On Saturday I crawled out of bed and forced myself into clean clothes so I could make my way south to my very first meeting of the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America. Out of the three chapters available in my area, this one struck me as being the most active and organized, prompting me to hitch my horse to that particular wagon.
Every month the chapter has a meeting where they do two things: give some kind of presentation, and deal with chapter business. Okay, so I might sound a little glee-tastic here, but this whole belonging to an organization thing is new to me, and pretty damn novel.
Anyway, this moth a couple of the awesome chapter member set up a meeting at a fire station!
We started out with a presentation from a few of the brave firefighters at Station 15. They covered topics like training, classifications, what it’s like to get into a fire and rescue people, and some effects of the job on their relationships, among other things. I came away from the day with one complete skeleton of a novel, and plenty more ideas to work with.
- In a typical house with 9 feet ceilings, the top 3 feet are around 1250°, the middle three stay around 500°, and the bottom three hover around 150°. Which means when a fire fighter is inside, they can’t stand up straight. They crawl. And they don’t carry victims out like the guy to you right. They have to drag people, fighting through smoke and heat. Which leads to fact number two…
- The most common injuries for firefighters involved their backs and knees. The strain of crouching, pulling heavy things, and moving awkwardly take a toll on them like nothing else. Other common injuries include wrist burns (from not wrist guards) and getting HIT by a CAR because people are not paying attention to their driving when passing an accident.
- Hybrid cars are the least safe car to drive in case of a major accident. The cars contain a thick cable of power wires that run through the car, and in each model the placement of the wires is a little bit different. Cutting through these wires will kill you. Full stop. And while all hybrids had a power shutoff, these too are located in different places for the different models. That being said, there are still a few firefighters who drive hybrids.
- Christmas trees are freaking dangerous, yo. From moment of ignition to your entire living room being on fire, you’ve got about 46 seconds.
Even Cooler Pictures!
The fire engines aren’t yet equipped with GPS, which means firefighters have to rely on memory and physical maps. These books have detailed maps of the area, and are organized by quadrant. When a page comes in informing the station of a call, a quadrant will show up on the pager so they know where to go. A couple of these books contain information about the structures in the district: how many stories, construction material, number of rooms.
This is the back seat in a fire engine. The straps you see are connected to an oxygen tank. This way firefighters can get suited up with their protective gear, then strap into the oxygen on their way to a call.The headset on the wall behind the chairs enable conversation between riders. With the siren’s blaring and that motor running, it’s too loud to talk, otherwise.
A typical firefighter’s helm. I love that there is a wooden doorstop strapped on this guy, the same kind we used in elementary school. You can tell a lot about a firefighter from their helmet. For example, pure yellow helmets indicate a new hire, someone who’s been on the team less than a year. When released from their probation period, they are presented with a black helm, like this one. The front of the helm will carry their classification, and their ID number.
This particular station is a bigger one. Due to their proximity to the local police station, the two departments work together pretty often. This tank, for example, is technically property of the LPD as a donation from the military. It’s being stored at the LFD garage simply because they had the room. The funny thing about this tank is that it appeared in the garage about 24 hours before out tour, and most of they guys there hadn’t seen the thing before they walked into work that morning.
It’s me! Wearing almost a full set of bunker gear, which is the term they use for…well, for this whole getup! Pants, boots, jacket, wrist guards, helm, oxygen tank and axe/lever combo. Not pictured: hood, oxygen mask and gloves. This stuff was heavy. It really put into perspective just how damn strong you have to be, to operate as a firefighter. apparently, these days they rely more on teamwork, to reduce injuries more common in the past when being a firefighter emphasized brute strength more. Still, to just be able to walk around in that gear, or climb stairs, you’ve got to be pretty buff.
If you ever get the opportunity to go to a fire station and get a tour or talk to the firefighters, jump at the chance. The guys were super nice, and really motivated to show off all their gear, and talk about what they do for a living though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that they had a cadre of attentive women hanging on their every word.
And if you have been on a tour of a fire department, police department, top secret military base, share your experience in the comments!