Firefighting

A Public Message

2014-03-14 07.49.13

I can hear the alarm ringing, I’m having a hard time coming out of this dream. I’m trying to reach with my arms, stretching it out like the toy Stretch Armstrong, hitting the button for the second time. Something is wrong with me this morning, I cannot wake myself up. Someone has done something to me, I do not feel well and my vision is all blurred. I’m starting to panic inside my mind. There is a pungent odor inside this bedroom of mine. I can still hear the alarm sound but cannot get to it. There is a glow of light, ever so flickering, within the walls of this room. I can feel the heat upon my face, too much for me to handle, I tuck myself under the covers. I am awakened again by the sounds of sirens, I wonder what has happened, I go back to sleep. The door is crashing down inside the room, two men in suits are hollering something, I cannot hear them. The alarm is still going off, I feel dizzy, I cannot see, I cannot breath.

Please be aware of your surrounding’s. Do not leave candle’s burning at night. Make sure the smoke detectors all work and the batteries have been changed. Have an escape route and a meeting place outside, And NEVER GO BACK INTO A BURNING BUILDING.

A story here in Maine. A young mother and three of her children perish in a fire. A smoke detector was found with the battery removed. We all have to have an alarm system. I also recommend using a Carbon Monoxide detector on each floor. It never hurts to be a little on the ball with this stuff. Carbon Monoxide is the silent killer. No odor and the vapor density is about the same as the air we breath. In other words it floats around just like air. This deadly gas is formed from improper burning. Stay Safe folks and be smart when it comes to your family and heating resources.

Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

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When The Smoke Cleared

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When the smoked cleared I stopped for a moment to realize what tragedy I had just witnessed. I stood there, sounds of the regulator, clicking in and out. It was just me and my thoughts. Had I done enough to prevent a loss for this family I had known. I battled the fire with such force and I gave it all my strength to the end. The smoke is all that remains, a tear forms in my eyes. How could I save the little girl in the room upstairs. I couldn’t go up the stairs because of fire from the top to the bottom. It would be the sure death of me if I made that decision. I had to make a split second decision of life and death, mine over hers.

We as responders are faced with decisions at times that no one ever wants to make. We are faced with the aftermath of those decisions. It at times feels like a general sending his soldiers into war knowing the outlook that many men will be sacrificed. Being an officer in a fire department can and will affect peoples lives. Your own men going to battle for the decisions you make.

I hope that I am never faced with the fact I sent men into battle with loss of my own men. I’m not sure I could live with this fact, instilled in my mind forever. This happen’s everyday with first responders. No one ever want’s to hear that someone has died trying to save someone. It is fact, that we are the last resort in many situations. We train for such emergencies, but in the end the tragedies we witness sometimes are forever etched. PTSD syndrome is very real and many people whether it be war, or being a first responder is affected in some way. How can we not be? We try to go home and console with our spouses but they do not understand what trauma we have been witness too. There is help out there. Your local departments should provide help, all you need to do is ask. We provide post CISD or Critical Insident Stress Debriefing, after a tragic event. It is this where we can all talk about what happened to start the process of healing the mind.  http://www.usfa.fema.gov/pdf/efop/efo27917.PDF

The smoke is clear now and my heart is pounding. I have just talked with a professional about things I have been witness to. I know I have a reason to be a responder. Glad to know someone is out there to listen to us.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

 

Dragon vs Firefighter

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The dragon and I were in a battle during a structure fire the other day. Fighting fire is quite a challenge at times. Our department was toned out to a structure fire with a garage totally involved and a trailer starting on fire from extension. I jumped into my POV personal operating vehicle and drove to a neighboring town for a mutual aid call. The call came in during the day and was on a week day. Usually in these parts trying to find enough SCBA certified firefighters can be a real challenge.

I heard our own fire chief report that he was picking up the Engine to respond and I told dispatch that I was reporting to the scene. As I approached the scene I could see a large plume of black smoke. This garage was a working auto repair garage and many tires were outside between the garage and trailer. The residents in the trailer were out of the house and two people that were working in the garage sustained burns on their hands. I approached another firefighter that was laying water down in the garage section. There was only two guys and I at first and the one firefighter handed me the inch and three quarter hose so that he could hitch up with the other firefighter from his town to start an attack of the main house. So here I am, the back up man and the attack man on the garage which was totally engulfed at this time. Me and the dragon were in a fierce battle and I was hoping that more firefighters were going to respond soon. The water supply was in short order because only the two firetrucks at the time was the only water we had at first. The two firefighters were going to start an attack of the trailer when a call was made that the water supply was down. We had to wait until another tanker showed up or water supply set up.

I was looking at the fire from end to end of this garage and with the small hose I had it didn’t really seem to knock anything down. There was a car inside which was roaring and everything else inside was cooking. I sprayed water from end to end with the hope of keeping the flames down so that it would hold off from torching the trailer. I kept water on the oil tank from time to time and also removed a propane tank. I would jump from side to side, keeping water between the garage and house as best possible.  Other firefighters started showing up and I handed the hose to two other firefighter from another town who responded mutual aid.

The structures were destroyed and multiple family members, like twelve were left homeless. The dragon slayer won the battle but not without I giving it my best shot at the beginning. It is so hard living in a rural community with dwindling numbers in the department. It really is hard during the day time when most people have regular jobs. I’m sure this is a problem all over the country.  It also makes it hard to get water established since we are out of a hydrant district. Every fire in our community has to have a rural water supply or rural hitch setup for water at a fire. Sometimes five or six towns are called to have tankers coming. We do practice fill sites and dump site setup but it is still hard when you do not have enough first responders in the first place.

I just wish that more people would join their local fire departments. Some of us are getting older and we need some young guns to help out. Most of the brothers on my department have been on our department for 20 years or more. I am 53 years old and have been on for only twelve years, a young pup when it comes to service time. My days of being a structural interior firefighter are coming to an end soon. I hear of too many firefighters going silent and I do not want my spouse to get a call saying I expired from a heart attack fighting a fire. I do not want the dragon to claim another. Have a good day and feel free to respond in any way about your feelings on volunteer firefighters or departments and some of your stories. Good Day!

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014  The picture featured is from Sun Journal in Maine.

Standing On The Edge Of Life

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I wanted to be a police officer but ended up a firefighter. I am on a volunteer department and only get paid when on a call. The money is not important because I only get about 400 dollars a year. Why would anyone decided to get involved in something that could end your life very quickly anyways? I can only respond to this question as it pertains to myself, others will have different opinions for sure.

First of all, there is no other adrenaline rush like when your pager goes off and you never know what the nature of the call on the other end is going to be. Really think about this for a moment. You are sitting, watching television, and the tone goes off. You rush to the garage and gather your turnout gear and try to get it on quickly. Someone needs your help and needs it now. Firefighters! A plane has just crashed into the lake with possible survivors. Or a call comes out with a house is on fire and people are trapped on the second floor. How about a victim is trapped in motor vehicle. So you never know what to expect but to always expect for the unexpected. It is kind of like fishing. You never know what the next one is going to be.

I have often thought about why I chose to be in public service in the first place. What was the trigger. I remember as a young man in in primary school when the kids and I were playing red rover red rover. Two teams with all the kids holding hands. The object of the game is to crash through their line of interlocking hands. If you get through the line someone is eliminated. This one particular day a kid ran over as fast as he could and got clobbered in the face. His face started to bleed and all the kids just stood there. I ran over to this kid and helped him get to his feet and brought him to the teacher. Was this the trigger? I am kind of thinking that it could be the first. Helping someone in need and not just sitting there watching.

I remember when my wife and I was traveling years ago when the car in front of us hit a pedestrian and the victim went flying through the air. I immediately stopped our vehicle and tried to administer help. The victim died but I was right there on his last agonal  breaths. I decided at this point that I wanted to learn first aid. I took an EMT-B class just to have more knowledge of first aid and maybe I could help someone or my family if needed. I passed the class and proceeded to work on an ambulance for a few years. It became hard for me raising a family and working in a paper industry, doing shift work. I raised my family, one year our son decided to become a firefighter and wanted to know if I would do it with him. I decided to take the class for firefighter- one and passed the class. I started working on the local fire department and I was back into the emergency field. Again money was never the reason it was the fact that I could help someone out if needed.

The years are moving and there will come a time when I will have to pass the towel in, but I have been so happy doing what I always wanted to do even though it was on a volunteer basis. I know it takes certain types of people to do this kind of business. I wonder if we were chosen for this type of business by what we saw as young children. I’m sure there is a connection. Good Day Everyone.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

 

My Firefighter-Medic Life

imagesI read an interesting story about a firefighter who was teased about what he does for work. There was an family get together and this one well to do guy comes up to the firefighter and makes a statement. So how is the checkers games going? The firefighter looks at this guy and was about ready to smash him in the face for this rude comment. The firefighter finally gives him a one-two punch.

I drive down every highway around here with ghost haunting me. I remember this couple that was in an accident where the girl is dead and the boyfriend is pinned in the car. The man keeps asking if his girlfriend is alright. The firefighter/medic responds with. she is being taking care of. The girl is dead and he has to lie to the fellow. I personally have been put in this situation. Is anyone really prepared to be of witness to such horrific incidents without some long term affects. I would need another call to reset my memory from the last horrific incident.

I am not alone in this personal affects of the brain. It is compared to PTSD, many firefighters/medic’s are afflicted with this. Still to this day I remember the accident’s like it happened yesterday. There is crosses in the road which are reminders of the incidents that I witnessed. It is somewhat of a trigger every time I see these on the highways.

Back to the man at the gathering. So the firefighter responds with another one. I was at an accident where the mans head was severed from a flying object off a pulp truck. He was not just a object that got struck. He was a man with a wife and four young children.  The firefighter responds to the yuppie, So, my checkers game is good. It is the only thing that takes my mind off the horrific incidents I see on my job. I don’t just sit around” asshole” playing checkers all the time. I don’t sit behind a desk with smooth hands and wearing a three piece suit. The next time you see a firefighter remember what they have been through. There is moments on the job that we sit around for the next call but the next call might be your love one that needs our help.

Something to ponder about. I have been witness to a lot in my years of public service. This is what I do and very proud to help people in dire need. I am a firefighter on a on-call department. I was an EMT years ago and have worked on the job site as a firefighter-medic-hazmat tech for 25 years in local paper mills. I have witness many things in my life. So the next time you see a paramedic or firefighter please tell them you support everything they do. Good Day Everyone.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

Mechanism’s of Life

CPRDispatch, Code 99 in progress please respond to 1112 Park Street. This was a call for help and I was the man on duty. I was eating breakfast with my wife and kids when the call came out. I jumped up quick from the table and spilled my coffee. The wife looked at me and couldn’t believe that I would not stop for a minute to clean up the coffee.. Hey, I have to get going in a hurry, someone’s life is on the line.

In the heat of the moment the only thing you can think of is responding and trying to beat the clock of time for this patient. I jumped into my truck and reached in my pocket for the keys and realized that I didn’t have them, they were in my street clothes. Argh!  Back into the house to my wife saying what is the matter? I forgot my keys honey. I rushed up the stairs and retrieved my keys and hurried on back to my truck. I turned on my red light and off I go to try and mitigate, or stop the progression of dying. I’m thinking in my head, ok open the airway, check for signs of circulation, if none start compressions and breathing. I had trained for this so many times and when it is real life you still go back to the basic’s. ABC-Airway-Breathing-Circulation.

The patient was lying prone in the living room and some family members were trying their best to hold their emotions and still try to perform CPR-CardiopulmonaryResuscitation . It is a very hyped up scene when responding to a code 99. We  hope that we can respond in time for the patient. The brain will die in about 6 minutes max,  lactic acid will start destroying the vital organs in a short time thereafter. Because the family was at the home and were instructed from the dispatcher to stay calm and start performing CPR this patient had a chance. Blood flow to the brain and body was continuing.

The medic with me hooked up the twelve- lead monitor and determined this patient needed to be shocked back to life. Clear! Everyone cleared the patient and Six-Hundred Joules were induced across the heart of this patient. We checked the monitor and a good sinus rhythm was now shown on the screen. The paramedic put some drugs into the veins of this patient and everything was looking good. We had stopped the line of progression of life or death.

The family was instructed to meet at the local hospital and that the patient was stable at the moment but not out of the woods. Because of the lactic acid the patient could have liver, or kidney failure, it could be a long-haul in the hospital.

We as responders will try to do everything possible to change the outcome for a patient. Our own family members sometimes never turn on the switch. It really is a switch from going from family function’s to rescue mode. Sometimes we feel like Jekyll and Hyde. No not really, but to switch modes on a dime is the comparison. Honey, I will clean up the coffee, Just give me a minute, Ok?

I do not work for an ambulance. I did at one time back in the 80’s. I do medical work at my workplace and respond via local fire department when called upon. ©Bilodeau,D.H.2014

Within The Forest Of Fire

plane%20crash%20kansas_1382128078871_3629612_ver1_0_640_480I was awakened by the sound of a loud crash. I looked outside and couldn’t see anything because of the darkness. There was a rumble that shook the whole house and I was freaking out. I put my clothes on in a hurry and made quick time downstairs to see if the house was damaged or a wall had come down. There was nothing to witness within the house, out of the corner window I saw a glow in the woods.

It was very cold out so I grabbed my jacket and hat and some gloves. I went to the cupboard and retrieved the flashlight. When I stepped outside the door I could hear a roaring sound with loud pops every minute or so. I walked closer to the glow and I could now smell something burning. I came to an opening in the woods, before my eyes, and strewn all over the place was burning debris for as far as I could see. The tops of the tree’s were on fire and fire throughout the forest for about five-hundred feet in width.

My mind was reeling and still I could not process what could cause such devastation. I started walking around the perimeter and I saw a suitcase, a doll lying on the ground covered in soot. I now understood what this devastation was. It was a jetliner that had crashed. I got on my cell phone and called 911. Here is the call. Hello dispatcher. I am in the woods and I believe a jetliner has crashed into my backyard. Sir, don’t play games with us. We are an emergency dispatch center and it is a crime to make false accusation’s about something of this nature. I am not fooling around miss, there is flames for as far as I can see. You need to send someone out here in a hurry. There might be people lying in the woods still alive. I’m going to walk around and see if I can find any souls. Sir? You are serious about this? Yes, I’m not kidding, send the fire department out right now. Ok, Sir, I will be dispatching the fire and rescue they will be there soon.

It must of been five or ten minutes and it seemed like the whole state had responded to this scene. I ran back to my house to check on my wife and two children. They were standing in the kitchen and understandably shaken by what they were seeing within the woods. Honey, a jetliner has crashed in the woods. My wife looks at me with a worry on her face. Honey? Is there any survivor’s? I do not know that answer dear but I’m sure the fire department will let us know soon.

We waited in the house for it seemed like eight hours and this one fire chief came into the house and told us that one soul had been found and is in critical condition. The person found was a young lady of around twenty-four years of age. Her passport stated she was from Istanbul and she was coming to America to become a chef in a famous New York restaurant .  I asked what hospital they were taking her too. Sir, they will be taking her to Presbyterian Hospital by the Bay. Ok, Thanks chief I appreciate this information.

I walked back out into the woods later when daylight came and was amazed at how much debris was strewn all over the woods. I could see a section of the wing and also the wheels from the jet. There was some things still burning but most of the fires were out. The firefighters had been there all night and were exhausted. The count of souls they found were to be two-hundrend and twenty-five. I started to cry and only had visions of how many families had lost their fathers, mothers, children,brother’s and sister’s. This was going to take me a long time to process and I hugged my family today. We all cried.

©Bilodeau,D.H. 2014

Crying In The Woods

Avalanche_Rescue_Dog_Looking_A_6552172I am part of an elite special search and rescue team out of Ashvielle, Texas. Our major concentration and training has been in Search and Rescue. I am special- qualified in low angel rescue and searching with dogs. Our team was called out to the the State of Maine because a woman had gone missing on the Appalachian Trail a week ago. I had my dog Bert with me and another person on my team was going with a search dog too. I had all my gear in my back pack and flashlights for hiking at night if needed. This woman was hiking alone on the AT when she failed to contact her husband Tony two days before. Her husband new that something wasn’t right and called the authorities.

The day started out with all our team meeting at the local fire station in Apton with our team leader Dean giving us a pre-op and giving us coordinates to search for the day. I looked over the map of the terrain that Bert and I would be canvassing and notice the elevation to be around 3200 feet. I had hiking boots with spikes in the bottom which gave me better traction. One of the firefighters gave me a ride closer to the area I would be searching.

I found out that this lady had an enormous amount of hiking experience and that she was well prepared for hiking in the mountains. I’m sure she just went off trail and got lost and that we would find her in no time. Usually our team found most people that we went looking for and I felt like this was going to be the same. I had been all day searching and calling out her name. Julia! Julia! I hollered for her all day and never heard any response back. I called back to my team leader Dean to tell him I had not found any indication of anyone hiking this area. I could find no foot prints and also looked for turned over rocks, or broken whips on the tree’s. The hike was starting to wear me down so I decided to stop and get some water. There was a big rock and the sun was shinning on it brightly which I felt would give me some warmth. Bert sat down next to me and I brought out some water for the both of us. I was looking at my map and making decisions to change course when I thought I heard someone crying from within the wood line about 100 meters ahead. Sometimes when your looking for someone so bad your mind does strange things and I just thought it was my mind thinking I’d heard a voice within the woods. Again, I could hear someone crying. This time Bert’s ears popped up so I knew that I wasn’t just imagining this sound.images

Bert and I  moved toward the ridge line and into the woods. The crying sound was getting stronger and I know could hear this person calling out, Help! Help!  We were about to cross over this stream and down next to the stream and near a large felled tree I saw a woman. I called out, Are You Julia? Yes, Please help me. I got on my two-way radio and called team leader Dean to give him information of my coordinates and that she had been found. Julia was so happy to see me. Here is a link of a true story that happened in Maine. This woman was never found.  http://appalachiantrail.com/20131214/search-missing-appalachian-trail-hiker-gerry-largay/

I accessed her condition and found that she had two broken legs from a fall she had taking. She had dragged her injured body at least one mile through the woods. She understood that she needed to get to a stream if she was going to be found. Both her hands were cut up as well. I took out my bandages and wrapped them around her hands. I had soft splints in my gear bag and splinted both legs the best I could. The crying from Julia had stopped. She had no more tears to let out. She was very dehydrated. The rest of my search team embarked upon the scene and we were able to carry her back to the fire station to an awaiting ambulance. Her husband was relieved that his Julia had been found.Cave_Rescue_training_12_4in

In the weeks afterward our team was called out to another search and rescue. The Arizona mountains, where a team of sky jumpers could not be located. Bert and I were ready for anything- – – – – – – – – – – –   ©Bilodeau,D.H.