by Tom Loach
It’s been written that the fire service is 100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress and in some ways this is true. Putting out a fire still boils down to putting the wet stuff on the red stuff and when the fire is out everything is better. But if you’ve read any of my articles, you know the truth is many things have changed for the better and not too long ago I enjoyed, at least for a short time, the benefits of this new fire technology.
It was one of those really miserable days we get so often here in the summer with high humidity and high temperatures. I was sitting in the firehouse, having just come from work, when a call for a brush fire on I-64 came in. As a small point of interest, you wouldn’t believe how many pairs of pants and shirts I’ve ruined by being in the wrong clothes at the wrong time. Normally, when we go to brush fires we don’t wear our regular turn-out gear, which is much too bulky and hot. If there was any chance to save my work clothes from destruction, wearing my turn-out gear was my only hope. So I slipped into my boots, pulled up my suspenders, grabbed my coat and helmet and off we went in our new brush truck.
Driving down the Interstate, we came upon a small stretch of grass on fire directly adjacent to the right-hand lane. Dick Martin, who was at the wheel, gave out a slight laugh and said, “Boys, sit tight. We’re going to fight this fire from the comfort of the truck.” He proceeded to flip a couple of switches on the control panel and the automated nozzle on the front of the brush truck came to life. Pulling into the right lane, Dick aimed the nozzle at the side of the road and let it rip, sending a stream of water right on the fire. Normally, fighting a brush fire is like fighting any other fire; that is to say a dirty, sweaty, labor-intense job. But here we were sitting in the air-conditioned cab of the brush truck, watching Dick play with the joystick that controls the movement of the nozzle, methodically putting the fire out. Now here’s technology you can really appreciate. It was so easily done that you might almost feel guilty about it—NOT!
As we sat there watching the last of the fire go out and laughing about how easy it was to knock down, another call came through reporting a truck fire just three miles down the road. Apparently the brush fire we just put out was the result of pieces of the truck that was on fire falling off and setting the grass on fire. Engine 6 from Charlottesville had been dispatched to handle the call, but being so close we responded as well, knowing that our tanker truck, which had also been dispatched to the brush fire, was right behind us.
We arrived at the scene just after Engine 6 to find the cab of a tractor trailer fully engulfed in flames. Well, so much for not getting hot and sweaty. On the other side of the coin, I was already in my turn-out gear, which was perfect for the situation I now found myself in. Engine 6’s crew pulled one line and our crew pulled a second backup line and started putting the wet stuff on the red stuff. While the fire was confined to the cab of the truck, it proved to be a rather stubborn fire to put out and we used not only all the water that was on Engine 6, but a good amount of water from the tanker as well. Once the fire was out, we helped the crew from Engine 6 pack up their hose and then took off for home.
Before I sign off, there is one final note I’d like to leave you with. The donations we receive from the community allow us to add this type of new technology to our trucks and I can tell you those of us who use this equipment are very grateful to those of you who contribute for making our lives not only easier, but safer as well. Next time you see the little red brush truck traveling down the road, look out for the nozzle on the front of the truck and remember just how well it works.
Another great read! Thanks so much, Tom. I receive things like this that have been forwarded to me via email almost daily, and I never took the time to read them. This time I did read them, and it was so worth it. I’m not even from this area, but I know many people from the fire departments where I live in NY. It’s such a small world because many have been reading your articles, enjoying them and passing them on…:-)
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