HAVE YOU SEEN THE DRAGON…. FIND IT IN EVERY PIC OF FIRE- OR THE SMOKE
B Shift has not slept through the night in 10 shifts. I have run every fire and a few EMS assist during this cold Snap of 2018. We went below freezing before the New Year and did not rise above until Monday the 8th. We had fires both Saturday and Sunday nights. It was real cold Saturday night with a low near 0. Sunday was almost balmy at 20. I had to really work Sunday night and sweated and cooled off and chilled then sweated again. My hot water pipe in the kitchen froze New Years eve and again Saturday night. Cold brought in work, Fires, and Frozen everything.
The Piedmont Triad tied a record from 1917 with 8 days below freezing. The only colder winter for me was the winter of 77-78. Water pipes and the Mighty Yadkin froze. We had Snow back in ’77. The ice storm of ’89 had really cold temps but just shorter duration. Memorable occasions all. The common denominator is when it gets that cold even the toughest get tired. We all have to pull together and get er dun. Working together in arduous conditions bonds crews together.
The cold creeps in slowly. It gets cold then in NC there is wind associated with moving fronts. Cold slips down the mountain escarpment and puddles in even as cold winds blow and traps the cold on the surface. We might even have a warm front move up and override the cold air… Result= Freezing rain. Ice storms are common and glaze everything. trees snap around 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice. When this happens power goes out and Fire departments run and run. Trees, power lines, house fires, slips and falls and the list goes on.
Normal activity tries to continue at first. Transportation issues usually dictate the shutdowns. Initially the Ice or Snow is pretty and harmless. Then the evening or morning commute becomes dicey. Trapped at work is worse. People are coming home! Roads get blocked and some do not know another way home? Even snow becomes ice as temperatures drop and roadways ice over or shady spots that ice the quickest. If its just cold doors close and curtains are pulled and Vienna settles in listening to the heat blow and blow.
Running between the house and vehicles is not too bad as temperatures stay below freezing. A few days or nights is easy. Beyond that easy first few days chores get tougher. Keeping animals just in water and food becomes the chore. Warming lamps and auxiliary heaters become overworked. Cords and outlets heat up and begin to fail. Weaknesses in the heating systems are exposed by failure.
Firefighting in the cold is a dance between Hot and Cold and literally Fire and Ice. Water applied puts out the fire and takes away the light. Hoses shut down start to freeze. Water supplies must be shut down and hoses rolled before the freezing starts. Engines must be circulated to keep from freezing. Tired FF must be rested and energized to cleanup and pack up.
Interior firefighters get just as hot and sweaty no matter the temperatures. Exterior firefighting takes exertion and the sneaky cold leaking in around the edges. Water gets splashed around and soon covers all outside surfaces. There are many in betweens . The engineers and officers are busy keeping up with equipment and personnel. Timing the expansion and draw down of the incident is a tough job. Firefighters around the country do it every winter. It has been our turn.
FORSYTH COUNTY HAD 11 FIRE DEATHS DURING THE RECORD COLD WX JANUARY 2018. PLEASE LEAVE SPACE AROUND THE HEATERS. CHECK YOUR SMOKE DETECTORS AND BE FIRE WISE
I have been teaching in the fire service since 1986. My most fun times are teaching rookies anything. Classroom or Practical it is fun to watch the lights come on in these young men and women. Structure burns are fewer and farther between than they used to be. Each burn is like the proverbial box of Chocolate!. You never know what you are going to get until that first fire is over. Each department and AHJ are very different. Getting to work with multiple colleges and Instructors and Fire Marshals is a great blessing.
Training yourself and your department is essential to longevity. Making sure your FF are really up to the task of Fire Suppression is also important. All instructors have seen the old and young experience “airpack” issues, heat and claustrophobia concerns, and other “I got to get out of here” excuses. Knowing who will stay by your side when the going gets tough is important. As much as I enjoy burning in the training building sometimes some slip through to the front line.
Joe Ramsey has been a staple instructor for Northwest NC for many years. Joe initiated a team Instructor concept. As many as 8-10 instructors and Instructors in training attend the burns. We work as a team and rotate in and out like the crews. We can be leading a crew into the building and working on fire sets for the next crew. And Should the fire get up into the attic…. We have Instructors to guide the backup line. We have even set-up a RIT Instructor group for bigger and complex burns.
Vienna FD is able through Joe, Mike and Tim to be able to take less experienced FF with us on these structure burns and evaluate same. Sometimes we put them into the existing departments crews and other times they assist the burn instructor. Building sets and rebuilding after a crew comes in and puts the fires out. We have developed a whole generation of new leaders, firefighters and instructors. We have separated the wheat from the chaff.
The whole process is as complex as it seems. Building fires for the crews to come into in a reasonable amount of time is difficult. When there are lots of folks waiting for “their” fire it puts more pressure on the instructor to make good fires and make the structure last. Usually after the first rotation a fire or combo of fires finds significant void spaces. Attics and cocklofts will light off and then we test the command structure. Radio chatter ramps up and all are concerned their view get transmitted to the primary crew. We as instructors also teach crew leaders that they need to call for the backup line and share the firefighting.
The interior crews are usually directed to a predetermined access to apply water to the void space. Vent holes already cut serve to preserve the structure and prevent the ONE guaranteed fire. Crews learn to move around in the fire building and leaders get to lead. Command and the Safety groups get to see lots of fire and heavy smoke properly stopped with the correct application of water. All crews that exit after the attic lights off and is properly extinguished have learned some valuable lessons about pulling ceiling, application of water, and even putting out the fire feeding the spaces above.
Many Saturday mornings have been sacrificed to the STRUCTURE BURN. Family time sometimes takes a back seat to a Burn. Every FF should attend Every Burn they are able to attend. Even short and sweet structure burns teach something. Firemanship is a continual learning experience. We all change and people change. The process and watching todays leaders come out of good training is worth the effort.
The Truck pictured with my young self is a 1970 Chevrolet C-65 Howe. She was the first 5-man cab Vienna got. Reflected in the windows is a structure after we let it go. I had been assisting Old Richmond on a Structure Burn. Early 90’s
Getting ready for Thanksgiving involved a slow week at the Garage. A small business lives and dies by the ups and downs of the normal cycle of business. We were cash poor for the short term but we had enjoyed the full 6 months before of extraordinary business. Customer arrived at our doors each day and even took the time to go online, write notes and bring gifts of food and treats. We are treated like heroes by many of our customers. Some care enough they call us for help even when it’s not the vehicles.
Our little business started by Marvin and Annie Mae Wilson has sustained the Lasley family for 29 years. First Roberta started working and raising Jim and Paul. We were able to provide for the Lasley’s and the Wilson’s until they both passed on. Our family business was joined by Rowena and James Gilstrap when the second Lasley boy was born. Roberta and Rowena go just about every day getting supplies and tires and enjoying life as a small business owner.
Wilson’s has enjoyed helping the community by having a majority of is owners and staff volunteering for Vienna Fire department. All the Lasley’s are members as well as Richard Lewis. This does not come without some hardship. Leaving on a call is very hard when promising to have a customers vehicle repaired. Poor Roberta or the guy that has the oil filter off will stay and get the customer going again.
The years have flown and Jim has come to work Full-time. Jim Lasley has grown up first as an infant and raised by Roberta and community. Jim graduated from Reagan High and Forsyth Tech and has made the work of Auto Mechanic his vocation. Jim has dated and married Victoria. Wilson’s is blessed to have Jim and Victoria living and working in Vienna. We are pleased to see Wilson’s entering into another generation of service to the Vienna community.
No matter the ups and down of our economy the Lasley’s and especially Tim Lasley have a tremendous amount to be thankful for. Roberta, Jim Paul, Victoria, Little in -vetro Lasley, Mom and Brother Brian and Annette n Family, Kathy and Walter and Family . A magnificent Church family of Brookstown Methodist ,Bethlehem AME Zion, and Olivet Moravian. A Strong Community of Vienna and Double blessed by Scouting.
I have to also include our network of friends both in the community and on social media. Friends comprise most of the customers of the little business. Men usually make ‘few real true friends and I have been blessed with many. So Thanksgiving really isn’t about what I have as much as what I can do and serve. I am blessed to be able to do and teach and serve.
Honor, Respect, Awe, and captivated by the stories some could tell. Not all Veterans can talk about their service. Some were and still are living with the horror of War. Pictures and smells coupled with sounds are triggers of memories. Memories can be magnificent or haunting. I am thankful all the men in my early years went to serve. I am free and enjoy a very special lifestyle because of the sacrifice of so many. These men came home and built and lived the American Dream. Jobs and homes and Families were waiting for the returning Veterans.
Not all Veterans could return to civilization and some never will. My Pastor speaks about a place in Davidson county where Fathers took sons to try to leave their memories and thoughts of War before coming back into society. Thankfully my mentors were able to come back ,Finish College, find jobs and build homes. I was raised in the para-military times Boy Scouting and Fire Department followed a Chain of command style of leadership.
I have marched in the Veterans day parade since I was a Cub Scout… Boy Scout … and 3 good Years of Marching Band. I have served my Community as a Fireman and EMT but still am in Awe and many times overwhelmed with emotion as I think of all the Veterans that gave up so much for me. Thanks from a Humble community servant
The State of North Carolina rates fire departments from a one to ten scale. Water, Alarm handling, and Fire Department operations all score up to 100 points. The fire department portion is about 40 points. Training now counts as much as 11 points. Getting my FF to training is a challenge. Many have second jobs and family and attend as much training as possible during work hours. Vienna trains every monday night and we ask our personnel to attend certification training. We also recommend any structure fire training as well as joint training with other departments.
Forsyth County Fire and Rescue Association Training Committee holds the Piedmont Fire Expo in January. We also sponsor the FF 1 and 2 classes for the evening FF. Quarterly classes have been well attended. The Cert classes have not done well. We had regular full classes for 25 years and had to quit contracting and let FTCC hold the direct delivery classes. Times have changed and there are classes everywhere. Finding the correct mix is tough when finishing the certs or getting done before changes.
The Training committee has over the years sponsored and used Instructors from the Forsyth County’s fire departments. Instructors are contracted and paid through the Community College System. All Instructors are Certified and Qualified through the Department of Insurance and then to teach at the Northwest campus take another test. Instructors must be committed enough to make sure the class will have enough participants. Most ask the training committee to poll the Fire Chiefs and get folks that need specific classes.
This October we floated the Idea that one department sponsor a night or Day at the training center. Ask for participation from mutual aid departments and get a crew or pairs of FF from each department. This gives each participating department mutual aid training and leaves enough FF to handle call volumes.
Vienna sponsored Roof Operations. We went Basic to Advanced. We had low training roof, 2 story cut operations, and an advanced Flat roof simulator. Marty Bowen did the Vent ,Enter, Search with a twist. All participants got Chainsaw time, ladder time, air pak time, and work outside a normal command structure. Some got to cut their first roof. All got to use one of the finest training facilities in the State of NC.
Training committee chair and co- chairs were pleased with the turnout. We will continue the Idea. We will train and try to make it as relevant to today’s FF as possible.
Busy has been described to me as “Being Under Satans Yoke”. Time Flies. Life is passing by at a prodigious rate. I have a wonderful workplace and am lucky enough to work with Family. Our Employees are family too. Billy says there is no drama… We all get along and respect each other. However Work is WORK. If it were easy anyone could do it. At times I need to get away and do something different. Scouting has been my release. Did I mention I am Fire Chief? More Work! I have never dreaded going to either “Work”. Calls are no problem. Someone needs help! Training and administration are some work. Again Deputy Chief, Assistant Chiefs and Officers keep the load off me except for the BIG decisions. Again Scouting.
Scouting puts me in the outdoors and in places I may never see if I did not volunteer. I get to see the light come on in a youth that”yes ” even in the worst WX we can survive and even thrive. Let it rain and you don’t deal with the big crowds. Our youth are preparing to cook over only wood fires ways. They have researched and identified 8 methods to cook. Teaching to cook and preparing to cook are 2 very different things. We are splitting wood tonight. More than the scouts realize… Ha
Simple pleasures of just sitting and watching “Cowboy TV” as the fire burns low. Stories are shared and as more and more slip off to bed the fire circle tightens and joys,worries, and cares are shared. As others share their wants and needs many times mine pale in comparison. True friendship can be found around the evening campfire. These bonds of friendship are tightened with work and shared experiences. Respect is noted and also the lack thereof.
Adult men make very few real true friends. Scouting and the Fire Service have forged my friendships kindled by Church or Community organizations. The work involved whether leader or follower binds men together. The quiet sharing of experiences give release to many issues that seemingly were overwhelming until sitting quietly around a common fire resting before bed. Shared experiences also shoulder the burden of each other’s needs. This makes the group and individual stronger and better able to face the work days and weeks ahead.
Thanks to all the Leaders and Mentors that have gone before me. Let me not go quietly into that good night. I want to share and shoulder for each of You that journey along with me. I will carry my burden and gladly show you how you have made each day a blessing to me.