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
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.
Life is Flying by…. The Garage is rocking along and the Heat sets in…Windows 7 computers are attacked by Microsoft… Phone breakage….Computer quits when the cable is updated… Roberta has to Stay with Her Mom…Twitter changes the feed and we lose some contact with our Tweeters…Weekend Warrior resumes after a brief respite…Paul goes back to School… Doves are eminent
I have lost touch with some of my friends. My home desktop will not communicate with the new cable modems… I am relegated to using the smart phone and no keyboard…More tweets and likes and less WordPress and Facebook…Pouring myself out of my clothing and cold showering helps after the hot and humid day in the shop. Flop into a chair and figure out what to Eat…Meetings have resumed and I am busy now more than ever before.
Chiefs Meet at the end of the month… New Chiefs are appointed… Others hired… New members come to Vienna… Rescue is in full swing… Auto Extrication is Hot and Fun…Raven Knob Cranks up for the Fall Camping Season…Patio is calling “Wait till it cools Down” …Outdoor fireplace is stacked and ready…Some Garage wood is cut and split and stacked… Thanks Paul…Jim is fixin up the Fixer upper…
We have and will keep on keepin on… I will get another computer and be able to type when it’s not 92 in the building… The temps will moderate and soon it will be my Anniversary 09-3… Hard to believe it’s been 34 years since Roberta said Yes…I will see everyone in the Fall and get back to camping and slow down a little…
My Phone is getting old and has some quirks… Watch out…
Vienna Fire Department is managed by the Chief Officers. Each Chief Level Officer has integrated responsibilities. My Assistant Chief Walter Beroth manages our combination department personnel and integrations with the Forsyth County FD. Walter schedules the Full and part time staff. He makes sure the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly checkoffs are done promptly and efficiently. He manages his own business and family life while putting Vienna Fire and EMS response as a priority to serve his community. Walter was the Chief of Department for 15 years. He stepped down to further his education, and participate very heavily in the GNCC motorcycle racing. Both of his young men have raced and excelled. Bolton is still racing and Alex had a magnificent career.
Strong church, community and family ties are the motivator behind the Grit and determination that Walter shows in every aspect of his life. He speaks with every employee about the commitment required to be Staff of a Combination department. He lives the physical aspect with stamina and a history of interior firefighting. Walter has been found observing the firefighting effort for way longer that most can stretch their air bottles. He has the ability to turn every moment into a teachable moment.
Vienna has had a large number of fires that progressed or started in the attic. Using the tactics learned many years before Walt can assist each crew in getting with it up in that attic. Of course to be able to stretch the air, hold the hose, and fight the fire you must have stayed hydrated, done daily and weekly workouts,and conditioned the body for the stress of fighting the heat and smoke. Preparation is the key.
At Vienna we are blessed to have members of all types and skills. We have many that work everyday in the heat and humidity. While Hot and tired all have listened and heed the need to stay hydrated. Getting water on the fireground is too late. You must be ready for that time when the coat and helmet go on and the Heat stress begins.
Walt is not the only Vienna Officer pushing grit and determination. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. Work-out, Work, Hydrate, Prepare the skill-set, Use the knowledge and Mentor our volunteers and Full time Fire Fighters. I am proud to see our guys standing calmly re-hydrating while others need to be told to remove gear and sit out because of dehydration.
Passing the Grit is tough. Watching those coming up from above is tough too. Teaching, Mentoring, and letting go is required to really make a FF. Responsibility is born from excelling at task and command levels jobs. Stay Fit to Stay in there. That where the rubber meets the Road.