That’s when the alarm came in for a high-rise apartment building not far from the fire headquarters where I am currently stationed. Upon arrival the alarm panel read 6th floor. According to procedure we have to use the stairs to anything 6 floors or below.
When we reached the bottom of the stairwell a tenant came running down and said the hallway was full of smoke and there is an apartment on fire. We upgraded the response to a confirmed working fire. I took this brief second to turn my air supply on and make sure the new guy who I am partnered with was ready to go. He is a Staff Sergent in the reserves so of course he is ready to go.
So six flights up with all the gear and dressed and ready to go to work when we get there. I know that by the time we hit the 5th floor we are going to have to hook up our apartment pack hose line and then go on air and proceed to the 6th floor to attack the fire and search for victims. At floor five I tell the new guy to hold up and I go check out the 6th floor. I need to identify where the fire apartment is. As soon as the stairwell door is open I smell the familiar smell. The very distinct odor that clings to your nose hairs for the rest of your shift……..cooking. So all that and we find someone burnt food in the oven.
Sorry but no stories about fighting fires today.
This is zero to sixty. We were just asleep and within minutes we are climbing a staircase with every intention to go to work. No warm up no priming ourselves.
Early morning fires can be a real challenge specifically because of this. So it is a must for firefighters to have good cardio in their daily lives. A strong healthy heart can bear the stress of going zero to sixty but a heart that is on the verge of shut down due to clogged arteries is one of these calls away from failure.
You may not be a fireman so maybe you don’t think about scenarios like this one. But you should think again. What’s to say that while asleep in your bed at 3 am you won’t have to jump up immediately for an emergency. It could be anything. Maybe your smoke detector goes off and when you go check it out there is a fire in your house somewhere. Now your scrambling to get your family out safely and trying to find the sacred cat that went under the bed. You also have to call 911.
Zero to sixty and you’re wearing boxer shorts and slippers. It is freezing out, maybe raining. How fast and how hard do you think your heart will be beating?
Being a fireman has taught me well about preparedness. We always check and double-check our equipment and re-evaluate our skills,knowledge and ability. At quiet moments in the night we lay our heads down but with one foot on the floor. Radio transmissions are humming through out the night. Sooner or later we are getting up and going…..coiled like a spring.
When I go home, I sleep. I mean I really sleep. I try to make up for what was lost. I still know though, that I may have to wake up in the middle of the night. I certainly don’t want to wind up clutching my chest on the front lawn while my family is watching and I don’t want to make more work for the firemen when then come either!
That’s part of the deal. Taking care of yourself means so much more than some of us really consider. Yeah, we want to live to a ripe old age of 99 years old and be able to move around and have fun. But these 3 am emergencies are another aspect to consider.
This post is motivated by what someone I was talking to said to me…..”I’m not a fireman, I don’t have to be in as good of shape as you”.
This is how people think! Like being in shape is just an un-needed skill set. Because someone else will take care of you and handle your problems for you. Not smart!
When we discuss firefighter survival at work one of the key rules is to Never put yourself in a position where others have to come save you. We only break this rule when a life is involved.
If you don’t take care of your body then you are violating this rule. That goes for firefighters and non firefighters.
Always take command of yourself and be in charge 100 %. Hopefully when needed that person will come to save you but if something goes wrong you are still in a good position to save yourself. If you go down then you are no longer helping your family.
- HFD: Resident fell asleep while cooking, sparking apartment fire (khou.com)
- Off-duty fireman in apartment rescue (kshb.com)
- Vernon firefighters contain rooftop fire (vernonmorningstar.com)
- Dallas firefighter unaccounted for following six-alarm condo fire (khou.com)
- 100 firefighters battle major fire in Montreal North (montreal.ctvnews.ca)
- 15 Firefighters, 1 Civilian Injured In Bronx Blaze (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- The sound of sirens (jerseycityroots.com)
- Girl alerts family to Clinton apartment fire (qctimes.com)
- Dumpster Fire Spreads To Detroit Apartment Building (detroit.cbslocal.com)
- Electrical problem blamed for fire that guts mobile home (ktvb.com)