Saturday, May 22, 2010

So This is What Vacation Is...

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the first summer post of 2010. Well the first post of summer vacation. It's not summer. In fact, as of today it's still late winter with the damp wet snows that Montana springs are so famous for. I would be surprised but honestly, I've seen it snow on my birthday, in August, late August, before. So no I am not surprised. It's been a busy few weeks to say the least. First I rocked this semester with a 4.0 again so I am sitting with a 4.0 for the year. It's a nice accomplishment considering the last time I rocked a 4.0 was a 6th grade. Not that I didn't do well in school after that, but being a teenage boy my focus was more on chasing girls and causing trouble. Mostly the first one. Anyway, having a 4.0 is nice. It's amazing to finally find something that I love and keeps my interest career wise.

Now it's time for summer. What is this? These random long periods of time where I don't have a paper to worry about, or training to do? These moments where I sit here and do nothing. Free time you say? I remember hearing something about that last August. So that is what this is, free time... Interesting concept. Actually I won't lie, it is nice to be able to just breathe a little bit. Something people close to me seem to tell me all the time. Just breathe Jack, just breathe. Yeah... It's nice.

So with this new found free time I am constantly finding myself looking for stuff to do. I've started looking over my EMT stuff again. The paramedic at my work is thinking of putting on a paramedic class and asked me to be apart of it. I've been back and forth on it, mostly because it's going to be a lot of information and it was three grand to do. Well a rumor has it that it might be a lot cheaper, half the initial price. So yeah there is a good chance that if it pans out like that I will definitely be talking the class. I think. I'm still on the fence. If I can juggle the rest of school, having a life, work and this class I will take it. If not I will wait until I am done with the degree I am working on now. I won't know for sure until I have all the information.

Speaking of work it's been an exhausting few days. During the school year I would work 60 hours a week and during my school vacation I was only scheduled for 30. Ridiculous eh? I would agree. However the new paramedic we hired, also named Mike started making the schedule and gave me 40 hours a week. I think the higher up folk that work there telling him to do so had something to do with that too. Which is nice. I enjoy full time. Well as I have said the past three days I have worked I have spent 25 out of the last 28 hours in an ambulance. I've been to Missoula twice, Deer Lodge, Whitehall/Cardwell, and Kalispell. Which is fine because it's all been Fort Harrison VA time. So it's federal time and after 12 hours on VA time, it's VA overtime which I have 13 hours of.

The fire department has been busy too. I went on my first wild land fire. So picture this. I'm in the bathroom giving myself a haircut. I'm about half way to two thirds of the way done when my pager goes off for a campfire gone astray that is now burning a 20' x 20' piece of land. Well here I am, clippers in one hand, pager in the other. What do I do? Well I raced through the rest of that hair cut and raced to the fire department. I was able to come back and clean up what I missed after don't worry. Anyway, I managed to get to the station as one of the engines was pulling out. But we took my Bravada there because it was faster. Two things  I learned that day driving. One my car hates dirt roads, two, it can still handle the heck out of them.

We get there and the scene was amazing. 8 ft flames racing towards the pine beetle devastated blanket of orange that is the dead pines 15 feet away. Well we throw the water/foam combination on the flames and snuff it out. The rest is mop up work. Chipping away at smoldering logs and blasting it with the hose. What was left of the tent near the campfire? A tent spike melted in half and a cot frame. The irony was that the people who were hired to make sure the place was safer from wild fires were the ones that left the camp fire unattended. We then joked around with some of the DNRC staff and went to the station for rehab. This consisted of filling tenders. Then as I have said before, I wen't to finish my haircut.

There is something to be said about being able to run off, fight a fire, and come home after doing a job well done. It's nice.

That weekend we worked on tender 2. Scraping bed liner out of the tank because water had gotten under it and was causing it to mold. Not the most fun but taking pride in my department was cool. We had training this past week. It was wild land also. We learned how to assemble fold-a-tanks and drafting water. The pictures you see are dropping water from Tender 1 and me rocking the super banana fire suit. I spent most of that night driving Tender 1 as you see in the third picture. It's old and the air brakes are touchy. By touchy I mean that if you want to use them, rather than pressing slowly to slow into braking you have to tap them hard enough to slow you down without going through the windshield. That was itself a pain to master but I'm getting it. Also with being old, the tender only had a hand primer. Being the only young strapping gentleman in the group, that was my job. Get the air out of the line. We filled up the tank and went back to the station.

That's about it this for these past two weeks since school has been let out. We have a fireman's funeral precession we have to do on Monday. A friend, coworker and fire department member lost his wife to cancer. She was also a member of the department. While I am excited to experience what is a very honoring tradition of the fire service, I am sad for his loss.

I will write on that experience this week. Nothing in detail of the funeral itself out of respect for my friend and his family but just my thoughts on it. So stay tuned for that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My First Year

Well holy crap. I'm done for a bit. That's right, I made it a whole year. I wen't to 99.98% of my classes. I think I only missed three days? Either way it was very few. I've made the deans list. I've fought fire. I traveled to my first foreign country that isn't Canada. I held on to someone very dear to me with 6000+ miles of distance and 15 hours of time between us. I've made friends, I'm sure I've made a few enemies. I have an EMT job, I am a volunteer firefighter. I've had my ups, a lot of ups, I've had my downs, a few downs. So yeah, a year that I didn't know what was in store for me, turned out to be a very positive one. I'm hoping next year will be the same, but all I can do is take it one day at a time. I remember moving up here to Helena last August. What the hell was I doing ran through my head. Turn around, get the hell out. That's all I thought. Then I bit the bullet and now I'm here. I've learned a lot this year. I have a lot more to learn I am sure. But yeah that's it in a nutshell for this year. Now for current events.

As you know school is done and it is time for summer vacation. The last week of school had it's moments. Honestly this semester really didn't feel like I was in school. What with all the time we had off and teachers cancelling class and what not. However Wednesday of last week was amazing. I fought my first fire. It was a training exercise but until you feel the heat of the fire and see it rolling you just don't know. We were at the ARFF trainer. Basically it's a huge plane that they can light up anywhere. As we haven't had the ARFF class yet we treated it as a trailer fire. The cockpit was a bedroom, the seating area was the living room.The bathroom was well... the bathroom. So we got in there and sprayed the hell out of the bedroom. The instructor yelled at me to get in there. So I was a foot and a half away from the fire. By the time we finished that room and got into the main area. The flames were basically what you see in the movies. Rolling up the walls, and hitting the ceiling and rolling up across the ceiling. Then the heat hit me. You know that feeling you get when your clothing gets really hot after being right next to a camp fire and it barely touches the skin? It was like that, but a little less intense. 700 degrees though. Toastie.

After that I went to work and it was lame, a chica I work with was being dramatic. Nothing new. Wednesday after work I ended up getting my gear with the volunteer department. After we got our turnouts, then our wildland gear, our uniforms, and our pagers the guy issuing the gear told us it was about 5000 dollars worth of gear. Yeah I am now in possession of stuff that is worth more than what I make in about 5-6 months.Crazy, But other than that I think I'm in the right place. Saturday I got my first pager call. 15 gallon diesel spill. Yeah nothing too exciting but my response time was excellent. I was the only one there and then they cancelled the page. So as I was leaving I called a fire dept guy and he was like well I'm going to come fill out a report so if you want to see how that is done then come back to the station. So I did then the chief called and told us to respond. So we went over there. Placed dirt and absorbent on the spill then got a report. Like I said nothing exciting but still.

Other than that not much exciting is going on. Fully getting into the swing of Summer vacation. Stay tuned as I get more calls fire and EMS wise!