Thursday, July 1, 2010

Setting the (Bad) Example

OK, no waiting period on this one and no changing some facts to hide anything. I’m just gonna tell it straight even though it’s 2am and I could have posted this tomorrow.
I just got back from a vehicle fire job, it was a car in a residential driveway. The fire had been put out by an alert passing Patrol Officer and his partner, they dumped two 10 pound ABC extinguishers on it and brought it to a halt. It started in the rear of the parked car which was unattended. We traced it to an electrical short. The car was totaled as they always are, but the exposures (three other vehicles and a Peterbuilt tractor were untouched. Good story all around, right?
Yeah until some idiot enters the scene to do overhaul. As the fire was out and we just had a small bit of smoke coming from some plastic and carpet smoldering, we only needed to do some clean up to make sure the vehicle was safe. Most of the guys didn’t get their gear on and let 3 of us finish the job. In this story I play the idiot.
Three simple tasks need to be done: 1) disconnect the battery, 2) Check for hidden extension, and 3) make sure everything in, under and around the car is cold. The first 2 tasks went easy and we even saved the battery screws for the owner by unscrewing them instead of cutting the cables. There was no extension, but the carpet in the back had to be cut out and everything had to be exposed to make sure we got it all. I worked with one of the young guys to do this as we were both fully dressed. We did not have SCBA on as there was no real smoke, just a few small wisps. We used the irons to neatly pop the hatchback. I figure the car could be saved with a lot of work and knowing the owner, he was the type to do just that so we didn’t want to hack or cut anything we didn’t need to. I cut out the carpet which was melted together with the plastic rear interior panel as my partner wetted everything down carefully. When I got the carpet out, we could identify the spare tire cover panel and the tire below, but it was held shut by the melted plastic that dripped everywhere in this area.
I need to mention here that I HATE DRY CHEMICAL powder. It gets in my sinuses and gives me a headache for days and this car was covered in the stuff.
I was being careful not to disturb too much and worked carefully. However, when I was trying to yank up the spare tire cover panel by breaking the melted plastic it finally yielded and I got a face full of that magic and hateful powder. I was careful not to breath it in and flushed my eyes with the hose immediately. Nobody said a word about it but I thought ‘Damn!, you jerk, why didn’t you have eye protection on?’ I had my shield down while we were popping the trunk but that didn’t do much to stop the powder approaching from below. I got back to the station and went in to take a leak. As I passed the mirror I was shocked to see that I looked like a probie at his first fire. I was completely black with that crap all over my face. “Damn’ I thought, “I really should have had those glasses on. But I haven’t used them in a while, now where are they? OH yeah, that’s right, they were inches away from my face in my left breast radio pocket!’ What an ass I am. I teach safety all the time and here I am making a rookie mistake by not taking 15 seconds to put my glasses on.
I hope the next time one of my guys sees me repeating the error that they haul back and kick me in the ass real hard. Maybe that will help me remember. I would do the same for them, in fact I already have.

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