Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Day, First Day pt. 2

As promised, here is part two of my wildly successful blog from last week. Ok, wildly successful is a bit of a stretch. If you haven't read part one, you probably should. As you may recall from waaay back on last Sunday, I wrote about how station 22 celebrated my last day as a firefighter at the station. BTW, the Halloween picture they used for the cake now has a nice spot on the refrigerator for everyone to see. I can't thank my wife enough for that little nugget.

Anyway, let's get to my first day as a lieutenant at station 15. It was Monday morning and I had been assigned to the ladder for the first half of the day. Nevermind the fact that I've never ridden ladder 15 in my career though that didn't discourage my bosses from putting me in charge of it on my first day. It is, after all, the best way to become efficient, right? My cousin always tells me that putting myself into uncomfortable positions is the best way to grow. By 8:30 Monday morning, I was a little skeptical about that bit of advice.

I showed up to work with 4 gallons of ice cream, a mandatory gesture for a firefighter doing something for the first time and I was pretty sure my day would be full of firsts.

I checked my equipment, did some paperwork, put up the ladder with the crew, and helped with the housework. So far, so good.

The morning came and went with little action. The afternoon, however, was a different matter. I was hoping for a fire alarm, or a CO (carbon monoxide) check, or something minor to get my feet wet.

Uh, wrong.

My first ever call as a lieutenant came mid afternoon. It was a report of a fire. Half-way to the scene, one of the responding companies reported heavy smoke showing and they weren't even close to the fire yet.

Ready or not, this was it. We ended up being the second ladder on the scene and the fire was mostly out which meant I didn't have a lot to do. Most of the firefighters there were friends of mine or, at the least, acquaintances and this was their first chance to see me in my bright red, almost glowing new helmet.

Startling me from behind, a guy named Billy pounded on my helmet with a pike pole three times, almost breaking my neck. I turned and smiled. He reminded me that even if I was a lieutenant, I was still a "newboy" in his eyes.

Before we left, I heard every joke about how I should roll in the ashes and soot inside the fire building to knock some of the shine from my helmet. (Which I didn't do in case you're wondering.) I've heard that joke about 100 times since as well.

We headed back to the station. It wasn't more than a half-hour later that we received another call. And again this was a report of a fire only this time we'd be the first ladder on the scene. To make my life a little more stressful, this was reported in a warehouse with, yes you guessed it, another column of smoke from the distance.

Here's where I got lucky. The ladder crew assigned to me that day was a very experienced crew and for the most part my job was not getting in their way. Alright, I had a little more to do than that but you get the picture. I did more on that call than the first but since it turned out to be a car on fire inside the garage of a repair shop, it was contained before it got into the walls and most of my work was after the initial knockdown.

And still my helmet looked like a shiny red apple.

Back at the station, my wonderful, lovely, stupendous (am I laying it on too thick?) friend, we call him "pup," let me know that the Captain of another ladder company had called and was pissed at me for something I did on the fire. My first day and somehow I was upsetting captains.

I decided to call him back right away so I could take my lumps and clear the air. There was only one problem: the tones went off again and I got the CO run I had hoped for earlier. Of course, throughout the CO run, I couldn't think of anything but why the captain could be angry with me.

If you didn't realize by now, my stress level was entering the red zone.

After the CO run, I dialed the captain's station (I know phones don't have dials anymore but could you cut me some slack here?)

The captain's initial words were, "Congratulations on the promotion."

The calm before the storm.

I said, "I heard you were upset with something I did on the fire earlier."

"Oh yeah?" he said, sounding genuinely surprised. "And what do you think that was?"

I had probably done at least ten things wrong but I wasn't about to give him any additional fodder. "I don't know, cap."

I could almost see him grinning through the phone when he said, "Who told you that I was mad?"

I realized the joke before I even said Pup's name and my face undoubtedly matched my helmet.

After a quick laugh, he said, "They're messing with you, Doug. I only wish they had told me before you called so I could have been a part of the joke. I would have let you have it."

I said, "I'm glad they didn't"

Good one, Pup.

That evening I moved to the engine, where I am infinitely more comfortable. The rest of shift was uneventful and I survived my first day as a lieutenant.

Oh yeah, I forgot. At lunch, they presented me with a toy "light stick."

Uh, "Star Wars" again. Thanks 22's.

Will it never end?


  1. could've been worse, huh? Glad you're off to a good start & it seems the Force is with you. everywhere.

  2. lol. I can't believe it took me so long to get back to part 2 of this! I love your posts about your fireman duties. It sounds very much full of adventure and contact -- the perfect atmosphere for a writer. ^_^

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