To Sum It Up…

I really have been ultra busy. It’s amazing how such a lull in life can precede such a tsunami of craziness. Let me try and catch you up on why I have neglected to both write and visit you. I really am sorry about that. 😐 So here are a few key points in my life as of late.

img_0518Almost kept a puppy! I was driving to the hospital a few weeks ago and this little guy ran out in front of me. I stopped, got out, fully expecting him to run away, and tied to see if I could read his tag. Instead of timid little guy he jumped straight into my arms. Of course he didn’t have a tag so I was forced to knock on all the neighboring houses looking for the possible owners. No luck so I put him in the car and took off to attend a course that I was already ten minutes late for.

Oddly enough he didn’t chew up or pee in the car. I spent an hour in the class nervously drumming my fingers, expecting the worse but when I came out he was propped up on the steering wheel, head cocked but tail wagging.

I really didn’t know what to do with him since finding the owners was a feat in and of itself. So, enlisted the help of friends and we did what anyone else would do. We kept him for the weekend and had a blast. He was a great dog. Almost like a stuffed animal that can move and poop.

Well, I contacted the local fire department where I found him since I have “connections” there and sure enough the chief knew the pup and the owners. It turns out the owners let him out for an hour each morning when the go to their horse field and clean the stalls. So, I pretty much kidnapped their dog for a weekend. I returned him to the fire chief anonymously and it was a little heartbreaking to hear him whine when I turned to get back in the car. I still have his chew toy on my floor board.

img_0491I came real close to buying the big box condo last Friday during a structure fire. Apparently, when I was on a single hose line a high voltage wire snapped from the heat of the fire and landed on the ground next to me causing a huge electrical arch that chard the ground around me, fried the hose and created a big blue light over top of me. I was oblivious to this until I heard screaming over my radio from the incident commander that I was on a live wire and to drop the hose. I did so and was stuck in one spot until the electric company could come out and turn off the electricity. Since then I have been a luck charm for the company and other stations. But I still have the creeps since everyone including the electrician kept repeating that there is no reason that I should have survived that. So technically, I shouldn’t be here writing you.

img_0537The fire departments have been consolidating and that means my hours have been cut pretty dramatically. So, I have been forced to dust off the ol’ resume’ and now I find myself back in corporate America until they finish the rezoning of the fire agencies. It’s cool I guess. I work as a consultant for a company that streamlines large businesses as far as their digital postage, copy, office supply and equipment. The first day on the job everyone called me Jim Halpurt. Great.

So, this is what I see instead of fire trucks and catastrophic scenery. I still can’t believe I am a suit again but at least I can still work rescue part time. Actually, it’s everything I can do not to stab myself in the leg with a pen. Shit, I’m lucky to have a job though. Listen to me! I’m bitching about having a job and take little regard for the fact I was almost a post-toasty last week. I’m sorry.

img_0153Last week it was 68 and beautiful. For the first time I was able to leave the confines of the shack that had been buried in snow to cruise the logging trails on a warm afternoon run. It was glorious! I had not felt this good in months and to see the snow gone and the lake completely free of ice made me want to…to…do everything! I wanted swim, no, run a marathon or ride bikes or play guitar by a campfire. Shit, there isn’t enough time. And there wasn’t. Today I got up and looked out my window to see this. Shit I did.

img_0507In defiance, I went running anyway. In shorts and a t-shirt none the less. I know it looks pretty but it’s almost May and I need this crap to go. Please mother nature. Take pity on this boy from the south east. He knows not what he’s done.

So, that is pretty much March and April. I trust Easter went well for everyone? I had a pretty good one. The highlight was watching my friend’s dog, Ruger, and his habitual face press against the sliding glass door. I love dogs.

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What Do You Mean This Is Forever?

I learned something new about myself over the weekend. It turns out I have a slight claustrophobia issue. Who knew? Let me lay it all out for you.

So I show up for my shift (I am a firefighter) on Saturday and within ten minutes of arrival the alarm goes off for a fully involved house fire. I absolutely love these calls even though it usually sucks for the people who are standing in the yard watching their whole lives go up. But with all the foreclosures it is oddly coincidental that house fires are on the rise. Or maybe people just need to clean their chimney. Regardless, it was hot, hard work and about halfway through I was thinking that Friday night beers were a bad idea.

Well, we finished our job and headed back to the station. It was about that time that the chief felt that it was great idea to keep the momentum of the day going and squeeze in some training. And what kind of training? Oh, we trained on emergency egress training through a confined space. That means we had to crawl through two 20 foot long tubes. One was 24 inches in diameter and the other was only 18 inches. I didn’t think anything of it. Until I was in the tube.

img_0484We were pretty tired and switching out the bottles of air was laboring enough after pike-poling ceilings and water cannoning a house. So by the time I was suited up, I severely underestimated my ability to complete this task.

img_0490So this is what we had to do. With all the gear on, including oxygen bottle (SCBA) and mask, we had to first crawl through a 20 foot long tube that was only 24 inches around.  There isn’t enough room to move the arms to you have to go in hands first and push with your toes and pull with your fingers. After a long morning this proved to be a challenge but after completing that length, the obstacles just got worse.

image1Above is the 24 inch tube and for some reason I felt it was a better idea to wear my SCBA on my back while going through. That basically exerted a lot of energy because I had to get all the equipment off my back while still lying on the floor and push it out in front of me before I crawl in the 18″ hole.

So, by the time I was ready to start my journey through the tube I was completely exhausted, hot and sweating so bad my mask was fogged over. I pushed my oxygen tank out in front of me and pulled my body into the hole. It was so tight I could only push the tank with my finger tips and move only inches at a time with my toes. You can’t move your arms, bend your knees or even lift your head. The temperature was over a 100 degrees inside and all I could see was black as I was sucking my tank empty. That’s when I began to feel the sensation of sheer panic. I needed to get out and it had to be now. There was no way to go back and I was directly in the middle of the tube. I really felt as if I woke up to find myself in a coffin, six feet under. Never in my life…

I closed my eyes and inched my way to the end. It took about ten minutes to complete the distance but it felt twice as long. When I crawled out my brothers dragged me out and I sat on the ground collecting myself. And then my SCBA alarm sounded indicating my air was about to run out. I couldn’t imagine dying in an 18″ tube while suffocating. Now that scared me.

img_0493When I finally collected myself, I hobbled off to drink some water and get my mind off what had just happened. I checked my phone and was going to go back to take more pictures when I accidentally took my own photo. I look pretty shook up. That was my first experience with claustrophobia and managed to capture my dilated eyes and pale face. Super.

The next day I had breakfast with a friend and her roommate. Her roommate is a very intelligent guy that many people rely on for quirky trivia and life advice. He’s all around a great person to talk to. Well, I told him my dilemma about claustrophobia and asked him how I can get over it. He told me that people never get over it. So that is swell. But I’m not giving up without the good fight.

img_0497So I am writing this in full SCBA while doing laundry and watching the news. It may be all for not but I have to try. Tonight I will sleep under my bed blind folded. If my methods prove to be successful, I’ll write a therapeutic book. Maybe it will be a children’s book. I’ll title it, Wigout Will and the Big Black Tube. NY Times best seller list, save a spot for me. Until then I’ll be running with a fishbowl on my head.

A Walk

It’s kind of funny how the most simple things in life can solve some of the most complicated issues. I know I haven’t been posting much and there is a good reason. A couple of weeks ago I was at the fire house and we were called to respond to a fire. The details were not clear until we pulled up to the house but when I walked in…I don’t know what to say.

A 6 year old girl was standing next to a wood burning stove that caught her pajamas on fire and she suffered 3rd and 2nd degree burns to over 90% of her body. I will skip the details but I will say that night I had to throw out my clothes and keep busy not to hear the sounds in my head from that call. She’s just a baby and that will haunt me for sometime to come.

I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my life and I can process it fine. One way is to escape to nature and the other day that is just what I did. And wow, did it work a miracle!

img_0342This is the trail right next to my place. It goes for miles without any human sounds or contact. This tranquility of being alone on a mountain while the snow is falling is just what one needs to clear the mind and remember who you are and why your here. I’m not too religious but it is hard to argue that God isn’t real when you are surrounded by beauty.

img_0341The sounds of the wind blowing through the trees and distant branches falling was so peaceful I felt as if I was the last person on earth. I walked about five miles up the mountain and sat down. Taking advantage of the situation I took out my iPod and listened to the only song that made sense of the moment and reflected on how lucky I am. Here it is, “The Wind” by Cat Stevens.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta!

Home Away From Home

I am sorry that things have been so busy here and I haven’t been a good neighbor to some of my blog pals. But I have a good excuse! Actually the best excuse of all. Work! So I figure I will take you on a little tour of my office as of late. Don’t worry, you have a cooler one.

Welcome to Fire Station 7!

img_0257As the wildfire season draws to a close, Smokejumpers pack away the parachutes, Hotshot Crews turn in the chainsaws for hoses and everyone goes back to the basics as firemen. As a pilot this change is especially exciting because this is as close to the action as one can get. The team camaraderie and service to community for a career is second to none but above all else it is element of danger. I have never excelled in life with a noose tie around my neck. I’m the type that requires a helmet. And no, not because I am retarded. (smart ass)

img_0278Well, that’s all the gear of the crew that’s not one call. The bottom area is for normal fire and rescue operations and the top shelf is for wildland fire. It’s different living so close to “nature” where one minute you are putting out Granny May’s kitchen and her famous elk roast and the next you are fighting an entire mountain fire because Ernest was burning a pile of cow poop while drinking a case of Milwaukee’s Best. You never know. The crew that is on shift have their gear ready by the trucks. I need the extra time because I flex in the rear view mirrors……a lot.

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img_0264That’s my seat in the truck you see above. Just in case you were curious. I have only rolled out a few times but my name is above it. And that alone makes me a happy pappy.

img_0259Everything here in Idaho is retro. I personally love that about this place but when it comes to things that stand between life and death, that 1970’s ambulance makes me weary. Remember that show “Emergency” from three decades ago? That’s it right there.

img_0272You have to love the wood paneling inside the ambulance. Nothing says “you’re going to make it” like old school medicine decor. I don’t mean to rip too hard on the paramedics’ mode of transportation but it is funny to ask them where they keep the bite sticks and glass syringes. Ah, they are good people.

img_0274Even cooler from the drives seat. It has an unmistakable smell of rubbing alcohol and coffee. I still shiver from the thought that people arrived at the hospital D.O.A. in this thing.

img_0276There is the Lieutenant hard at work. This guy is the man. He has been a Smokejumper out of California for 15 years, on the department altogether for over 22 years. He has so many stories that he tells at the most inappropriate times. Nothing beats eating pizza while he talks about having a compound fracture from a bad jump. He would have kicked me in the shins if he caught me taking this picture.

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So here I sit at the station, blogging. Secretly blogging. I’m waiting for a cool call and listening to the emergency traffic. Last night I had my personal radio on at the house and there was a call for a twenty five year old male who was riding his bike naked and was being treated for exposure. Cold weather exposure. I can’t wait until 3am.

img_0275Oh yeah! We have love for our Canadian pals too.

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