When Red Goes Green

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By Tom Loach

cvfd-helmetWhen the call comes in for a brush fire, it’s up to one or both of our brush trucks to respond. The brush trucks are small compared to the engines we use to fight structure fires, which allows them to get to places the engines could never go. They carry 250 gallons of water and a variety of hand and power tools used to establish fire lines to cut off the spread of the fire. As you can imagine, in an area as rural as Albemarle these little workhorses get a lot of use. So it hardly came as a surprise when I found out the department was going to retire Brush 53 and look for a replacement.

I must say I have a soft spot for Brush 53. It was the first truck I rode in to a fire call as a Crozet firefighter. But, like me, Brush 53 had seen better years and was literally sagging in the middle from the weight of the water and equipment it hauled around.

Getting a new truck is an involved process, requiring coordination with the County, since the County will be picking up the tab for the truck, to ensure the truck meets all of their specifications.  A committee was set up and not too much later I heard a new brush truck was on order and would be delivered in several months’ time. I was at the fire house the day the new truck arrived and couldn’t wait to see what design the committee had come up with and how it would compare with the newer Brush 55. As the new brush truck pulled around the back of the fire house my jaw dropped, because the truck consisted of nothing more than a cab sitting on a frame with 4 wheels.  When firefighter Glen Fink stepped out of the truck, I told him I knew the budget was tight, but wasn’t something missing? He told me the plan was to reuse much of the equipment currently on Brush 53 on the new truck. In the next few days a new bed was added to the truck, the pump and tank from Brush 53 were moved to the new truck, and new boxes were built and installed to hold the tools.

As we all know, “going green” is in these days, but we weren’t done with the process of reduce, reuse and recycle. Good old Brush 53 will be transformed to become a utility truck to transport firefighters and equipment to wherever they’re needed. The Crozet Volunteer Fire Department is making every effort to use the taxpayers’ money wisely, while providing the protection the community deserves.

Where there’s light there’s hope

Here’s another update on how the money you donate to the fire department is being used. The department members just approved the purchase of several AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators).  These devices are used when someone’s heart rhythm becomes irregular, usually because of a heart attack. They apply a shock to the heart, bringing it back into a regular rhythm.  Considering that I’m no spring chicken, I found it comforting to know that should something go wrong at a fire scene, the boys can give me a jump start and get the old ticker pumping again until Western Albemarle Rescue Squad shows up to provide additional care.

Last month we also finished the purchase of new LED flashlights and helmet straps to hold those lights. The purchase of new flashlights may not seem like much, but they really make working in a smoke-filled building much easier. The fact we have the flashlight attached to our helmets allows us to have the light focused where we’re looking.  For instance, we recently had a fire that was located in the crawl space below the house. The crawl space was no more than three feet high, which meant scooting along on our stomachs dragging tools and hoses. Because I had the flashlight on my helmet, I could keep my light focused on the fire, while my hands were free to work the hose.  The department is also looking to purchase a new type of search rope that is photo-luminescent, meaning it will reflect light. Should a firefighter get separated from the rope while doing a search in a smoke-filled room, the light from the flashlight will be reflected back, locating the rope. Firefighter disorientation in poor visibility can cause things to go very bad very fast, especially when you have only a finite amount of air left in your bottle, but as Captain Preston Gentry reminded me, “Where there’s light, there’s hope.”

Good news

Congratulations to firefighters Jeff Bodine, Mike Boyle, Mark Carlson and Mitch Fitzgerald on completing the Firefighter 2 course. Firefighter 2 picks up on the basic firefighter course with more focus on tactics and techniques involved in managing the fire scene.

Finally

The Crozet Volunteer Fire Department is looking to increase the ranks of its Junior Firefighters. If you’re between ages 16 and 18 and think you might have some interest in the fire department, you’re invited to submit an application. Junior firefighters receive their basic firefighter training at the fire station and respond to fire calls as a member of the engine crew, providing support services at the fire scene.  Stop by any evening after 6 p.m. and ask to speak to someone about the Junior Firefighter program. Or call the firehouse at 823-4758 and leave a message on the recruitment line.