambulance company was on the call.

I got there pretty much as the ambulance arrived; I came from the same town they did but a bit farther away. I was in Staples when the call went out, about a mile on from the ambulance base. I knew a good shortcut, though, and got to the scene just before the ambulance pulled up. I beat them to the patient by about a minute.

I didn’t do much on the call; took a pulse, asked some questions. I found some meds that the cops had overlooked in their search, I carried the ambulance crew’s jump bag out. I helped package the patient in a minor way.

After the patient was loaded, I got in and watched the medic try to start a line; the patient had no veins that looked any good to me. The medic tried in the back of the hand but was unable to get in the vein even after some poking around (the Singer method).

They got ready to go; the medic was going to drive and the other tech, an ‘i’, was going to ride in back. As we got out of the patient compartment, the medic asked me if I’d gotten my ‘i’ yet… I told him that I had.

I’m wondering if the respectful treatment tonight is related to the chat with the medic the other day.