Truck company operations.

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Dammit. Just when I thought I'd comfortably accepted my role as a firefighter/paramedic, forever riding the engine (since DCFD doesn't put paramedics on the trucks), we had to go and practice truck company operations. I'm torn; yet I pine for something that's not in the stars for us medics right now.


It's not that engine work isn't badass (because I'm sure I'll catch flak from some engine guy about this). Yes, it's exciting to actually go and put the fire out with a hose. It's exciting to wrestle a charged line up a stairwell, allowing your nozzle man to move forward and beat the company that's right on your tail. It's just that truck work is exhilarating in a different sense—and given the copious amounts of hose work we've done recently, it's also a very welcome change of pace.

I've always loved climbing things. I'm very comfortable with heights, and I'm not overly worried about being on unstable ground (I'm not proud of it, but I've definitely set up some less-than-optimal anchors and protection/chocks back in my rock climbing days). So, when an instructor said "get that K-12* up to the roof," I grabbed it and scurried up the aerial ladder, feeling it bounce and sway the whole way up.

Forcing a door to get a ventilation fan into the building? No problem; I'll go get the irons. Hoisting ceiling hooks, shovels, and saws up to the second floor? Got it. (We were this close to tying off a rolling office chair and dragging it up there.) 

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Would you stand there? I guess it depends on how much you trust the guy who tied the knot.

Also, truck work gives you a whole different set of improvisational skills to draw upon to get the job done. I've heard that truck work requires a slightly more independent sort of individual; while I can't speak to that myself, it seems to make sense. You have to perform one of the more crucial tasks in the process of extinguishing the fire, which is ventilate the building. You have all the tools you need, and now you just have to figure out where to do the job. Do I cut here, or over here? Would a defensive cut or an offensive cut work better in this situation? Weather conditions? Access? Utilities? Where are my alternate points of egress? (also known as the "how do I get the hell outta here if I need to?" evaluation.)

Besides, you get to climb ladders; and I fucking love climbing ladders (especially with a purpose!)

If you're cutting a hole on a smoky roof and your saw craps out because the engine choked up, now it's time for brute force, not finesse; bash an axe against however many layers of roofing until you're through. Lactic acid buildup be damned; however many swings it takes, get that hole open—because the guys inside need the heat and smoke out of the building.

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You think your arms hurt now? Wait 'til you finish making that hole.

Okay, so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about. Perhaps I'm just rambling as I ride out the high of using tools to break and cut stuff (it's a guy thing). However, I will say that drilling with all the truck company stuff has been very exciting, and I'm highly intrigued.

Oh, well. 

Maybe I'll just befriend someone assigned to a truck, and I'll get to cover a few shifts for him.

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A picture from a while back—but the feeling is still just as exhilarating.

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* A K-12 is a circular roof saw made by Partner (it's actually manufactured by Scandinavian powerhouse Husqvarna which acquired Partner in 2006, but they retained the brand name). It's a powerful beast, and the models we use are their specifically-designed FD/Rescue Saws.

Note: I have no affiliation with the above retail website; they just had the best and most readily available pictures of a K-12 saw.

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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