As I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, I joined the volunteer fire department in September! It’s been an amazing experience, and a few days ago I went to my first call(s), so I thought I’d write a little about that, since this blog is “Adventures with Teresa” and it was sure an adventure!
Our fire department has the reputation of being one of the best in Alberta, and I can see why. There are 30 members, all volunteer, and one paid fire chief (who also has other duties in the town office). There is lots of training before you can go on calls, and when calls come, everybody scrambles to get to the hall as fast as they can. Along with all the other new recruits, I’ve been going to both Monday night practices and orientation classes. Some of the orientation is classroom-based, and some is practical. I used to feel so out-of-my-element, a fish out of water, but now I am starting to feel more comfortable. I know some of the people better. I know where to find stuff in the hall. I know how to do basic tasks. I have learned how to:
– wash trucks (I had previous truck-washing experience!)
– squeegee the floor (ditto)
– wash, dry, and wrap up hoses
– lay hoses in the trucks (the basics)
– rescue people who’ve fallen through thin ice (read about it here)
– stabilize cars or trucks that have been in accidents so that anyone trapped inside can be rescued
– use hand tools and power tools to safely cut cars or trucks apart to get an injured person out
– use a breathing apparatus — put it on, breathe with it, change and refill tanks
– understand and interpret fire behaviour
– use ladders
– use, inspect, and store various equipment, from light stands to use at night, to heavy pry bars
Even though I have learned a lot, there is so much more still to learn. I still don’t know where a lot of the equipment is kept. But I’m starting to feel strangely comfortable now. What I’m doing feels natural. When I used to go to VSU calls, there was usually a lot of anxiety and a good chance that I’d “take it home” — I’d still be thinking about what I saw or did several days later. We were dealing with people in the worst of situations, and a lot of it was emotional and psychological. I learned a lot in those times! And they were never comfortable. I feel like with more training, fire fighting (and all the other work that goes with it) will not be as stressful in that way. Yes, my heart pounds a little when the pager goes off, but it’s hands-on excitement and work, which appeals to me.
I am also really enjoying the camaraderie. The gang at the hall are such neat, great people — I’m really enjoying getting to know them all. My fellow fire fighters are getting to know me a little better too, which I think makes us all more comfortable around one another. It’s great when we see something that needs doing and all just pitch in… I mean, isn’t that the way our society is supposed to work? People working together can accomplish so much!
Anyway, I got to go on my first call, a motor vehicle accident, a few days ago. I can’t share too many details of the call. It was a head-on collision on the highway, and at first all we knew was there was a person trapped. Then we heard there was a vehicle on fire. Then that it was a gas truck. Hoo boy! Then we heard about 4 different versions of what the truck was carrying, but it turned out to be a propane truck. Not good! The cab was burning fully when we arrived on scene, so we quickly got some water on it to cool it down, and overall, we were really lucky it didn’t blow. If we had been even a few minutes later or had a few less gallons of water, it might have blown.
Just after we had finished putting all our hoses away and getting the tanker refilled, we got a call for a plane crash at the airport! Gads! So we turned around and high-tailed it back to town (the accident was about 50 km south of town) and as we went we got more details. It turns out it wasn’t a crash, yet, just an airplane with damaged landing gear. Well that’s a whole different story! A couple of minutes after we got to the airport, the plane came into view — sure enough, he was missing a tire on one side of his gear, but he still had one good tire. The pilot eased it down and landed uneventfully — except that he had an audience watching: about 5 cop cars, 4 fire trucks, and 5 ambulances. Pretty much all of High Level’s emergency services!
What a day! But you know what made my heart really pound out of my chest? As we were screaming through town — sirens wailing, air horn blaring — a person in a mini-van either didn’t see us (!) or decided to try and cross the highway in front of us!! SH*T! We had to brake and swerve a little, on roads that were slippery, not to hit this, ahem, person. (Insert string of curse words here.) What saved us was that there was so little traction, the mini-van couldn’t really get onto the road… but then when it braked, it slid about a foot. Sheesh! So please, if I may say — Give way to emergency vehicles when you see them! Don’t do anything stupid, like try to “beat them!” Be alert so you see them in the first place. Okay, that’s enough of a rant. I’m sure none of you, my wonderful, intelligent readers, would ever be that stupid. My heart pounds just thinking about it — creaming a mini-van with a tanker loaded with water going highway speeds.
So there you have it! You wanted adventure and you got it! Get out there and live life to the fullest! 🙂