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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Are Your Plans For 2012?

2012 is just around the corner.

If you haven't already made plans for the new year, then you'd better start now.

I am speaking to volunteer fire departments.

Have you made plans to recruit, then retain new members?

There are people in your communities who are sitting on the fence. They want to get involved in their community in some way. Do you know who they are and have you reached out to them?

The days of having potential members walk through the door to proclaim that they want to join appear to be over. What is your plan to go out into your community and actively recruit new members?

What is your plan to keep the older members interested and active?

If you have a department where the older guys step back and watch, then you are a department that is operating no where near full strength. Remember that "complacency kills".

Are you sure that you are an organization that others WANT to join?

Do you have leaders that command and control and follow chain of command? If so, is it so transparent as to be non-existent? An absence of leadership is not transparency of leadership.

Does your community know what you do? If they don't, then how do you expect to fund your fire department?

Do you contact the local press when you have scheduled events, such as training, fundraisers or open houses? A picture accompanied by a thousand words is priceless.

Do you take advantage of nearby training facilities? Are your training officers meeting/exceeding expectations or are they just repeating last year's training schedule?

The majority of communities in this nation rely on volunteers to deliver their fire protection. It is more important than ever to know the buildings in your community and to have pre-plans. If you don't know; small departments do not get a "pass" if they are engaged in tasks that are covered under the national standards.

If you have SOGs, then it is time to review and to update them. If you don't have SOGs, then you need to start writing them. If you ever get questioned on your response protocols, such as in a court of law; your answer had better not be "we don't have SOGs".

Is your equipment up to date? Do you have the equipment for the services that you provide? If not, then why not?

There are no excuses if you haven't been reviewing your tax base or applying for grants. You have to remember that NFPA standards, NIOSH and OSHA  standards will be cited in the aforementioned court of law. And if your equipment is not up to standards, then money that you would use to purchase or upgrade will instead go towards paying a hefty fine!

Career departments are being decimated by budget cuts. Lack of manpower is reaching the "danger zone". Volunteer departments may have to constrict as well, if the taxpayers believe that they are already paying enough.

And when I say “constrict”, I mean partnering with a nearby department and eliminating redundancy of services. For instance; if your department doesn’t have a full complement of trench rescue tools, then consider establishing an area-wide rescue team. Pool your tools and stow them in a trailer at the department that is central to your response area. At the very least, know who has what and call for their assistance when need be. Know your strengths as well as your limitations.

Communities will not be inclined to increase funding, if you do nothing more than to show up and keep exposures wet while the structure on fire collapses into the basement. Fire investigators get very testy when you leave them with nothing to investigate.

That takes me right back to having SOGs that includes automatic mutual aid. You might have to give up your "fiefdom" and get a department nearest to the call rolling first. You have to remember that lives and property are at stake. Don't jeopardize either simply because it is in your fire district and it's "your" call.

If you are already a good department, then plan to get better.

From there you can achieve excellence and THAT will draw new members and it will remind the older guys of the reason that they joined in the first place.

Plan to break out in 2012.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas and the Six Year Old

My wife and I were at the mall finishing up our Christmas shopping and taking in the sights of the holiday season.
There were grade schoolers singing Christmas songs or I assumed that they were. I couldn't hear them over the Christmas music blaring over the mall's speakers.
There were dancing sugar plum fairies. Check that; it was mall cops chasing another shoplifter.
Everyone was in the Christmas spirit. Some could be heard complaining about how crowded it was. Others were busy texting and bumping into shoppers; sending out Christmas messages to their entire contact list, I would guess. Older patrons, unable to keep up with the Christmas spirit, were snoozing on the plush, wooden mall benches. Mall housekeeping staff was standing at the ready to swab up any wayward drool.
"Excuse me" was answered with "screw you". Ah; tis the season!
I was done with my shopping and my fake knees were in need of a rest, so I told my wife that I was going to sit at center court, while she continued on. She is one who likes to look at merchandise, obsess over making a poor choice and would then purchase a gift card instead.
Besides; from my vantage point at center court, I could scope out the shoppers decked to the halls in their Christmas sweat pants with matching (?) NFL logo sweatshirt. Some would at least have the decency to accessorize with athletic shoes, while others chose hunting boots.
Yes; it's going to be a Larry the Cable Guy Christmas!
I pulled out my Mp3 player, set it on shuffle, put in my ear buds and cranked up the volume.
My eyes grew heavy from the sights, the sounds and the smells. Ah; the smells! Wait; the old guy sitting next to me just...nevermind.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I looked up, there was a pudgy little guy with silver hair and a beard to match looking at me and smiling.
I pulled an ear bud from my ear and said, 'How you doing?'
He replied, 'If you could have ONE wish for Christmas, what would it be?'
Thinking that there was a hidden camera, I answered, 'Peace on Earth.'
He let out a very robust laugh and said, 'No; this wish is for YOU and you alone. What would you like with but one wish?'
I replied, 'OK; just between you and me, I would like to be six years old and celebrating Christmas with Mom, Dad and my sisters again.'
The pudgy little fellow replied, 'That's an excellent wish. Close your eyes and it shall be!'
I said, 'Look; if you're after my wallet, I don't keep money in it.'
'Ho, ho, ho! No kind sir; I wish to grant you your wish!'
I closed my eyes.
It's 6:00 am on Christmas Day.
I run downstairs to the Christmas tree to see several, neatly wrapped presents around the tree. I looked over at the end table and the milk and cookies left for Santa are GONE!
I quietly ran back upstairs and told Connie and Dixie that Santa had been to our house. Donna, Joyce and Judy heard the commotion and yelled for me to get back in bed.
I did, but under protest. I was such a rebel, despite my young age!
The minutes seemed like hours. I couldn't stand it, knowing that Santa had been to MY house.
I'd jump out of bed, run to the stairway and back to bed, to and fro.
Finally, at 7:00 am, we all went downstairs.
Dad came out and said, 'It sounded like cattle coming down the stairs!'
Mom came out of the bedroom and was somewhat disheveled.
No; she was definitely disheveled!
I said, 'Since we are already up, can we open presents? PLLLLLEEEAAASSSEEE?'
Mom said, 'Well, we might as well, I suppose.'
Since Donna was the oldest, she had the honor of passing out the presents. First, Joyce; then, Judy; then, Dixie; then, Connie and finally, ME. Whew; for a minute there, I thought that I had been denied, because of an errant baseball that went through a neighbor's window during the summer. It wasn't exactly naughty, but it certainly wasn't nice!
The sisters were squealing with delight as they opened their presents. Dolls, clothing, costume jewelry and 45 rpm records abound.
Dad had put on a Christmas record by a guy named Glenn Miller to set the mood.
I opened my first present and it was a winter cap and mittens; not exactly something that I could play WITH…more like something to play IN.
OK; let's try another.
Socks and underwear? What the …
Mom and Dad were looking at each other and smiling. Something was going on.
Dad asked me, 'What's the matter?'
I was too busy pouting to hear him.
He said, 'Here; try this one.'
I opened it and couldn't believe my eyes. It was a big, yellow Tonka dump truck!
'Now, THIS was on my list', I proclaimed.
In my next present was a Ny-Lint flatbed trailer and semi-tractor. Sweet baby Jesus!
My last present was a Ny-Lint crane with a clam bucket that really worked! It wasn't on my list, but I didn't care anymore. I was too busy playing with my new toys to notice. Dad was proudly supervising. He knew something about driving trucks and running a crane. Sometimes, I got to sit on his lap when he ran the crane at the scrapyard, where he worked.
Mom was in the kitchen preparing the big Christmas meal; turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and scalloped corn. There were plates of cookies, divinity and fudge. It was in the Christmas candy that she made where she would put the nuts that we would gather every Fall.
The sweet smell of Christmas treats would overpower the smell from the coal furnace on this day!
After we ate, all of us kids would go outside and try unsuccessfully to build a snowman. Heck; we couldn't even make a SNOWBALL, but we didn't care. We got out the sleds and took turns pulling each other around the neighborhood. I guess the whole idea was to get wet and cold before we went back into the house, but I was SIX and impervious to the cold.
By early evening, I could barely keep my eyes open and would fall asleep on the floor, right next to my new toys.
Dad would pick me up and carry me to my bed. He would tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead without saying a word.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I looked up, I saw my wife with a curious look on her face.
I said, "How you doing?"
She said, "You were snoring."
"I wasn't asleep. I was...ah, nevermind. You wouldn't believe me anyway," I said rather dejectedly.
"No; you were definitely asleep and probably having one of your weird dreams," she insisted.
"Well, if I was dreaming, then it was sublime!" I exclaimed.
Just then, near the Hallmark store, I saw a pudgy little man with silver hair and a beard to match.
As I got near him, I said, "You probably get this all the time, but you look like"-
"Lyle; my name is Lyle. Excuse me, but I have to take this call," he said contritely.
If I had but one wish, I would wish that we could all be six years old just one more time and celebrating Christmas.
Now, when I think back, I believe that Santa used the "layaway" plan, so that families like mine could afford the gifts that we received.
And I think about how, in return, we MADE our gifts for Mom and Dad, who might not otherwise, had gotten any gifts.
I remember the joy on their faces and the love that was shared on Christmas Day and on all the days of the year.
Carry the joy and love every day of your lives.
And Merry Christmas.
Art
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article's author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extreme Makeover; Moline Illinois Edition

After watching the Moline budget talks being covered on local TV, in the local papers and listening on local talk radio, I am convinced that fire departments will NEVER win another battle against manpower cuts, as long as they insist on using the "more people will die" strategy.

And it's not because it isn't true, but it's because it is no longer getting the attention of the majority of their cities' residents. In today's selfish society, people don't care, as long as THEY aren't the ones dying.

It's the ones USING the service that is driving up cost for the rest of us, some will say.

Did you know that there are people in Tennessee who won't pay a lousy 75 bucks a year for fire protection, but will complain to the national news outlets when they don't get FREE service if their domicile catches fire?

It's true.

I thought that the area firefighters, supporters and particularly the firefighter union did a fantastic job of getting the information out. They didn't go overboard with the "more will die" message, but they mentioned it. What struck me was that when many mentioned the additional risk it would put on the firefighters, there was a palpable indifference by some on the city council. It was as if they were sitting there believing that taking such risks was a part of a Moline firefighter's job description and it is...to a point. Cutting manpower and pushing the risk to those who remain is NOT acceptable risk and shame on the Moline city council if this is what they believe.

The city administrator wants the residents to believe that it is about the high cost of firefighter pensions. That's rubbish; something that they are willing to pay more for in regards to its removal.

"Special risk" pension plans were designed for two reasons: firefighters and cops. Benefits were enhanced to balance against a lower wage and it was thought at the time that people who rush into burning buildings and people who are shot at should receive compensation for the risks that they took to provide for the public's safety. To that, I say "AMEN".

The early retirement clauses were inserted, because of the many hazards bombarding public safety employees; both physical and mental.

So; what happened?

Well, from where I sit; the other unions representing non-public safety employees were lobbying the lawmakers in their states to include THEIR union members in the "special risk" plans, causing the pension payments to soar. It comes at a time when we are seeing "special risk" retirees going up and general pensioners' numbers decreasing. Again; this is my observation.

In addition; while the firefighters in my state were dutifully contributing their 9.5 percent into the pension plan, cities were deferring and delaying their share.

I swear; if the city "bosses"-i.e. city councils-ran businesses like they do their cities, they would have been sent packing before they even got their probationary periods served!

The role of government, first and foremost, is to provide for the public's safety. Everything after THAT should be on the table for debate.

As I look at my future retirement in the private sector, I wonder what is a fair retirement for public servants?

Look at Social Security. It has been said that public servants will not get Social Security, but I know of several firefighters who have "side jobs" or "side businesses" and unless it is a strictly cash basis, I would believe that they would be paying into Social Security.

And if they are paying into Social Security, then wouldn't seem likely that they could draw on it at some point? Or maybe, I am wrong.

In my case, when I become eligible for Social Security, it will be approximately at 20 percent of what I now make. But, if they keep raising the eligibility age, I might get ZERO percent, as I might be dead before I ever collect a dime.

My 401K might give me another couple hundred bucks a month, but then, there might be a rule by then, forcing a reduction in my Social Security or it will be taxed down to where I might have enough left to pay for a newspaper subscription.

Public pensions at 85 percent; it that too much and if so, then what IS fair? 80? 70? 50? I really don't know, because I have been raised to get what I can.

We need to keep in mind that the value of a pension in a union contract has been negotiated in a fair collective bargaining process.

Public safety employees did not hold a gun to city government's head nor did they hold communities hostage. They continued to answer the call to every incident in good times and bad.

And yet, in today's climate; firefighters are being blamed for budget shortfalls.

THAT isn't fair!

I don't know what is left to argue. When fire departments have proven their value to the quality of life in their communities; when they have been repeatedly hailed as heroes, you have to wonder why they, along with their communities are being fed this poison pill by city leaders, who find creative ways to waste millions of dollars in order to sacrifice the public's safety and again, I say what is more important than the public's safety?

In a calling that is steeped in grand history and tradition; firefighters will have to look towards non-traditional ways to preserve their jobs and the public's safety in their communities.

It should start NOW!

 The opinions and views expressed are those of the article's author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anatomy of a Firefighter

They are questions that are often asked by both those wishing to be a firefighter and by those trying to understand why someone would be a firefighter: what does it take and why do you do it?
I will often reach back into my past and resurrect some of the mental tools that I used during my time as a firefighter. It is a characteristic that is so ingrained into your being that it is yours’ to be used for the rest of your life. You will react to decision-making in a much different manner to all kinds of emergencies and other critical situations.
One of the most interesting phenomenon-or at least to me-is the actions that are taken by firefighters at that moment when they realize that someone’s life hangs in the balance and the only one who can affect that outcome is the firefighter who is there at that place and time.
In other words: what triggers the response in the firefighter that has them risking their life for another?
I believe that it is not because of pension or pay. I don’t believe that a firefighter wants to be a hero. And it certainly isn’t because firefighters believe that it is a safe, stable profession.
I think that this desire to help others-however dangerous-comes from the most important part of the firefighter’s anatomy…the heart!
It is a healthy heart; full of sense of duty, honor, bravery, compassion and community. Traditional values for Humankind and service to communities, as described in our fire services’ glorious history, flows through a firefighter’s veins and at any moment will give them the superhuman energy against a supernatural foe.
It is a heart that is strong enough to engage the repeated assaults from strenuous and stressful events. And though outcomes may not lift the heart, but instead, weight it down; the heart will react with extraordinary resilience and will beat even stronger in the many men and women who wear their uniform.
When you think of the heart of a firefighter, can you think of any other profession where generation upon generation has that desire to join the ranks of their moms, dads, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and cousins? In many cases, children will go completely out of their comfort zone to NOT follow in their parents’ footsteps, but from the first, toy fire truck or peddle car and fueled by the stories of their parent; the child of a firefighter wants to be nothing else. It does not have to be thrust or forced upon them. It has become their dream. It is reinforced by the many fire toys, books, trips to the fire station and culminating in a junior firefighter program.
For most jobs; the heart only needs to beat. The employee needs only to show up. If their heart isn’t in it, they can call off, quit or get fired. If a firefighter discovers too late that they don’t have the heart for the job/a love for the job; it can have catastrophic results for the firefighter or his crew members.
No; the heart of a firefighter has to be there from the beginning. Everything else can be “developed”.
What about a brain? 
From an anatomical point, a firefighter has to have a brain that is wired to make critical decisions very quickly. The right decisions must be made every time that Life is at risk; be it the life of a victim or the life of the firefighter. Some would argue that this situation presents itself every time the tones drop, but it doesn’t.
Firefighters have the expectation that they are going home at the end of their shift. The many tasks that are taught develop conditioned behavior. As an example, ventilation can be done by opening windows, cutting a hole in a roof and using the assistance of a fan. Once it is decided to use either horizontal or vertical ventilation, then it is simply completing the task as we have been repetitiously trained to do.
I use ventilation as an example of a conditioned behavior. What about instinct? Are their situations where firefighters act instinctively?
Instinct is defined as “a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason”.
So; do we attempt the rescue of trapped victims based upon our conditioned behavior reinforced by our training or is it done instinctively and done in spite of what we have been conditioned to do in that situation?
Then, when all is said and done, firefighters must process the mental trauma that is left by the visual trauma and for some, it can be very stressful.
There have been studies done on the effects of mental stress upon firefighters (http://www.waldenu.edu/Documents/News-and-Events/Milen.pdf), but the simple fact is that we all deal with bad things differently. You cannot take a cookie cutter or template and expect it to resolve mental issues in all cases. Mental stress can be every bit as debilitating as injuries from physical exertion and if firefighters attempt to bury it in the deep recesses of their brain, it can present itself when it is least expected. As firefighters, we must recognize the symptoms (http://www.iaff.org/et/jobaid/eap/reactions_to_traumatic_stress.htm) and seek help. As firefighter leaders, we must be vigilant with our post-incident stress monitoring programs.
A firefighter must have ears that can hear the important lessons to be learned in the classroom. They must hear the tones drop, even when they are asleep. They must be able to hear instructions over the noise of the many engines that may populate a scene. Ears that are covered in a Nomex hood must hear valuable communications that come over their portable radios and in spite of the loudness from the roar of a raging fire or the extrication tools at a vehicle accident scene. Their ears must be so sensitive that they can hear the faint/muffled cries for help from a victim who is barely able to speak. They must also have the ability to hear changing conditions in their current surroundings.
The boots that cover the feet of the firefighter creates the solid base from where they must stand firm. For the many who can’t comprehend the “why” in what we do, they cannot “walk a mile in our boots”. Though fire boots that cover the feet of firefighters do not come with a set of brakes, they must hold fast when opposing pressure from a water stream wants to push them back. They are boots that must feel when a floor is weakened by fire. They are boots that must be sure-footed when climbing a ladder or walking along a narrow pathway.  They are boots that are heavily constructed but become much lighter when there is a call for help. They are boots that march in unison and stand at attention for the fallen.
Firefighter must have hands that are strong, nimble and flexible. They must be able to don their life-saving air supply, tie ropes, hook carabiners, wield heavy iron tools, direct a water stream from a hose with the accuracy of a sharpshooter, use cutters or spreaders with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, grab their buddy who is about to fall, search a room completely darkened by smoke to FEEL for the victims who cannot cry out for help and then carry them to safety; ALL done with their protective gloves on.
Firefighters must have eyes with clear vision. They must be able to see what they are doing and to see the effects of their actions. They have to have eyes that can read: read the books, look at the videos but to SEE what is in them, read the building, read the smoke, look for changing conditions, see through the smoke to look for victims and avoid the blinding effects of complacency. It is the eyes that see the destruction, despair, pain, sorrow and the lasting effects upon victims and firefighters alike, but they also see the hope, joy, gratitude and support. They are eyes that will guide the firefighter through their career.
I realize that I have approached the anatomy of the firefighter from a layman’s view, but to be honest; I have read many studies on the psychological search for why firefighters are wired differently. They are very clinical, overly annotated and difficult to follow. Many are opinions and theories not unlike my own.
The two links that I provided are both excellent. Please read them and then share your thoughts.
Here ends the lesson.
TCSS.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

ChiefReason for Dummies

Over the years, I have had others try to tell me how to blog and what to blog. 

What they fail to understand is that just like anyone who writes, you develop a style that becomes distinctive and that differentiates you from others who engage in that type of writing, because let's face it; blogging is writing.
With that said, it has also been suggested to me on occasion that I shouldn't blog about politics at a fire service website, because it isn't about fire service issues.

Really? The fire service in our country has no ties to politics? That is absurd.

First of all, I blog on a wide range of subjects/issues.
When a fire service issue strikes me, I will blog about it, as I have. The funny thing is that there are several bloggers who blog at the many fire blog sites about fire service issues-many on the SAME issues. How many ways can you say the same thing and make it interesting?

I know a few can bring different perspectives to the same issue, but in the end, they pretty much beat a dead horse, don't they?
Now more than ever, politics is having negative impacts on many of us.

And if politics isn't impacting the fire service, then why do we have so many lobbyists lobbying for fire service legislation and why is so much money being donated to political candidates by fire service organizations, including unions?
I know why many shy away from political discussions.

It's because of emotion and sometimes, raw emotion.
You see; it's hard to convince someone to change their political views and even harder to get someone to change their political party.

When we decide that we like and support certain politicians from the various political parties, we want to believe that we have made an intelligent decision and when someone else challenges us on our choices, we believe that our intelligence is being questioned. So; we get emotional and take it as a personal attack.
When the dust has settled, a discussion has degenerated into an argument and the argument degenerates further into a verbal brawl.

That makes it very unpleasant for someone willing to state their political position.
I GET IT!

But, if we don't state our views, then we have become sheep, willing to place our fates into the hands of people bought and paid for by OUR tax dollars and I'm sorry, but that's not how I want to live.
The fact is that government and the politicians who populates it have become the problem.

Why?
Because the fire service thought that they would always come first; that they would be taken care of by our government and the politicians.

Take a look at how many firefighters have entered the political arena just in the past ten years and it should answer your questions about why I, for one, blog about politics. Firefighters are getting more involved in the political process to protect what we still have; to preserve the programs that we have fought so hard to get and to further define that linkage between our core missions and our governments; local, state and federal.

Is that the current climate that the fire service enjoys? I don't think so and here's why:
WE let it happen. America let it happen.

We were so naive to believe that our elected officials would make their decisions in our best interests. We became so jaded and detached from the process that we ALLOWED the politicians to work the system to their best advantage, putting us all at an extreme disadvantage.

The politicians have devised a process that is so convoluted and so complex that many of us no longer see a government that is working for the people. We see elitists who are telling us that we don't understand how government works, which is exactly how they devised it.
If you ever took a civics class, you know how government should work; at least in theory.

America has sat by for too long and allowed political parties to write rules that marginalize the other side. Representative government has become government by the party in power.
Any hope that we have of fixing the mounting problems in this country are lost in the rules that have stacked the deck against compromise. Too much time and energy has been spent on parties beating the other into submission and because of that, we have a government sitting idle in gridlock. We have representatives scared to do the right thing, because their re-election is at stake and in order to get their golden parachute when they leave office, they will go with the Washington establishment. They can go back to their constituents and make a litany of excuses that will convince their voters that they are working hard for them in Washington!

I am a registered Republican and I will not apologize for it.
However; I am prepared to vote out those who were obstructionists at a time when we needed solutions for our debt crisis and high unemployment. Even though I understand the parties' political platform, I also believe that opposing political parties can reach agreement without violating a party's base.

And to take this article full circle...
If you believe that blogging about politics doesn't belong at a fire service website; I have two words for you.

Baa-baa.
TCSS.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Punted; Super Committee Fumbles!

I punted for our high school football team.
Punting was a very strategic part of our offense.
Back then; you know, in the "leather helmet" days, there were no fair catches. You either took the chance of catching the ball or letting it hit the ground and bounce until it was downed by the punting team.
My punts might average 35-40 yards-not very long-but they were extremely high.
The coach at the time taught me a soccer-style of punting that allowed me to kick very high, tight spirals.
The idea was that, when the punt returner saw many of my teammates surrounding him, just begging for him to catch it, he would let it bounce and since the ball would hit flat on the ground, it would bounce and then roll a long ways; pinning the opponent deep in their own territory.
It was really a thing of beauty.
Which is why you CANNOT compare what the Super Committee did today as "punting".
Lately, we seem to find ourselves searching for cute, little analogies for failure-utter and complete failure.
Failure is not punting.
Failure is not getting the punt off at all.
And the truth is that punting  is more complex than what we are seeing out of our government.
So; I am tired of that analogy.
How much practice and hard work would you guess that it took me to punt the football accurately?
I worked the entire summer before my senior year to completely change my punting style-so much so that I beat out the guy who had punted the three, previous football seasons.
THAT is the sweet science of learning the skill, improving it and then executing it at game time.
If you want to compare this current crop of legislative losers who are supposed to be "leading" our country to my football team of 1969, then there is no comparison.
My team is in our high school's hall of fame and Obama & Company are walking the halls of shame!
At a time when we need hall of fame efforts out of our government, we find ourselves with a group that couldn't even carry the water for this country.
And I apologize to all of the hard-working trainers and assistants for that remark. I have tons more respect for them than I do for our Congress at the moment.
It's time to clean house and put a new team on the field.
At least if they punt, it will actually have an impact on the outcome of the game.
For the record; what we are witnessing in this country is not some game or sporting event.
Our elected officials need to stop reaching into their bags of cliches, stop making excuses, suck it up and GOVERN.
You know; give us something to cheer about.
Sorry; they have me doing it, too.
But, the clock is running down and there are no more time outs.
Crap; I did it again.
You get my meaning, though.
TCSS.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ohio; Community Organizing-Platinum Edition

I find it hard to believe that no one in the fire blogosphere picked up this post-election story and especially since Ohio Governor John Kasich’s very political existence may have hinged upon its defeat.

But, $30 million union dollars later, “Issue 2”; otherwise known as SB 5 was repealed by the voters of Ohio and Governor Kasich was left wondering “why”.

From my perspective, it was the classic political cage match.

The union brought its street fighting style and the conservatives who thought that they were going to hold collective bargaining to the days before John L. Lewis came to the fight believing that there would be “rules”. Consequently, it was no contest.

This story in Ohio had dominated the news media from sea to shining sea since early April with so much media muscle that you had to wonder what Kasich had up his sleeve to beat back this well-organized union effort. If he had a plan, he wasn’t telling anyone.

And now, it has many circles believing that this was the litmus test for Obama’s re-election, even though on the same day that Ohio was voting to protect collective bargaining, they were voting down ObamaCare AND most of the tax increases for many of the school districts in Ohio. Huh?

Both sides claimed victories. However; I think both sides were too full of themselves to see the unintended consequences of Election Night’s results and here’s why:

First; the union thinks that this victory is the end all for any effort to limit their right to represent their members in the public sector, when all that it has done is given the state an opportunity to write another bill that will be more palatable for Ohio voters to chew on. And in the meantime, watch how many jobs are slashed in order to balance the state budget.

In fact; when I saw the results of the vote, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh-oh; now there will be big layoffs”. A blogger in Ohio seems to agree. See the link:

http://thirdbasepolitics.blogspot.com/2011/11/issue-2-defeated.html

I have to wonder if Governor Kasich thought anyone in Ohio with a computer would visit the website that answered the many questions surrounding SB 5. I went to the site and took a tour and I must say that it was very thorough, but with trust in government at an all-time low, how many were going to believe those answers. Check out the SB 5 FAQ here:

http://www.aproundtable.org/pdfs/faqonOH_SB5.pdf

Does Ohio have a balanced budget law?

From what I understand, they don’t have a balanced budget requirement per se, but if you look at their state constitution, it would indicate that the legislators cannot spend more money than they take in during a fiscal year. According to the state website, there are provisions that speak to the balanced budget issue. I quote the following from the state guidebook:

Balanced Budget Requirements
Although no one statute or section of the Ohio
Constitution explicitly states that Ohio must keep its
budget in balance, there are several provisions that,
when construed together, make such a requirement
clear. The directives in Revised Code sections
126.05 and 126.07 along with Article II, Section
22, Article VIII, Sections 1 through 3, and Article
XII, Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution ensure that
Ohio keeps its budget balanced by:
• limiting the state’s ability to incur debt;
• requiring the General Assembly to provide
for raising revenue sufficient to defray state
expenses each year;
• permitting money in the state treasury to be
spent only pursuant to an appropriation made
by law;
• limiting the duration of appropriations to two
years;
• requiring the Governor to curtail spending in
the event of insufficient revenue.
If appropriations bills that set forth a balanced
budget cannot be enacted and approved by the
Governor in time to become effective on or shortly
after July 1 of the new fiscal biennium, an “interim”
appropriations bill is necessary to provide for
continued funding on an emergency basis. Usually,
“interim” appropriations bills provide funding for a
month, but on occasion they have been enacted for
shorter or longer periods.


The entire guidebook can be viewed here: 

http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/guidebook/chapter8.pdf

I have also included Ohio state employee pension definitions here: 

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/145.01

Now; because I am a full service blogger, I have crunched some numbers for you. I have used the state of South Carolina as a comparison to Ohio, because, quite frankly, South Carolina is a right-to-work state and unions often cite right-to-work states as “problematic”. I am in no way endorsing one over the other; at least, not this time!

It was widely reported that the unions poured $30 million into their efforts to beat back SB 5. Given that there are 358,276 state union employees in Ohio, that figures out to $83,735 per employee that was spent to preserve their collective bargaining rights. That’s breath-taking!

State employees in Ohio who are considered full time employees earn $40,603 on the average and part-time employees average $9861 per year and that is NET pay; not gross pay. South Carolina full time employees, on the average, earn $34,203 per year and part-time employees earn $9925 per year. In both states, it was noted that over 54 percent of the public employees were in education.

With regards to pensions and benefits, Ohio state employees contributes 10 percent pre-tax per pay period to their pension and the state kicks in 14 percent for the state employees. They also get 10 paid holidays and can choose from five medical plans for medical care. Cost is $26.74 - $30.50 per month for individuals and $78.91 - $89.25 per month for families. The state pays the remainder of the premium in all cases. Dental coverage is free to the employee and dependents. The state pays the full cost of the dental coverage. Vision care is also free. Life insurance is equal to a year’s salary. That is; if the employee earns $40,000 a year, then their life insurance policy is worth $40,000.

In South Carolina, state employees contribute 6.5 percent into their retirement fund and the state kicks in 9.24 percent. They have the choice of putting it into a 401K plan or the South Carolina Deferred plan. They get 12 paid holidays and can choose from 3 medical plans for medical care. Each plan costs the state $260 per individual. Employees pay $93.46 per month for the standard plan or $185.56 verses $251 per month to either of two HMO plans. However; premiums are due to go up. Dental coverage is free and the state pays $11.71 per employee per month in premiums. Vision care is $7.76 per month for employees choosing to take it. Life insurance is $3000 if the employee is under age 70 and $1500 for those over age 70. Employees also qualify for annual and sick leave that they can accrue up to 180 days, if they have been employed for at least one year.

And speaking of “sick” leave; I offer you this: sick time “cash outs”. A small piece taken from the article states: In Ohio, 2,164 state retirees eligible to cash out sick time at a 55 percent rate received an average of $5,646 in the 2011 fiscal year. More than 4,300 departing Florida employees who retired or otherwise left state service last fiscal year averaged about $3,000 in sick-time payments. At least five received 10 times that.
 

Read the entire article here:  
http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=569521

On an annual basis, state legislators in Ohio earn approximately $19,600 in gross retirement benefits-about the same as a teacher or police officer. In South Carolina, state legislator earn $10,400 in gross retirement benefits annually.

So that you can see the data that I have quoted for yourselves, I have included the links:

Ohio state employees’ salaries listed:
http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Ohio_state_government_salary

South Carolina state employees’ salaries listed:
http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/South_Carolina_state_government_salary

Also, at the same time that population has grown less than 2 percent in Ohio, it has risen in South Carolina by 15 percent in the past ten years. I’m just sayin’…

AND to be fair; since Illinois leads the nation in unfunded pension obligations of at least $85 billion, we are seeing more news outlets pressing our state government to do something. However; in most of the country where the entitlement programs are the “third rail”, hot button issues; here in Illinois, it’s messing with the unions or Mike Madigan that could be your political hemlock.

See opinion piece here: 

http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=569546

So; was the defeat of SB 5 in Ohio the result of a very unpopular Governor John Kasich as Brent Larkin of Cleveland.com would suggest in his article?

Or is this just another example of how powerful the Obama community organizing efforts can be, because, let’s face it; the Obama Administration was backing the union’s efforts to defeat SB 5?

And with that said, then why was Obama willing to lose on healthcare in Ohio?

With this victory, will we see the many fire departments like Chillicothe, Columbus and Cleveland that have already been cut restored or will we see more departments being downsized as the various governments struggle with a constituency who wants the services with no increase in taxes?

As an example; voters were upset that public employees get healthcare for little or nothing, but yet; THEY VOTED DOWN OBAMACARE!

Voters can definitely be fickle!

Stay tuned. Ohio was only the beginning and not the end.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Private Sacrifice

In honor of and with deep appreciation, this goes out to our veterans.

The envelope measured four inches wide by six inches long. It has held up rather well. It almost has a waxy feel to it. I am sure that it was white at one time, but is now a dark beige color.


In the top, left corner scribbled in pencil is: “after 5 days return to Pvt. W. H. Goodrich, Fort Leavenworth Kans.” At the top, middle of the envelope is a postmark that says: “Fort Leavenworth Kans., 9 am, Aug 31, 1942.

In the top, right corner of the envelope are the postage cancellation lines and the word “free”.
The envelope is addressed: “Mrs. Walter H. Goodrich, Truro, Iowa”.

Inside the envelope is one page of what appears to be paper torn from a pad of school note paper. It measures five and one-half inches wide by nine inches long. Written in pencil is the following:

Fort Leavenworth Kans., Sunday
Dearest Lela

Just a few lines to let you know I got down here OK.

Got in last nite about 9:30 and got up at 4:30 this morning. Sure was a change for me.

Well how do you feel by now. I hope you are fine. I sure hated to go to bed last nite all by myself.
I was talking to Carl P. today he said the folks was up at Winterset last nite did you go along if you did, did you have a good time?

Well sweetheart I guess I’ll ring off for now And please take care of yourself and don’t worry about nothing tell all the folks I said Hello.
Don’t write till you hear from me again because I probably won’t be here long enough to get any mail.

Over


Well honey I guess I’ll close this time. And until I see you I’ll be thinking of you all the time. I’ll write later.

Oceans & Oceans of love,

Your Husband Gotch


My dad passed away in 1992, having served in both theaters of World War II. Yes; his nickname was “Gotch”. Dad enlisted in the Army and was inducted on August 15, 1942. He was assigned to Battery E, 71st Coast Artillery (AA) as a private first class initially, but ended his service with the 1474th Engineer Maintenance Company as a Tech 3. He first served overseas in Germany and then went on to the Philippines. He was discharged on January 18, 1946. He was awarded a service stripe, Overseas Service Bar, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with Bronze Battle Star, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Like many other soldiers, he said good-bye to his pregnant wife, his parents, his brothers and sisters and left to serve his country. I have his GI-issued Bible, a small, olive drab version that zips up. It is my most cherished possession of Dad’s. Inside is a uniform patch (Tech Staff Sergeant) and a picture of him on an anti-aircraft gun in Washington, DC; his gig before he left for Europe (Germany) in 1944.

By then, Mom and Dad had fathered a son, Roger Allen in 1941, but who died just six weeks later; my sister Donna, who was born in 1942 and just 2 months after Dad joined the Army. Mom gave birth to another son, Walter, Jr. on December 11, 1943, while Dad was stationed in Washington DC. Junior was born with a defective heart and would die in February, 1944. Dad could not get home, because he had shipped out for Germany. I have the exchange of telegrams and it is heart wrenching to read of Dad’s futility and frustration of not being there for his family. I also think about the irony of the many parents who were being notified that their sons had died in the war, but Dad received word that his son had died while he was going off to war; his private sacrifice, if you will.

And there has always been the emptiness in me of never knowing my two, older brothers.
My mother passed away in 1999. While we were clearing out her apartment, I found a small suitcase to the back of her closet and inside the suitcase were letters and cards that they exchanged while they were apart. Also in that suitcase were never-before-seen pictures of my two, deceased brothers.

This letter that I share with you is to show you what gave our soldiers their strength. Letters were the only mode of communication for the three years that Dad served in the war. He got one leave before he left for Germany, so he got to see my sister, Donna and father Walter, Jr. He would not see Donna again until he was discharged. He only saw pictures of Walter, Jr. I should note that both Roger and Walter, Jr. are buried at Babyland in the Osceola, Iowa cemetery.

No phone; no Internet; just letters written in pencil on tablet paper.

When we discuss the importance of writing; ultimately, the discussion will turn to those who don’t feel that writing skills are important. But, I can tell you that writing letters that clearly communicated feelings exchanged between husband and wife; mothers and fathers to her sons and daughters; and boyfriends to their girlfriends gave those serving in the war the will to accomplish their mission.

And THAT is powerful!
Dad had beautiful penmanship and his passion and love that he conveyed in his letters were with crystal clarity. I hope that Dad’s letter to Mom has given you all warm hearts and good thoughts on this day.

I miss you both, but Dad; I am so very proud of you and thankful to those who have served our great country.


Art

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lit Fires; Light Sentences

Want to kill off an evening or two in front of your computer?
Google “firefighter arson”.
Then, kick back and prepare to get angry!
From the lame and pathetic excuses offered up by the accused to the light sentences handed down to the guilty; it’s enough to get this old boy’s blood boiling.
Over the years, I have written a few blogs about this fire service issue and one thing remains true…
It is still a big problem for the nation’s fire service.
Why?
I think that part of the problem is that sentences for those firefighters convicted of arson are not strong enough to act as a deterrent for the next idiots  who masquerade as firefighters while setting fires.
Look at the most recent band of firefighter arsonists: http://www.cbs3springfield.com/story/15593975/former-firefighters-sentenced-to-3-years-behind-bars.
Two-the “ringleaders”-were sentenced to THREE years in prison for a “string” of arsons. “String” means that prosecutors weren’t exactly sure how many fires were set.
Two others were sentenced to three years PROBATION. A fifth firefighter will be sentenced next month (November). I am guessing that he will also receive probation.
And I sit here shaking my head!
Is it because these public safety predators are connected to the privileged class of their communities? Is their daddy or other relatives on the fire department or are past members? Or maybe they have a relative on the city council or fire board? It’s worth researching and discussing.
Is it because they are often “young adults”? Often times, the court system goes lenient because they don’t want to see this “one mistake” blight their record for the rest of their lives? You have seen it in the court testimony: This is a mistake made by otherwise ‘good kids’! Yeah; right. It’s as if they are comparing arson to tee-peeing someone’s house.
But, it seems that someone has to die in the fire or in close approximate time to the fire to see any significant sentences handed down.
Does anyone remember the case of Caleb Lacey?
He set a fire just down from where he lived so that he could be the first there and makes heroic rescues. He confessed to his crime, but claimed he was innocent. He received 25 years to life. Here’s the link:  http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-04-09/news/27061282_1_volunteer-firefighter-arson-case-young-sons.
What if someone had not died in the fire that he was convicted of setting? For the record; FOUR died in this fire.
Had there only been property damage and no fatalities, would his have been another case with an anemic sentence of less than 5 years in prison or worse; probation?
Based upon many of the cases that I have reviewed, I would have to say “yes”.
The problem might also lay with the legal definition of “arson”.
The legal definition from USlegal.com is: Intentional wrongful setting of fires and possession of explosives is governed by state criminal laws, which vary by state. Federal laws also govern possession of explosives, such as on an airplane. Arson is committed when a person intentionally damages a building by starting or maintaining a fire or causing an explosion. The arsonist's knowledge or suspicion that a person may occupy the building when it is on fire will heighten the seriousness of the charge. Arson may be committed by an act of recklessness which results in a fire.
In some states, if the building is not inhabited or is determined to be uninhabitable, then a charge of arson may not apply. That is left to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). I would guess that some type of criminal mischief charge may be filed. Again; it could depend on WHO is being charged.
Here in Illinois, if a public safety employee is injured as the result of a deliberately set fire (arson), aggravating circumstances exist for additional sentencing guidelines.
So, it is clear that it may be unclear when you have a fire that has been set that it may or may not be arson and even if it was determined to be arson, mitigating issues might result in light sentences upon conviction.
With that said, I have to ask about the betrayal of the public’s trust when a firefighter sets a fire. Shouldn’t there be an automatic prison term for this betrayal, regardless of whether it is defined as “arson”?
In my opinion, betraying the public trust should bring a minimum prison sentence of at least five years. No; I’m not saying that we are better than the public. I am saying that we are different from the public that we have sworn to serve.
But, from what I have seen, few judges have addressed the betrayal of public trust when they sentence firefighters for setting fires.
In my mind, betraying public trust in the commission of this type of crime is very disturbing and very serious, because every firefighter everywhere is forced to fight this stigma that is put on public display the minute a firefighter is arrested for setting fires. Innocent until proven guilty is dead on arrival as soon as the headline appears.
It has been the subject of investigative news shows such as Dateline. Documentaries have been done on the more prolific firefighter arsonists.
Way back in the 1980s, a firefighter setting fires was a subplot in a little movie titled “Backdraft”. Axe, played by Scott Glenn, was setting fires, because the mayor was making cutbacks. Bull, played by Kirk Russell, found out about it and you know the rest. Have a tissue ready at the end if you watch it. Yeah; I still choke up when I watch it.
Firefighter arson has been referred to as the fire service’s “dirty little secret” for too many years, but the secret is out. It is front page news and lead stories for the entire world to see.
Even today, many firefighters STILL struggle to engage in the discussion of it.
And I know that there are fire departments who still believe that they can handle this “problem” internally.
Simply put; they kick out their problem and kick it down the road to another unsuspecting fire department, where the mutt can resume his fire-setting ways. In the process, I think it opens the door to charges of complicity or conspiracy on the part of the fire department.
To make my position on firefighter arson crystal clear; a firefighter charged and convicted of arson should receive a sentence of no less than 10 years for the crime of arson, 5 years for betraying the public’s trust and NO probation, unless it comes after the prison sentence has been served.
And while we are at it, make firefighter arson a federal offense. That will throw off any hometown feel for the favorite “home boys”.
A bit irrational, you say?
Not a chance.
I have been looking at this fire service scourge for over 20 years. We need to put down the books by Dr. Spock and pick up B.F. Skinner.
As I was writing this, the NVFC released a new report on firefighter arson. It is in a downloadable PDF and can be found here http://www.nvfc.org/media/news/nvfc-releases-report-on-firefighter-arson/, but let me warn you; if you read the report, then you might be admitting that the fire service does indeed have a firefighter arson problem (over 100 cases a YEAR, folks and that’s just the ones we know of).
Let me hear your thoughts.
TCSS.
The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ChiefReason’s 2011 Halloween Spooktickle

Author’s Note: The kid in me comes out twice a year; Christmas and Halloween. I hope that I have managed to entertain you with this tale. Please enjoy the loose ends and see how many obscure references you can find as you read on.

It’s the morning of Halloween in Mockingbird Heights.

Mockingbird Heights is a sleepy little hollow that is nestled in between Haddonfield and Savoy. It has been said often that you can get there from anywhere.

With a population of 7,000 inhabitants, Mockingbird Heights has big city appeal, but with a small town’s charm.

Mayor Arnie Cunningham devotes a lot of time to his mayoral duties, but it is an elected part-time position. His “real job” is as a supervisor for a railroad maintenance crew.

It is a community that is made up of working moms and dads who have a couple of kids looking forward to going off to college upon graduation from Bates High School.

There are very few houses for sale, properties are well kept and serious crime is non-existent.

The motels in town see a steady business year-round, because Lake Crystal is nearby, where you can boat, fish, hunt, hike and ski.

Lee Brackett leads a police department of six full-time and four part-time officers.

Rick Grimes is the chief of the combination fire department, where firefighters also serve as EMTs for medical first response. The county hospital provides the ambulance service and has strategically placed paramedic ambulances throughout the county.

For the kids in town, there are playgrounds at two, city parks, baseball fields, a soccer facility, bike path and a skate park.

So, it is a city that is doing what it can to keep its residents and to attract new ones.

Chief Grimes was enjoying his Saturday, working the leaves in his yard towards his garden patch, when he got a call on his cell phone.

“Rick; it’s Lou. We have a situation here at the station”, said Lou.

“What you got?” asked Rick.

“It’s Gomez. He didn’t wake up”, said Lou.

“I’m not following you, Lou”, said Rick.

“Adam was unresponsive. He must have died in his sleep”, said Lou.

“He was in great shape. He just had his physical. He was good to go”, said Rick.

“I can’t explain it, but you need to come down”, said Lou.

“I’m on my way”, said Rick, as he put his phone away.

Chief Grimes was driving to the station and was trying to make sense of the situation. His firefighters were all in good shape; benefitting from the weight/exercise room at the fire station. Even the older guys were doing cardio, but Gomez was a stud. He was benching 350 and he could ride the stationary bike for an hour and barely break sweat! He was only 25 years old and just one year ago; he and Billy Nolan were recognized for their efforts to save a homeless person from a burning, abandoned farmhouse.

IT MADE NO SENSE!

Chief Grimes got to the station and the paramedics and coroner were already there. They recorded the death of Adam Gomez at 7:40 am.

“Any thoughts, Bob?” asked Rick.

Robert “English Bob” England had been coroner for many years and had pretty good instincts, but this death even baffled him.

“Hmm; an otherwise healthy, young male who appears to have died in his sleep? Doesn’t happen every day, for sure”, said Bob.

“I’m going to take him to the medical examiner and once the ME has done the autopsy, we’ll take him to the Goodbury and Graves Funeral Home”, said Bob.

Lou asked, “What about the Halloween Parade? Do we still want to lead things with the engine?”

“Yeah; we need to go about our business until we get some answers from the ME”, said Rick.

Jason was your typical teenager. He was a senior at Bates High School. He had a part-time job after school at Brooks and Boyle Hardware Store, but he had worked the past two summers as a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake. He had saved enough money to buy a good, used car. His dad was a certified auto mechanic, so there was no question that Jason was getting a “cherry”.

Like most Saturdays, Jason would drive over to Haddonfield, do a little shopping and eat a burger. Today, he would take Munster Road as always and pick up his costume for the Halloween party at Chucky’s.

He was listening to some Rob Zombie when his cell phone rang.

As he reached over into the seat to get his phone, he ever-so-briefly took his eyes off of the road and when he looked up, he swerved, leaving the road and striking a tree head on. Everything went black, as a hideous laugh could be heard coming from his phone.

The tones dropped at the fire station for a 10-50 PI on Munster Road.

Billy Nolan got into his gear, had his helmet in his left hand and jumped to the step on the officer’s side of the engine, as he had done countless times.

But this time, his right foot slipped, he lost his grip on the grab handle, struck his forehead violently on the step and then, he fell back and struck the back of his head on the concrete floor. Billy would not regain consciousness.

Jason was extricated and transported to Thorndike Memorial Hospital in critical condition.

Chief Grimes is having a major meltdown!

In less than 24 hours, he has lost two of his best firefighters and answers were elusive.

He was at the hospital with many of his firefighters, holding vigil over Billy, but the conversations in the hall flew between Billy Nolan, then Adam Gomez.

“How/why; how/why” was on everyone’s tongues; all questions and no answers.

Police chief Brackett was there with the county investigator, Jack Cassidy, taking statements and trying to link something/anything to this strange chain of events.

Then, Jason was brought in and immediately taken into surgery. Jason was being combative and yelling; symptomatic of a head injury.

Lewis “Lou” King thought that he heard Jason say, “I set THAT fire!”

Lou went to Chief Grimes and asked him, “Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” asked Rick.

“What that kid said as the medics wheeled him by”, said Lou.

“Naw; too much stuff going on”, said Rick.

“I think he said, ‘I set that fire’, said Lou.

Lou and Rick looked at each other, but said not a word. Their trance was broken by Wolfie, the station dog, who was standing near an exit door and barking like crazy, but no one was there or at least one that could be SEEN.

“Rick? Rick! Do you think he was talking about that fire last Halloween at the old Otteson farm?” asked Lou.

“Well, it IS the only fire in the last couple of years…” as Rick’s voice trails off. “I’m going to the station and pull the reports.”

On October 31, 2010 at 8:15 pm, a fire was reported in the vacant house at the old Otteson farm.

As crews arrived, the house was well involved and screams with the force and fury of a train whistle could be heard coming from inside of the upstairs of the house.

With no time to lose, Adam Gomez and Billy Nolan, without benefit of a charged hose line and in full turnout, including SCBAs, entered the back door, crawled through the laundry room, kitchen, living room and to the stairway that led to the upstairs.

As they reached the top of the stairs, they could see a person laying in the fetal position on a bedroom floor.

Just as they were starting to crawl down the hallway, they heard the engine’s air horn sounding the evacuation signal. Nolan had to forcibly pull Gomez back. As he did, a badly burned head looked up and straight at them, opened its mouth and took one last breath.

As Gomez and Nolan got to the stair’s landing, they broke the window, rolled out onto a porch roof and then jumped/fell to the ground; their turnout gear and face pieces completely destroyed by the heat.

The fire was determined to be accidental in nature, caused by a transient named Edward Gein. Several liquor bottles were found in the burned out rubble, it was cold and it is believed that Gein passed out after starting a fire to keep warm.

At least; it made sense at the time.

Gomez and Nolan were both awarded medals of valor by the governor for their efforts to save the victim.

And now?

Gomez was dead, Nolan was comatose, barely clinging to life and a kid who may not survive his injuries may be admitting to setting a fire that killed a homeless person.

Was the present series of events just bad luck, coincidence or maybe, just maybe; revenge from the angry spirit of Edward Gein?

Did Adam Gomez receive a “visit” while he slept? Did something so horrific scare him into a medical emergency?

Why did Jason swerve suddenly, as if there was something in the road that he was about to hit with his car? Who called him and why were they laughing into the phone?

Did Billy Nolan “slip” while getting into the engine or was he tripped?

Why was Wolfie barking at the hospital’s exit door? Was it the wind or was it something that goes bump in the night?

Will others die in a mysterious and unexplainable manner?

It would seem that only Edward Gein would know the answers.

Say “hi”. That just might be him in the picture that was taken at the Otteson farmhouse. Really!



Happy Halloween!

TCSS.

Disclaimer: It’s all fiction and a product of my imagination. Any similarities to persons, places or ghosts are purely coincidental. This is not a teachable moment; it is escapism and entertainment. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Oh and it’s copyrighted under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella.