Team Effort

Team Effort

There are Skills that cannot be taught. Are they hereditary, or naturally occurring? Is it instinct or conditioning? Being in the Right Place at the Right Time really helps. Training for Years and Years and sometimes the opportunity never arrives. In Vienna on June 29th 2018 the opportunities came together with training and experience.

A normal dispatch on a Fire Alarm usually results in get dressed in turnout gear and respond about 50 to 100 feet. And then comes the cancel announcement.  Go back to whatever you were doing and dropped to respond to the Fire alarm.

Vienna was dispatched to a Medical call and almost immediately called and dispatched to a Fire alarm. The on duty FF/Engineers  Brandon Crews and Scott Wiles alerted the Ambulance and diverted to the Fire alarm. Upon arrival smoke was visible and they stopped to lay into the side street with a 5 inch line.

Dispatched as a rural water area were Vienna Stations 20 and 21, Lewisville St. 11 ,Old Richmond St. 27. and Forsyth County 209. As the incident progressed Forbush and East Bend Responded to assist.  221 from Vienna laid into the scene. Engine 120 arrived and hooked into the line.  209 and some POV’s arrived next.

Engineers Crews and Wiles found heavy smoke conditions and reported Working house fire and 120 asked for a re-dispatch for House Fire. After talking with an occupant it was reported her mother was inside. Possible rescue was transmitted next. Wiles and Crews deployed the first 1.75 line to the rear of the structure where flames were coming out a window. Crews ran back to the Engine and charged the line. FF Jeff Heitman was donning SCBA getting ready to fight fire. After talking with Crews both wondered about the old man in the front bedroom.

Vienna was dispatched on a medical call about 12 hours earlier at the same address. Both Jeff and Brandon were on the previous call and knew where the male occupant was that afternoon. Jeff was directed to the second window from the left. 1221 Beroth arrived and directed the hose crew to make entry and took command. Informed that 2 possible victims were in the house Chief Beroth directed and later a complete primary search of the structure. FF Heitman entered the front door and was pushed back by heat and smoke.

FF Heitman then went to the front window and made access and proceeded to do a Vent ,Enter, Search of the bedroom. FF Heitman crossed the bedroom and closed the door. He proceeded to find an adult male in the bed. Jeff began the task of moving an unconscious man to the window. FF Jessy Levy  reached into the window and assisted with the rescue of the victim. FF Charlie Hampton and FF Levy and FF Heitman began resuscitation  efforts on the victim.

Reports of a second victim and a full negative primary search were reported to next arriving Chief 521. Backup line was pulled and ambulance directed to 1st victim. Access to structure was limited  to 209 and investigators. Forsyth County Sheriff’s Deputy’s  found second person at another address in Vienna. De-escalation of the incident began and all personnel and apparatus were released from the incident.

Fast and early reporting by the fire alarm, Quick response by the Vienna Fire Department and all assisting companies. Knowledge of the structure and location of occupants assisted in the rescue. Quick action and Fast First Water made an interior attack and search faster. Drills on rural water and 6000 gallons arriving in first 6 minutes made interior operations possible. Experienced and trained FF and Officers and a great system put the Right People in the Right place at the Right Time.




























IMG_20171219_213737656B 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.




Joy of the Effort

Joy of the Effort

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



Basic to Advanced

Basic to Advanced

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.



Alive and Well

Alive and Well

Don’t believe anything you read and only half of what you see.! I have been told this for years by my mentors and parents. I can tell you that the Rural fire service is alive and well in North Carolina. Yes volunteer numbers are down. Yes call volumes are swamping many departments. Yes we are requiring way too many hours to Certify and Qualify our first responders. There is still a palpable passion to our JOB! Witnessed by the intense interest in my last structural burn.

Training is frequent and intense. Our training process is better than ever. We have available every screw up on video to view. We have instant on the scene critics. We have the social media roaring  the proper thing to do… I think we can perform properly and respond perfectly to all situations if we were not humans. That human factor has millions of variables.

The Mission is simple. Save lives, Protect property. We are here for them! We must however protect ourselves to properly continue the service. I am the Safest I have ever been in 44 years of service. I am at a High level of Situational awareness. I drive slower, work out more and eat better than I ever did in the first 30 years. I have preached from the training pulpit the ways to stay alive till age 25 and beyond.

I have kept fire in my life. Carrying my turnout gear with me for 40 years to be ready at a moments notice. As soon as I became an EMT I have carried a jump bag too. I have taught the Structural Burn for the last 30 years. Taking crews and finding the best of the best and bringing those FF to additional burns to develop their skills. We burned with 10 Instructors and helpers keeping 35 -40 in crews of 4 n 5 busy all night.

The Command Staff, Water Supply and Instructor support worked tirelessly during the burn. The Whole incident had been pre-set. Lines, Tool Staging, Sets in all rooms all were ready to keep crews busy. Instructors rotated with the air supply and crews rotated as they got Fire. FF were rehabbed and fed as Crews and the burning continued. No Complaints from over 100 FF. Firefighting is alive and well in Rural NC.


Computers, Phones and Keeping in Touch

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…