Cantankerous Wisdom: Geezers Passing Judgment

By Bill Adams

Firematic trade shows are great places for Raisin Squad members from different locales to compare notes, lie to each other, and pass judgment on the things we’ve seen, read or heard. And if challenged on accuracy or truthfulness, we can blame age, failing eyesight or defective hearing aid batteries. One white hair told a tale about a rural water supply seminar he attended where the instructor gave the scenario of a small farmhouse fire. The objective was to maintain a continuous 1,000 gallon-per-minute flow for two hours with tankers. One old guy questioned the instructor: “After two hours, dontcha think the fire should’ve gone out?”

One geezer said he and another were rubber-necking the end of what was a well involved attic fire. On the C-side they saw a small freshly dug trench or trough that was running perpendicular to and about 50 feet away from the house. It was about a foot wide, almost two-foot deep and over six-feet long. They couldn’t figure out what the hell it was. The light came on after they looked back at the house. The trough was in line with an open second-floor window, half of the burned off roof, and directly aligned with the ladder pipe that was still up in the air. “Brilliant. How much water did they waste on that?”

At one morning coffee the Raisins who remembered their glasses were commenting (second guessing) about some of the articles found in the magazines left on the table. “Look at this. This company’s having a nationwide tour showing off all their rigs. How much do you think that’s gonna cost?” One perceptive white hair said to read between the lines. “They’re bring’n eight rigs and six of them are ladder trucks.  Guess what market they’re trying to capture.” A testament to their commitment to the fire service is bringing multiple configurations of aerial devices to display side-by-side on a nationwide basis.
 An article about tactics and strategy got the raisins in a tizzy. It had a statement that any fire attack is impacted by response time, water supply, and staffing. It’s a valid observation, but was the subject of diverse geezer opinions that weren’t so convincing. “Yeah, if they put bigger motors in today’s rigs, they could go faster and get there quicker.” Another said, “They need bigger booster tanks. And, those damn playpipes (smoothbore nozzles) are no good; straight tips use up too much water. They should stick to fog nozzles.” Most of the comments about staffing can’t be repeated. They aren’t politically correct. In fact, they’re borderline sexist, bigoted, and biased against anyone not old enough to collect Social Security.

The latter comment reignited earlier heated discussions about how old is too old for someone to be humping hose, throwing ladders, driving apparatus, or even directing traffic. One geezer brought us back to reality, showing us an article describing the line-of-duty deaths that occurred a month or so earlier. There were four. A 30-year-old career firefighter who complained of not feeling well while on duty the day before suffered a major stroke and eventually passed away—tragic for such a young man with a family. The other three deaths were suffered by volunteers 78, 73, and 75 years of age. One suffered a medical emergency and the other a heart attack while responding to an alarm. Neither survived. The last passed away of cardiac arrest after returning home from a firematic drill. While equally tragic, the question came up if they could have been prevented? One Raisin asked if they should have been prevented. None of us wanted to go there and that pretty much ended the conversation that morning.

The earlier talk about the tanker drill had one of the Squad commenting another morning about tankers tipping over. We all agreed they roll over with a degree of regularity. One guy added the magazines are full of stories about ladders and pumpers tipping over too. It was a topic we took too lightly at first—almost to the point of mocking the department that rolled one. The conversation turned more serious when we concurred accidents are catastrophic when an injury or loss of life occurs. I said this Web site’s parent magazine regularly addresses the same and mentioned one article in particular in a series by Chris Daly that referenced excessive speed, inappropriate steering maneuvers, operation on soft shoulders, and the effect of fluids loads as causes of many rollovers.

One geezer said its probably operator error or a lack of training or both. Another said it was a lack of common sense—a long-lost commodity. In rereading Daly’s series, he has perfectly nailed the physical reasons that cause or contribute to rollovers. We agreed that teaching and training drivers how to prevent them should be next—how to accomplish it is beyond us white hairs. We’re used to double clutching manual transmissions, riding in open cabs, and trying to light a cigarette while riding on the rear step. A roll-over to us is falling off our recliners during naptime.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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