Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuesday at work

If you've followed this blog for a while, you probably know that I don't write much about my job as a fire lieutenant and paramedic. Tuesday will go down in Spokane history as a day of calamity and craziness. And I was working. I thought I would share some written snapshots of what it was like to be working on my fire engine that day.

This picture of my engine is from KREM's website.

Looking back, the day was a blur. Counting the calls on the pager, it looks like we had 22. We only had one after midnight. Here's a few that stand out.

A tree was down on a house on the north side. Rang the doorbell. The people inside had no idea that there was a 50 foot tree sitting on their front porch roof. There were no other hazards,

A dispatch for a structural collapse downtown at the building which houses Europa and other businesses. Reports were that there were people trapped under the rubble. We were the first truck there. Opening the door to this Spokane landmark, fiberglass insulation came blowing out, there was such a good breeze inside the building. Luckily, there was just one guy in the area where the roof came down. He made it out OK. Lots of initial worries but things settled down. I met the owner of the building and the owner of Europa. Very nice people. I hope everyone is back in business.

We started having problems with our computers on the trucks. We were unable to let Dispatch know when we were responding, when we arrived on scene and when we were finished with the call. I suspect the system was completely overwhelmed. Also, almost all radio traffic was being routed over one channel. Made for a very interesting time trying to communicate.

A call for a pedestrian who was hit by a car on the very far south east end of the city. We snaked through streets that were blocked by downed trees and had to turn around. Josh got out to see if we could clear the engine under some downed wires and trees. Corey expertly maneuvered the engine through. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived on scene. Nobody was there. The ambulance crew joined us in looking all over for a patient in the darkness. Nothing.

An alarm system at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport sounded when the power went out and shut down the kitchen exhaust fans. This was a pretty nice Holiday Inn. There was a bar up front. It was getting a lot of use. We walked through the darkness into the dining room. One guy started clapping. The place was very quiet. No one joined him in the applause. They all sat there, dimly lit by candles at their tables and chewed their food not looking up.

We went to the farthest north part of the city on another alarm system. Cruising up a completely darkened North Division was an eerie experience. The person responsible for the building met us there. The building was a former medical clinic, now vacant. A burglar alarm had been set off by the wind.

A tree down by where I live had also set off a smell of natural gas. This was not unusual. Trees that were being uprooted by the wind knocked down powerlines but they also pulled up gas lines with their roots. Sometimes they landed on the meter and tore it off. This one was puzzling though. There was a smell of gas, but crawling through the tree, you could see that the meter was still intact. The downed tree was immense. I climbed down into the very large hole where the roots used to be. I could smell no gas. Josh discovered that the tree had knocked over a propane tank and thats what was leaking. Simply shutting it off solved the problem. Nice!

It's amazing that when so many of these trees tore out gas lines and then knocked down power lines that the sparking and the natural gas didn't create a bigger problem.

Reports of trees on fire and roofs on fire were pretty common. Sometimes there was just one truck available to send to what was reported as a structure fire.

We would be on a call and be dispatched to another while still working the one we were on. The pace was brisk!

A full response for a hazmat call of supposed leaking gas from a tanker truck came in and, I think, it was just our response chief who was available to get to it.

An alarm system at a Gonzaga apartment where a candle melted onto a coffee table and set it and some papers on fire was the last call of the night.

These are just a few that I remember. When we had a chance to talk with folks on scene, everyone was so upbeat and nice. We got a lot of encouragement and thanks.

You could hear on the radio some tense moments. A firefighter disappeared after a tree went down on him. His officer sounded appropriately concerned. Fires extending into power poles, live electrical lines coming down at schools getting out, energized chain link fences - you could hear the concern and the immediacy in the radio transmissions. Avista was the most highly sought after entity of the night. And as glad as citizens were to see us, we were happier to see Avista pull up.

Kelly, our dispatcher, did an outstanding job. She reigned in people when they needed it and went with the flow when the flow was good. If you could download this night of dispatching and listen to all the radio traffic, you would be amazed.

Lastly, my crew did an excellent job. Corey is a new driver and he got us where we needed to go without a hitch. Driving down dark streets while the wind is buffeting the truck, muddy rain is falling, people are running into the street and power lines and trees are coming down is hopefully a once in a lifetime experience. Josh, my firefighter medic, is as always, a quick thinker and leaps into action immediately when things need to get done. He did a lot of leaping and always in the right direction. I was lucky to have the crew I did.

OK. That's what I can remember right now of some of the things we saw and did Tuesday night. Back to our regularly scheduled programing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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