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Chili1K 09-20-2010 11:24 PM

Pucker factor.
I have a small story to tell. It's kind of funny, so I thought it should be told.

I was a volunteer firefighter for 5 years. In those 5 years I obtained my FF2 certification, Engineer, Boat operator, Ice Surface rescue, search and Rescue Diver, and Ice rescue diver.

What was your pucker factor? The point where you realize Mr. Serious has just knocked on your door, and your buttocks squeezes so tight.

Here's mine.
I was part of a department that had 3 stations. My station Had 2 engines, light rescue, grass rig, and the dive boat. The other 2 stations had 2 more engines, 2 light rescues, a heavy rescue, the truck(ladder), and the parade engine.
4 engines
3 light rescues
1 heavy rescue
1 truck
and the boat.

It was February, Tuesday morning, 2AM (I know this because I got in trouble for not reporting to work. More on this later.) just a few months after basic training We finished in November. The alarm tones go off on the plectron, followed by "Attention all firefighters. You have a report of a structure fire at 1234 John Doe St." (keeping address and town kind of hidden). The first set of tones startled me awake, and I was already out of a dead sleep jumping into a pair of jeans. The second set of Alarm tones go off and I grab my monitor II and run toward the front door. I hear "Attention all firefighters you have a report of a structure fire at 1234 John Doe St." (Yep, this was my FIRST real fire) As I opened up the door made it to my driveway looking over the houses in the direction of the report there was a HUGE orange glow.

I paused, stared in disbelief, I snapped out of it and jump into my car. Cranked it over. It fires up without a hitch. Slam it into reverse and rip out of my drive. (I lived 30 Ft from the first stop sign.) As I slowed down for the stop sign, a BMW flies up to the stop sign coming from the Left. At the same time, we arrived at the sign. The BMW starts to roll the stop sign when his blue dash light kicks on. HOLY CRAP, It's my LT!! (Thinking, its my instructor, do as he does.) Clicked on my dash light and chased him down. There was one exit out of our subdivision. Since I was familiar with where he was going (to the station) we looked like 1 vehicle.

When we arrived at the Station he was #1, I was #2, and 3, 4, and 5 were on the same block about to pull in. I never saw #6. I jumped into my turn-out gear as the others were running to get theirs. My LT jumped into the officer seat and forced another LT to engineer. (Guess someone pulled seniority) The Truck fired up, and the garage door started to rise. I climbed into one of the inside seats of the Alexis 6 passenger vehicle. LT grabs the Mic, speaks over the radio, "Dispatch, 805 enroute 1234 John Doe st. Code 6-3I"(code is how many people on-board, how many EMT's on board, and highest level of health care. "I" is intermediate, just under Paramedic.) As the last person is in, and the rear doors close(4 door engine), dispatch responds, " 10-4, 805, Extra reports saying flames showing through the roof." My LT responded "10-4 dispatch, pull a Box, to man all 3 stations." The reports stated the fire was roaring, and we were pulling out of the station.

My Lt yells Pack up boys, this is going to be huge! (In our department we can not pass basic training without being scba qualified. To do so by our department standards was in your bunkers, and on your knees. You must be packed up and standing on air in less than 1 minute.) The federal siren started to spin up and we were moving. Fighting for elbow room, we were packing up in the back. As we reached the first intersection there was no traffic, as we rolled through with a hard left turn and everyone shifts to engineer side of the cab. 3 full sized men, and 1 double sized man, were beating the crap out of each other scrambling to get our packs on before the 4 block ride to the show. Grab the nomex, pull it all the way down to the neck, finish buttoning up the coat. Throw your arms through the straps. Grab the lower belt and fasten it and yank hard! Cinch the shoulder straps, throw the mask lanyard around the neck, grab your brain bucket and ratchet it down, screw in your mask hose to the regulator. Lean forward to unlock the pack. Reach behind and crank your air on. The air warning bells go off as the pack pressures up past the 500 psi low level safety limit. ( DING DING DING DING DING DING) The bells repeat 4 more times. Threw on my gloves. Thirty seconds after the last corner we rounded the final corner. Everyone was shifted again to the right(riding backwards). As we round the last corner the LT cranks up his portable, and begins talking through it. (He knows hes going to be off the truck before he finishes before his scene report is over.) LT: "Dispatch, 805 Arrived and has command of a fully involved structure fire, flames have vented the roof. It is a 4 plex appartment building, with garages underneath. The fire looks like its only on the top floor and attic space. and has self ventalated!" (The units are all vacant, its a brand new construction.) Dispatch, "10-4 805, 805 Arrived on scene (repeat for the engines) and has command. Other units chimed in with their truck numbers and "copied direct."(meaning it was not necessary for dispatch to repeat the scene report.)

We all bail out of the engine, the LT and first jump seat grabs the 2-1/2" attack speed load and runs to the door. Team 1(LT and 1st jump) toss on their masks and pull up the nomex and ratchet down their helmets before making entry. While they are about to make entry as luck would have it we have a yellow topped fire hydrant right next to the curb where we parked. I grabbed the gate and hydrant wrench as the other 2 seats stretched out the shorty 5inch supply to the engine intake. (Normally the second engine starts the hydrant. However, since the hydrant was so close, we hooked it. Plus, we had 6 people on the truck.) the Engine roars to life as the Engineer cranks the idle knob to 2000 rpm's and charges the 1st attack hose. I rip off the main connection on the hydrant and spin the gate on. The 5 inch hose is already on my back ready to spin on. I get out of the way, and start wrenching on the top to charge the hydrant. (we have dry barrels up here because of the frost line.) They get the 5inch attached and we charge the supply line. Im huffing and puffing already. The upper floor already has fire and water spewing out of the roof. They are Spraying water!!! We hear the second truck pulling up. They can handle the rest, we did most of their work for them. We start heading toward the door. About that time the first team (LT and 1st jump) their bells started to chime. They yell over the radio that they are on the way out and send in the second team. THIS IS IT! IM GOING IN!

I ripped off my helmet, Strap my mask on, Twist the air to the on position. yank up my nomex, ratchet my helmet and we start heading up the stairs. (We are 3 men on the team since I'm a first time rookie, I'm on the Nozzle!) We get to the top, the whole floor is full of grey smoke, We can see about 2 feet. The fire is glowing all over the ceiling. In the middle of the ceiling, there is a hole where the fire burned into the attic. We make are way through the empty room and Start to open the nozzle. We start spraying water.. the room cools down a few degrees. Everything is going well. All of a sudden the lights go completely out for a split second. The joist burned through, swung down and caught me in the back brim of the helmet and layed me flat out on my belly...(Im not sure to this day if I was knocked out or what.) I sit up and the hose gate is still in my hand and the water has been shut off. The momentum of me going forward slammed the gate shut. I sat up and Skinny decided it was time for him to go. He took off. Im not sure what happened but he was second man on the hose and I was told he climbed over my anchorman (double size). Double yelled to me and asked if I was alright.. It took a second.. I figured out I got thrashed and I was getting back up. HA! No problem! I figured out I did one thing wrong. I forgot to clasp that little buckle under the helmet... because I forgot that, my helmet went flying across the room. I acknowledged to Double I was fine, but lost my helmet. (the room was about a 14X14 room.) I told him give me 3 seconds its probably against the wall behind me... (New leather Bullard helmet, Im not going to leave without it.) I grabbed my helmet and Double yells, "Alright you got it? Lets go!" I said "yes, im on my way back to you!" At this time we regroup back at the nozzle. Our safety bells started going off and the radio comes alive and says we hear your bells, get out of there. (they know this because skinny, bailed out 3-5 minutes prior when the SHTF.) We get to the door, and follow the hose out down the steps and crank off the air and breakdown the pack.

In my first fire, I was out of breath before we went in, got Knocked down (probably out), and had someone bail on me when the SHTF, not knowing if we were ok. Not having my helmet buckled probably saved me a huge neck injury. I sprayed water for about 3 minutes and crawled out alive. I was soooo hyper. After cooling down, and overhauling looking for hot spots I figured it was time to call my boss and let him know I wasn't going to make it. I was locked down till at least noon.

My boss informed me I was doing a great job for the public but however they are the ones who pay me. I stayed for 5 years before I ran out of time and a lot of changes were happening. It was time for me to move on.

So there it is. My first and most favorite Pucker factor moment.

hope you enjoy.

iRESQu 09-21-2010 10:00 AM

HOLY CRAP!!!! What a great experience. I am currently in NPQ combined with FF1 and HazMat. I do my practicals and certs on the 23rd of Oct. My first fire call (not cert yet so I wasn't able to go in immediately) was a grease fire that started in the kitchen and was less than 10 seconds from entering the HVAC. Thermal Layering had already begun occuring. It was rather small and I wasn't able to enter until the salvage/overhaul process. I got my first hands on experience with the TIC (Thermal Imaging Camera), Sniffer (a device used for indicating noxious gases, for those not in the industry) and positive/negative pressure ventilation. As I am still learning, why did you take a 2 1/2 charged rather than the LDH? They are teaching us the 2 1/2 is for external fires. Just learning.....

Last Saturday we got a call for a brushfire with structures in the area. We left straight from the school house! That was rush. Our LT responded to MAC with "Engine 4 in route with 7 rookies and 1 FF"....MAC and others got a kick out of that when we later reflected on the call. It ended up we were placed on "stand-by" as Dept of Forestry was called in to initiate a fire break that commenced with a rain storm. (Sigh)....
This week we had a fatality that resulted in an F-150 going head on with a semi. By the time we got there the truck had already become completely engulfed in flames over 20' high with the vehicle on it's side and live lines overhead. Investigation still ongoing.

Then there's always the "frequent riders" or mom calling because young daughter become a young woman and mom didn't know what to do. I guess calling 911 and dispatching emergency services is better than going to the local store and picking up female necessities!

As for "pucker factor" Capt takes pride in letting me know that he can "drift this bitch" (our engine)....when I was with him on my second day! I learned not to eat lunch when I work with him now.
Thanks for the story, Chili....awesome!

CajunDodge 09-21-2010 10:31 AM

That is quite the story there Chili, just glad you made it out ok, thanks for sharing that with us! You, too, Paris!

- Cajun

Chili1K 09-21-2010 02:58 PM


Originally Posted by icOVERu (Post 315417)
why did you take a 2 1/2 charged rather than the LDH? They are teaching us the 2 1/2 is for external fires. Just learning.....

The motto we ran by back then was: big fire, big water. a 4plex appartment was pretty large... even for a veteran in our area. only have like 2-3 high rise appartment buildings. Those are all in the career firefighting districts.

1) We only had 1 engine on scene when the first team made entry. If we got it knocked down fast enough we wouldnt have to worry about fogging etc...
2) it was new construction we didnt have to worry about presonal property. If we had to weave through coffee tables and china hutches a 1 1/2 would have worked... but that wasnt an issue.

3) Every Dept is different in attack techniques, this was the standard back in 1995-2000 that was being trained at our fire college.

Thermal imaging was coming in as we left. only of our other LT's worked for bullard. He got to try one of the first Thermals. It had its uses. Im sure the new ones are much better.

The only time I got to "drift" our engine was after a complete ice storm and a multi-vehicle accident on the interstate... they drift smooth on ice


Chili1K 09-21-2010 03:04 PM

Oh yeah... get your Certs to get inside.. thats where all the fun begins!!!

I loved the work and the people.. the politics killed me. You will have a blast turning cars into convertables etc..... "Saving our Own" was a fun class. many differnet classes and routes to go in that field.


iRESQu 09-21-2010 03:58 PM

Thanks for all the info and explanations, Chili. I am still learning and addicted to this ALMOST more than anything.....Mopar/Music first!

dodgeman70592 09-21-2010 04:37 PM

Very cool stories, heck of a rush...

Toms Blue Ram 1500 09-21-2010 07:04 PM

It was alot of reading but I did it . Thanks for the stories Chili1k and Paris .

moparmanicac 09-23-2010 11:40 PM

wow thats a great story I just had my first fire today as a scba cert. member well not really but this was the first where I was one of the more senior guys so I got to go to work besides bitch work. It was only a car fire a Ford escape (lol) and I was on the nozzle for the first time what a rush I cant wait for my first structure fire where im senior enough to go in. Ive been cert. for a 6 months to go in Im just always the most jr. guy on the engine so I get stuck being safety officer or water officer lol

Chili1K 09-23-2010 11:43 PM


Originally Posted by moparmanicac (Post 317878)
wow thats a great story I just had my first fire today as a scba cert. member well not really but this was the first where I was one of the more senior guys so I got to go to work besides bitch work. It was only a car fire a Ford escape (lol) and I was on the nozzle for the first time what a rush I cant wait for my first structure fire where im senior enough to go in. Ive been cert. for a 6 months to go in Im just always the most jr. guy on the engine so I get stuck being safety officer or water officer lol

Good thing they didnt send you to a basementless building and tell you to get the hose stretcher from the basement and yell at you for walking back without it! I love rookies! :)

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