Archive for the Fire Category


Posted in Fire on February 10, 2009 by medic61

I didn’t mean to go through this fire class. When I came to school this semester, it was my plan to sit in a comfortable, dry classroom for a few hours a week in order to earn my EMT-Enhanced, and further my EMS education. But when my class schedule interfered with the EMT-E class, I couldn’t take it. My plan didn’t work. Just like my last plan for CRM software reviews, this was taking a technology South tour.

I like plans. They’re safe, they’re reassuring, and they’re familiar. You know what’s going to happen, and you can work to avoid obstacles. It’s tidy that way.

So when I find myself dressed in turn-out gear, hooking up a hose to a hydrant, I’m a little bit scared. This wasn’t part of my plan. I didn’t mean to stand in a muddy field in the pitch-black night, opening a hydrant in the below-freezing weather. I was supposed to sit in a nice, well-lit room. I was supposed to be taking notes and spending time in familiar emergency rooms.

But here, I’m completely new. I know nothing. I embarrass myself on a daily basis. “Oh…there’s two locks I have to release on this fitting? Good to know, since I’ve been trying for a minute to get it off the hydrant.” I get hose sizes confused with pipe sizes. I make mistakes.

But it’s kind of nice to make mistakes. Because each time I mess up, I learn. I make the mistake, I’m corrected, and (for the most part) I don’t do that again.

It’s kind of nice to be freezing my ass off in turn-out gear in a warehouse parking lot at night. It’s not the safe, comfortable classroom to be sure. But it’s the best kind of classroom. I’ll forever remember the first time I was doing a forward-lay and threw hose. I’ll always remember when I nearly killed myself trying to open a hydrant for the first time. Would I remember lectures? Would I be able to distinguish the lecture on airway apart from the lecture on IV access in my mind, years down the road? And would I remember my classmates’ names?

As I sit across from four of my classmates at Applebee’s, I smile to myself. This wasn’t part of the plan. But I like it.


Posted in Fire on February 2, 2009 by medic61

I’m really nervous as I unpack my things from the car. If I do well in this simulation, then maybe I’m going to do okay after all. But if I panic or struggle, maybe I’m not meant to be a firefighter. I grab my gear bag and schlep it over to the group of my classmates who are already getting dressed. Willie claps his hands, urging us on.

“Come on, come on, this is a PPE drill, let’s go guys, get your stuff on.”

I pull my turnout gear on as fast as I can, pausing to make sure my flash hood sits flat against my back. My stomach is churning intensely, making loud gurgling noises. As I put my hands on my helmet, finally done, Pete comes over to check us.

“Good, good. Alright guys, go over there and wait for further instruction.”

I look at my SCBA on the ground and know I’m about to be wearing it for a few hours. I put it on with a smile, though, and go stand near the simulator. I meet the people in my group; I still feel so bad for not knowing everyone’s name yet. The instructor for our group comes and introduces himself.

“Who’s been in a burning building before?” We look around at each other, and no one pipes up.
“No one? Wow, okay.”
“I’m going to be honest, I’m really nervous about this.”
“Oh, I am too,” the guy next to me says, nodding vigorously.
“You guys are going to do great, just remember to control your breathing. And don’t touch each other.”

It’s in the thirties outside, but I’m sweating bullets. I’m not sure if it’s the gear or the nerves, but I’m losing it just a little bit. I remind myself to breathe slowly as I don my SCBA and start the Darth Vader breathing.

“Let’s go, let’s go, get down low on the ground, go, go, go!”

I crawl on my hands and knees, shoved up to the front of the flashover simulator. I left my glasses off in hopes that I wouldn’t warp or damage them by accident, so I look around with blurred vision. All I see is smoke, but I can make out some orange glow in the foreground. The instructor to my left is controlling the simulator, and is explaining to us what is going on. The sound of my breathing keeps me from understanding him fully, though.

The smoke gets thick and dark. It’s oppressive, forcing me lower to the ground as it descends upon us, and I try not to panic. Suddenly, fire erupts, spilling across the ceiling in an ephemeral sheet. Long, skinny tendrils break off from the main event and burn out brilliantly.

I watch as they make it happen time and time again, absolutely wowed. I feel the heat penetrating my gear, and before I know it, we’re on our way back outside. We walk around for a good minute, cooling ourselves before we attempt to take anything off.

We repeat the simulation once more before we go, and this time I better position myself so I can see what is happening more clearly. I love it even more the second time, and can’t help but smile as I pack up my gear to go home.

The hour and a half spent on the way back home is wonderful. Pete, Willie and I keep one another entertained as the two youngin’s next to me doze sleepily against the windows. I don’t even notice how uncomfortable the middle seat is even though my body is sore through and through.

My clothes have been permeated with the wonderful smell of smoke, and my face is soot streaked. I’m sweaty and thirsty, but for once I’m completely and utterly happy. Nothing gets to me. Worries about finishing final exams from last semester, appointments at the UVA genetics clinic, and concerns about my plans for the summer just slip away and I am at peace.

I think this firefighting thing is going to work out well.


Posted in Fire on January 23, 2009 by medic61

It’s not often that I’ll post an out-of-character post about something where I’m not obviously Sam.  But this actually happened to me, and I felt the urgent need to write about it. As back-story, my name isn’t actually Sam.  I sort of wish it were every once-in-a-while, but it’s not.  Drew and Eric sometimes call me “Sam,” (and each other “Drew” and “Eric”) in a sort of kidding way whenever we all do something together (like “Aww, Drew, Sam and Eric back on the medic together!”).  So just keep in mind that what I say is completely true verbatim.

Yesterday, Eric told me that he was going through a fire academy that met five times every two weeks for a couple of months.  When you graduate, you get all the certs you’ll need like Haz-mat Ops, FF 2, EVOC Class III, etc.  I was pretty excited since it fit well into my course schedule.  I wasn’t going to be able to further my EMS certifications this semester because of my classes, so I thought this could be nice instead.  The class is already in progress, though, so I’d have to get permission to join before I started.  I’d only missed three classes, however, so it’d be okay.

So I call up the head instructor, Willie, who tells me I can come to class on Thursday.  So I borrow gear from a FF/Medic friend of mine who was kind enough to trust me with it.  I take it back to my place and practice putting it on and taking it off, timing myself.  I know that everyone else is already three classes ahead of me, so I’m a bit panicked.  Willie calls me back to let me know that he got in touch with tonight’s instructor, Pete, and he knows I’m coming.

So, we carpool out to the fire department and I walk in and the instructor looks at me and says “oh, you’re the new girl.”  Right, right, I say as I put my gear down and take the forms from him.  I start filling them out, when he looks at me and says, “so is it ‘Sam’ or ‘Samantha’?”  I kind of cough a little and look at him from over the tops of my glasses.

“I’m sorry?”
“Your name. Do you prefer to be called ‘Sam’ or ‘Samantha’?”
“That’s not my name.”

He looks at me, looks at the sheet in front of him and says, “so you aren’t Sam [whatever her last name is]?” I explain to him that I’m not, and he then realizes that I’m *completely* new. He apparently thought that I was this Sam chick who just had never shown up to class.

I tell him that I’m a creative writing major and I write this story about a girl named Sam, and how he completely freaked me out. I explain a little further, and he starts laughing and everything is good. Then class starts, and Eric sits next to me, and the instructor says something along the lines of, “hey guys, we have a new girl. Her name isn’t Sam.” And at this, Eric looks at me, cocks an eyebrow and says, “how does he know!?”

It was really humorous and kinda creepy all at the same time. Some of my classmates are calling me Sam, while others are calling me by my real name. Still others are calling me various permutations of my real name. It should be a good time.

On a related note: this is going to be such wicked fun. In a week we’re going to do a flashover simulator. I know Eric thinks I’m totally “squirrelly” for being so excited about this stuff, but I don’t even care! Yay!

Pictures and stories to follow, eventually :)