Fire Soldiers

Anyone who thinks that firefighting is even halfway easy is not acquainted with the reality. That was my thought as I began accumulating information on this war. For that reason, let me post this link for any firefighters who are suffering from the crushing, ripping stress of firefighting, a kind and degree of stress that few people on earth, outside of firefighting or a war zone, understand. The Fraternal Order of Fire Fighter Military Veterans:

It is a war. There are casualties and there is PTSD and there is the grievous death of worthy warriors just as in a bullets-and-bombs war. In fact, some of these Fire Soldiers have been soldiers in “the other kind of war”, and the character traits and experience they bring to them job make them ideal candidates for firefighting.

Fire Department Coffee was founded by veterans who became firefighters after their time in the military.” This site gives you an inside look at the mindset of a firefighter, and in about a minute will help you understand some things about firefighters that you may not have understood before.

I’m going to post at the end of this article a link to a female Fire Soldier’s story, a link to the heart’s cry of another Fire Soldier, and a link to a firefighting video that is as powerful as any video of anything that I have ever seen. It’s only 3:42 minutes long, but it will grab your heart in an iron grip that will make you gasp. Warning: you will see several Fire Soldiers get hurt in this video. Not the up-close bloody type of video, but the impact – of the whole video – is a gut punch. If you think you can stomach it, I recommend it. Those three links are probably all you need to know about firefighting. But the information before that is interesting and worth your time also, so read it first. Because the intensity of those three links will render everything else pale and tasteless.

Fire Soldiers’ lives aren’t all fighting fires. These links make me smile!

H/T to Sufferfortribe for those links. He wanted to honor firefighters who visited seniors in his community. Suffer, if you have links to those events, by all means post them in the comments! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Firefighters are often First Responders to medical emergencies:
Of the vast majority of fire and medical 911 calls in the country, about 80%, are for medical emergencies. In Orange County, Calif., just 2% of the Orange County Fire Authority 88,000 emergency calls in 2010 were for fires.”

From Madison, Wisconsin

Night long exposure photograph of the Santa Clarita wildfire in CA. The Santa Clarita Valley mountains has drawn firefighters and emergency crews in the hills toward Acton. So far, the fire has burned 38,346 acres.

First, a good close look at the “enemy”, from a professional’s point of view, where there is more information about fire than you ever knew existed. A really good starting point:

Fire can destroy your house and all of your possession­s in less than an hour, and it can reduce an entire forest to a pile of ash and charred wood. It’s also a terrifying weapon, with nearly unlimited destructive power. Fire kills more people every year than any other force of nature. ­But at the same time, fire is extraordinarily helpful. It gave humans the first form of portable light and heat. It also gave us the ability to cook food, forge metal tools, form pottery, harden bricks and drive power plants. There are few things that have done as much harm to humanity as fire, and few things that have done as much good. It is certainly one of the most important ­forces in human history.”

There are two kinds of fires: wildfire and urban fire.

Urban and wildland fire agencies are as different as fire hydrants and drip torches. The mantra of urban fire control is ‘Learn not to burn.‘ … Urban firefighters wear turnout coats, helmets, and self-contained breathing apparatus. They pummel fires with water and often operate inside structures … For wildlands, the central code is ‘Learn to live with fire.’ Firefighters wear hardhats, carry shovels and Pulaskis, and wear bandannas. They work in woods, prairies, and chaparral, spray dirt as often as water, and secure perimeters by setting fires to remove flammable vegetation between the flaming front and their control lines … The training that each group gets is largely worthless in the other’s setting …”

You may be familiar with at least several of these 10 strategies used largely by those fighting wildfires. There’s a brief but full explanation of each at :
1. Control line
2. Burning out
3. Backburn
4. Flanking
5. Hot Spotting
6. Knock Down
7. Cold Trailing
8. Aerial Attack
9. Fireline Explosives
10. Mop-Up

I’d heard of several of those, although – try not to laugh – I thought that “cold trailing” was a hound with a very good nose following the scent trail of an animal long gone.

Here are the tactics that urban firefighters need to employ:
“… fire attack, search, ventilation, salvage, rapid intervention to protect the interior crews, overall command, and incident safety … managing the ventilation flow path. Controlling how the smoke and gases exhaust from the building and where any oxygen enters … Reading the smoke, understanding the ventilation exit thermal planes, and coordinating ventilation with the other assignments on the scene …”

You can see why Firefighter/Paramedic Gray Cable of Parris Island, SC, Fire and Rescue, says that, “My career has become a thinking man’s job. The fire service has evolved from the days of just putting out the fire to an industry with the ability to mitigate emergencies involving hazardous materials, confined-space rescue and emergency medical services.”

I have immense respect for wildfire-fighters, those Bravos who go face-to-face with a giant raging inferno that seems alive and malevolent, but my attention and interest are drawn to the machines of urban firefighting catch. To each his own!

A fire engine is “the ultimate toolbox”! How could I not be drawn to them?

A fire engine carries dozens of tools and supplies in its compartments, including forceful-entry tools, nozzles and hydrant connection adapters. Here is a list of some of the tools found on a fire engine:
Barrel strainer – This is an attachment put on a hard suction hose when sucking water out of a lake or pond. This tool keeps debris out of the water supply.
Nozzles – Different nozzles are needed for different situations. Fog nozzles put out more of a strong mist of water. Other nozzles direct water in a solid stream. There’s also a piercing nozzle that can be used to punch through walls and spray areas that can’t be reached otherwise.
Foam inductor – This is a special nozzle used to mix water and foam.
Haligan tool – This tool looks similar to a crowbar.
Sheet rock puller – This tool is used to peel back the sheet rock on walls so that water can be sprayed inside the wall.
Pike poles – These spear-like tools are about 10 to 12 feet long and are thrust into the ceiling to pull sheet rock down.
EMS equipment – Most fire engines carry a defibrillator, an emergency oxygen tank and a trauma jump kit, which includes all of the first aid equipment needed for emergencies.
Gated Y – This special hose adapter can be attached to a line to allow two smaller lines to run off of the same water source.
Spanner wrenches – These unique tools are used to tighten the lines to the fire engine or to a hydrant.
Hydrant wrench – This is the wrench used to turn the hydrant on.
Jaws of Life – This extrication equipment is used to free victims from car or building accidents. Read How the ‘Jaws of Life’ Work to learn more about these hydraulic machines.
Exhaust fan – This fan is placed in the doorway to suck smoke out of the house. Fire engines may also carry a positive-pressure exhaust fan, which blows air through the house and out the other side.
Salvage covers – These are used for covering furniture on a lower floor while firefighters attack a fire on a floor above.

In addition, fire engines also carry bolt cutters, a sledge hammer, a fire extinguisher, a water cooler, a 24-foot (7-m) extension ladder and a 16-foot (5-m) roof ladder. Some trucks may also carry chain saws, rappelling rope and backboards, which are used to transport injured people.”

That is a lollapalooza of a tool box! I wouldn’t mind if a couple of you got together and bought me one for Christmas. 😉

A couple of links about firetrucks with “walk-around” videos:

Even water isn’t just water anymore.

Pierce foam systems help you perform way beyond the capabilities of water alone. That’s why we’ve developed and delivered more of them than anybody else … The Pierce Husky™ foam system delivers serious knockdown capacity without drawing the serious amps that needlessly strain your rig’s electrical systems … Water has high surface tension. Hercules™ CAFS, in contrast, offers a low surface tension, allowing it to spread quickly, cover more area, and cling to the fuel source longer, giving the foam agent the ability to penetrate and cool material faster than water alone …”

Unfortunately, politics, city planning, and bureaucracy often get involved, including just unavoidable things like the problems caused by different sizes and types of attachment points. For instance, this is only a part of one page on multiple issues that need to be dealt with…

Designing Water & Hydrant Systems:
Hydrant Design
Hydrant Placement
Hydrant Installation : Common Errors
Hydrant Color Codes and Markings
Practical Applications
Relevant Codes and Standards

There’s much more, just on that one page:
Running an Effective Water Supply Program, Quick Connection + Mutual Aid Considerations, Dry Hydrants (for cold climates, so the water in the hydrant doesn’t freeze), Hydrant Law, Compressed Air Foam Systems, The Next Hydrant/Hose Coupling?, Specialized Hydrant Designs…”

More politics, bureaucracy, and poor planning or ignorance that firefighters often have to work around:

Carl August Guido Storz patented his quick coupling in Switzerland in 1890, and shortly thereafter the Storz coupling became the norm on hydrants in many parts of Europe. But it took nearly a hundred years before Storz steamer ports started becoming common in the USA.”

Like, it seems, every other part of life, firefighting is becoming incredibly expensive. Here are some statistics on just wildfires that will give your bank account nightmares.

But the greatest expense is in the human costs. What you are about to read and see will sear your soul like fire sears flesh.

This is the story of a woman Fire Soldier who has suffered more than I would have thought it possible for the human body to endure. The details of physical hardship and wear and tear on the human body caused by firefighting are shocking and horrifying.

One phrase that you hope never to hear in your life is: You have cancer. Unfortunately, one in three firefighters will hear that phrase and will be sent into a new world of fear, anxiety, and the unknown … I was sent into that world 11 years ago when I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, in my sternum, which is a unique location for cancer.”

This heart’s-cry from a male firefighter is a heartbreaker.

This video is so potent that I recommend you do not watch it soon after eating. It’s not, repeat NOT, gross. But the emotional response it is likely to cause will probably be very powerful. I still couldn’t resist watching it several times. Heroes fighting an ancient dragon:

God send His angels to bring you back out safely, Fire Soldiers.

And God bless all our Troops, Veterans and first responders.

Have a blessed RED Friday all!

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