Jeez, three days before the author appearance in Avilla. We got a new shipment of bookmarks to give away, and new business cards, both designed by Emily ... also a new folding table, and a new canopy, not designed by Emily ...

 

Oh, and we have books. It's very important, when trying to sell books, that you have books to sell.

 

But I always feel nervous and unprepared before these things. Mind you, we've done at least a few every year, since that first one in the summer of 2011. Well over a dozen at this point.

 

My first book signing ... which was easier to set up, because I only had one book to sell. Now I have nine!

One of my favorite places to have an author appearance was the Noble Art Gallery (which, come to think of it, is half a block from where we set up for the first one). It's inside, has all that art, there's a sense of history, and a big window with a view of the Noble County Courthouse. But I've been there three times now, and the most recent time last year was poorly attended; I suppose I went to the well too often. Still, they're the only brick and mortar location with copies of our books for sale when I'm not there.

 

You could say my easiest author appearance was earlier this month, at the Albion Fire Department's annual fish fry. They sold three copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, even though I wasn't even there! But it wasn't really an author appearance, as I didn't appear, and it wasn't a book signing, since I didn't sign them. It's possible at this point that there are more signed books out there then there are unsigned ones, so maybe the latter are worth more.

 

Adding to my nervousness is that most of our appearances have been in Albion, although we've also shown up in Kendallville, Auburn, and Cromwell. Our trip to the Avilla Freedom Festival will be my first time in that town, so there's an air of uncertainty. Does anyone in Avilla know me, besides some emergency services people and the crew at the 4 County Mall? We'll see.

 

Meanwhile there's always worry about the weather, and getting set up properly, and finding the nearest bathroom. (Hey, I'm no spring chicken. And even spring chickens have to pee from time to time.)

 

Will our new awning get blown away in a windstorm? Will people laugh at me for taking books to a street fair? Will I sell zero books, and end up taking a loss? (It's happened before.) Will they have elephant ears? Will I get powdered sugar all over my inventory?

 

Stay tuned.

The Albion Fire Department's annual fish fry -- which happens annually -- will be Wednesday, June 7th, during the Chain O' Lakes Festival. We're also having tenderloin again this year, for those of you inclined, although I can't imagine why you'd want to pass on the breaded fish. It's all you can eat, and you can't beat that unless you're a diet doctor.

I can't be there (I'll be helping to bread the fish earlier in the day, and it's one of those scheduling things where I can't do both). However, they tell me copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century Or So With The Albion Fire Department will be on sale at the fish fry, for $9.95. That's our book about the history of the fire department: Proceeds from book sales, as with the fish fry itself, go to the Albion Fire Department's equipment and training fund.

 So come and support your local emergency volunteers! It's from 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Albion Fire Station, 210 Fire Station Drive, on the east end of town.  (It's traditional, when a town has a Fire Station Drive, to build the fire station there.) Price for adults is $10, for children $6, with children 5 and under eating free.

 

Emily and I selling pre-orders of Smoky Days at the fish fry just before its publication.

 

Why we do it: Albion firefighters attack a training fire. I'm particularly proud of this photo, because I didn't die taking it.

ozma914: (Courthouse)
( Apr. 15th, 2017 03:55 pm)

I posted this photo on Instagram the other day, but didn't get a chance to put it up elsewhere until now:

That's the Albion Fire Department off in the distance, and the Sheriff's Department communications tower to the left. I'd just gotten off work and was really lucky to snap this--the orange dimmed out just minutes later.

ozma914: (ozma914)
( Nov. 3rd, 2016 09:39 am)

 

The Albion Fire Department helped patrol Albion during Trick Or Treating on Halloween, including a crew with Engine 91 on the Noble County Courthouse square.

 

 

 

In my three (or so) decades in the emergency services, I never heard anyone complain that their smoke detectors worked properly. Well, okay, once—but that guy was an arsonist.
Fire Prevention Week this year is October 9-15, mostly because nothing else goes on in mid-October. No, actually it was because the Great Chicago Fire happened on October 9, 1871. That fire destroyed more than 17,400 structures and killed at least 250 people, and might have been prevented if Mrs. O’Leary had installed a smoke detector in her barn. Have you ever seen a cow remove a smoke detector battery? Me neither.
Nobody really knows what started the Great Chicago Fire, so the dairy industry has a real beef with blaming the cow, which legend says knocked over a lamp. Does the lamp industry ever get the blame? Noooo....
We do know that at about the same time the Peshtigo Fire burned across Wisconsin, killing 1,152 people and burning 16 entire towns. In fact, several fires burned across Michigan and Wisconsin at the time, causing some to speculate that a meteor shower might have caused the conflagration. There may have been shooting stars elsewhere, but Chicago got all the press.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is “Don’t wait, check the date!” So ask your date: Does she have a working smoke detector? If not, you’d better go back to your place.
Just as you should change your smoke detector batteries every fall and spring, you should replace your smoke alarm every ten years. I’d add that doing the same to your carbon monoxide detector is a great idea, so it can make a sound to warn about the gas that never makes a sound.
This is great advice, and as I hadn’t given much thought to the age of my own smoke detectors, I took it. The one in the basement stairway said: “Manufactured 1888 by the Tesla Fire Alarm Co.”
Not a good sign.
The one in the kitchen hallway said simply: “Smoke alarm. Patent pending.”
Oh boy.
So don’t wait—check the date. Do it right now, because otherwise you’d be waiting. I know it doesn’t have quite the pizzazz of the 1942 Fire Prevention Week theme: “Today Every Fire Helps Hitler”.
But hey … you can’t blame the Nazis for everything.


I never did get around to posting all my photos from Albion's ALL-IN Block Party ... and I also haven't been able to spend much time at the fire station lately, So I'll make up for it by combining the two, with a look at the Albion Fire Department's booth at the event (which you may remember happened in late June).

 

 

I was around the corner with the other authors at the time, but I sneaked away a couple of times to grab some photos. One was this, of the AFD's area--which, as it happened, was on the same block as the location of Albion's first firehouse, built in 1887. While I was selling books, so were the firefighters: They distributed some copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department. Of course, proceeds from sales of that book go to the AFD. The truck on the right is one of our two four wheel drive brush fire/first responder trucks.

 

 

Here's a closer look at the hose reel, which you might be surprised to know is no longer an in-service apparatus. As near as my research can tell, this is the third of the AFD's three hose reels, which means it dates to around 1900. Most of today's fire engines carry a pump, hose, ladder, and water tank. The hose reel carried just hose and nozzles, working in conjunction with the town's hand-pumped fire engine and hook & ladder wagon. Why separate? Because they had to be light: They were pulled to the fire by hand!

 

 

After a hand-pumped engine and then a horse-drawn chemical wagon, this was Albion's first gasoline powered fire engine: a 1929 Buffalo Fire Apparatus Co. truck on a Chevy chassis. It carried 450 feet of hose, along with ladders and hand tools, and a 35 gallon chemical tank that was basically a big pressurized fire extinguisher. Best of all, it could pump an amazing 300 gallons of water per minute, and didn't need a team of firefighters operating a hand pump to do it. You have to wonder why they didn't go ahead and put a roof on it, though.

 

The Chain O’ Lakes Festival is a big week for the Albion Fire Department, as always:

 

The all you can eat fish and tenderloin dinner is Wednesday, June 8, at the fire station (which is, not shockingly, on Fire Station Drive). It used to start at 5 p.m., but my information is that it starts at 5:30 this year—and that is some darned good fish, so it’s well worth another half hour.

 

That’s ten bucks for adults and $5 for kids 4 and up—and free for kids under 4, so if you’re really, really short you could try putting on a Power Rangers t-shirt and see what happens.

 

Meanwhile, the AFD puts in a big appearance Saturday at the Chain O’ Lakes Festival Parade, which kicks off at 5 p.m. And there’ll also be horses, so for all I know it might kick off literally.

 

But that won’t be the highlight of the day, not this time. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the fire station will be hosting an apparatus from another fire department: the New York City Fire Department. FDNY’s Rescue 4 is one of five rescue trucks at ground zero on 9/11, and it’s touring the country as part of the Remembrance Rescue Project. This is awe-inspiring, emotional, and very cool—please stop out to see it. You can learn more about the project at http://remembrance.co/.

 

(I realize there aren't a lot of Albionites here! But, it's worth a try.)

The Albion Fire Department has decided to honor its past and present members, by displaying in the firehouse a plaque with all their names. I’m talking all their names, from our entire 125 (or so) year history.
I, being the AFD’s official historian (I made that up, but it could happen), have been tasked with gathering those names. Why? Well, being determined to someday write full time gave me experience at chasing impossible dreams.
So while it might be difficult to find out who manned the hook and ladder in 1905, I’m taking a shot at it—and I need your help. Yeah, I’m pointing at you.
Everyone please spread the word around, and send me the names of all the Albion firefighters you remember or heard of. (Not Mark Hunter—I know about him.) We’re looking for (naturally) names, but also years of service. For instance, for me it would be 1980-2019, which is when my warranty is due to run out. Or at least a partial range: For instance, I have Harry Campbell down as 1935-1952, but that’s not his entire firefighting career—it’s the years when he was chief. Or, if someone’s heard a number instead of a range, I’ll use that: An example would be, say, Jacob, Phil: 63 years of service. (Obviously just a name is better than nothing.)
That’s for the plaque. I’d also like to have on record the highest rank achieved, for historical purposes. Or at least the highest rank known, in the case of long ago. As still another example, I have: Epp, John: known year of service, 1888. Highest rank, Foreman of the Hook & Ladder apparatus.
See how easy that is? I only had to spend days going through old newspaper microfilms for that one.
So please, send me all the names you can remember, and hopefully the rest of that stuff. Also, if you live in Albion, Illinois, and have never heard of Albion, Indiana, you can disregard this now that you’ve read the whole thing.
Message me here, or use my website contact form at http://markrhunter.com/contact.php ... Or, my e-mail address and home phone numbers really aren’t that hard to track down. If you tried a gmail.com address that had markrichardhunter @ the beginning of it …

ozma914: (Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights)
( Nov. 8th, 2015 06:15 am)

I wasn't able to get them to easily transfer onto DW, but I have a few photos of yesterday's fire on my blog:

 

http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2015/11/barn-burner.html

 

Some photos from yesterday’s fire on my blog … a bad day for everyone.

 

I’d like to ask everyone to considering spreading the word about two books that raise money for worthy causes:

All the proceeds from sales of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department go to, yes, the Albion Fire Department. We’re expecting delivery of a pumper-tanker in about a month, so the money could help equip the new truck, or help with any number of other expenses. Our fire department history is illustrated, but is still only $9.95 in print—and like all our books, can be ordered directly on my website:

http://markrhunter.com/books.html

There are copies at the fire station, the Brick Ark Inn, and the Noble Art Gallery, and it’s also available for $2.99 on Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DQ5NCXS

I’d like to give the fire department a nice Christmas present of a check for this year’s sales, and I hope both history buffs and firefighting fans will get something out of Smoky Days.

#

Half of the proceeds for my humor-adventure novel, The No-Campfire Girls, go toward the upkeep and continued operation of Camp Latonka, Emily’s former Girl Scout camp in southeast Missouri. It’s only $5.00 anywhere good books are sold—well, anywhere this good book is sold—and just 99 cents on Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K3OS35C

The main character in The No-Campfire Girls is Beth Hamlin, a major supporting character in my novels Storm Chaser and The Notorious Grant, who also has a story of her own in my collection, Storm Chaser Shorts. You don’t have to read the others—The No-Campfire Girls is a standalone—but if you have, you know she’s the type who loves a good challenge and is never boring.

If you care for Scouts, firefighters, firefighting Scouts, or just a good cause in general, please: Purchase, review, retweet, repost, tell a friend, tell other camps/troops/firehouses, or maybe tag the book titles on a passing boxcar. I would suggest waiting until the boxcar comes to a stop.

 

 

I got to break things with an ax at a structure fire Wednesday afternoon. (A small outbuilding.)

But then I broke the ax.

Good thing they don’t take that out of a volunteer firefighter’s pay. They don’t … do they?

 

ozma914: (Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights)
( Jun. 5th, 2015 05:20 am)

If you should be near Albion during the Chain O’ Lakes Festival, don’t forget to drop in on the fish and tenderloin fry at the fire station Wednesday, June 10th. This has been an ongoing annual tradition for many decades, and the proceeds go to equipment and training for the Albion Fire Department.

 

Due to scheduling I probably won’t be there myself, but there should be copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights for sale—if you don’t see them, ask! Proceeds for the sale of that book also go to the fire department.

 

It’s from 5-7:30 p.m., with a price of $10 for adults and $5 for children, and it’s darned good food. I should arrange for a takeout order …

 

 

When Roger Lawrence tagged me for the Versatile Blogger Award, I thought I’d done that before. So I looked back and sure enough, I was nominated by Rosanne Dingli – in 2011. Here’s Roger’s post, in which he tells 7 fun facts about himself:

 

http://threehoodies.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-versatile-blogger-award.html

 

The man once cussed out Cary Grant—I can’t outdo that. Since it’s been four years since my time around, I thought I’d put my original answers here for those who’ve come along since, and see if there’ve been any changes along the way. I’m not going to tag anyone—because I already have:

 

1.       Last year I got my 30 year pin as a volunteer firefighter (I joined on my 18th birthday), and this year made 20 years as an emergency dispatcher. (Ahem … I hit 35 fire years this July 14th.)

 

2.       I have Seasonal Affected Disorder: Winter quite literally drives me crazy. (But stupidity also drives me crazy, and that happens all year ‘round.)

 

3.       My fiancée is half my age – and twice my maturity.  (Married! But she’s still more mature.)

 

4.       I can’t stand America’s two great drinks: coffee and beer.  (Earl Grey—hot.)

 

5.       It took me over three decades from the moment I first ventured into fiction writing as a child to getting my first novel published. (Now I kill myself trying to get a new book published at least twice a year.)

 

6.       My humor column, Slightly Off the Mark, was named after a line in a newspaper story about a bowling league. (And it’s not related to the comic strip “Off the Mark” by Mark Parisi, which is very funny.)

 

7.       I was known throughout my school years for being painfully shy.  (At least, by those who knew I was there. For those of you who watch “The Middle”, I was a mix of Sue Heck, the invisible geek, and her brother Brick, the bookworm.)

Four hours at a barn fire. Well, four fires, really: The original barn, a hay barn downwind, a shed downwind, and a field across the road (and downwind). I put out a little fire on the corner of the shed's roof by literally pulling the burning roofing materials off and throwing it to the ground. This is why our gloves are so expensive.

That 2 1/2 inch diameter hose is way heavier than it was ten years ago. Yep. Anyway, five fire departments represented, zero injuries, six hours of sleep, and now three days of sore muscles. Just another day at the office.

It’s not workable to wear air packs at wildland fires, but you can usually stay out of the worst of the smoke if you’re careful. I wasn’t.

Sunday we responded to a fire that burned into a field and a pine woods. After getting the brush truck stuck (my 4WD success ratio sucks) I ended up in the woods, and underestimated the amount of smoke while working my way to the front of the fire.

It wasn’t too bad … except it appears that one of my many allergies is pine trees, and the smoke was from burning pine wood and needles. I spent all day Monday with a sore throat, raspy breath, wheezing, irritated eyes, and itchy skin. It was like watching a political debate. But I slept through most of it (the allergies, not the debate—well, the debate too), because that’s what Benadryl does to me.

So from a “routine” ground cover fire I got smoke inhalation, while another firefighter had singed hair, and a third a cut head. What lesson do we take from this? 

You never know what’s going to go wrong. Not an original lesson, but still.

500E 500N field fire photo grassfire--AFDandKFD.jpg
Not the same fire, Emily took this a few years ago -- I was busy both times.
ozma914: (ozma914)
( Apr. 2nd, 2015 03:55 pm)

 

Hopefully today’s rain will cut down on ground cover fires for awhile, and hopefully without severe storms. And hopefully without an earthquake, like Missouri just had. Worst case scenario: an earthquake during a forest fire, with a funnel cloud touching down to make a fire tornado. The scary part is that it could happen.

 

 But remember, folks: Just because the ground is still wet doesn’t mean we can’t have ground cover fires. Dead foliage from over the winter dries out quickly, and until things green up later in the spring it can ignite easily—sometimes within hours of a rain. I’ve seen flames burn through a swamp, right over standing water.

 

In fact, fires this time of year can be even worse, because brush, grass, and fields still burn, but the ground can be too wet for four wheel drive brush trucks to reach the flames. Firefighters have to walk to the fire with hand tools, or wait for the flames to reach their positions close to the road. Waiting means the fire gets bigger, and there’s a chance it might reach and damage buildings or vehicles.

 

So don’t burn in windy conditions, have a cleared area around whatever you’re burning, and watch the fire until it’s completely out. If in doubt, don't do it.

Not being in a burning building doesn't make it safe: Firefighters have suffered smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion, falls, burns, and being hit by vehicles at grass and field fires.

 


This photo is from a fire that endangered buildings on March 18th, near Long Lake Road and CR 175 N.

 

 

This column did get printed in time for Fire Prevention Week—it’s just late getting online. But really, shouldn’t something like this be all year round?

Meanwhile, the new publisher has allowed me to write a farewell column for the newspapers I’m no longer employed by, so you’ll see this once more … maybe twice.

 

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

 

            The National Fire Prevention Association would like to point out that, if your smoke detector is not working, it won’t work.

 

            Sure, it seems obvious. But it’s also obvious that if sprinkler systems aren’t installed they don’t put out fires, safety belts that don’t get used aren’t safe, and people who stay in Washington, D.C. turn into blithering idiots. And yet we defeat sprinkler laws, don’t belt up, and reelect blithering idiots, so sometimes the obvious needs saying.

 

            This is why we have Fire Prevention Week, which is a week during which we try to stress preventing fires. Fire Prevention Week is always nearest October 9th. That’s the historical date of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which took place in 1871, was indeed in Chicago, but really wasn’t all that great.

 

            “Great” is a term used for fires that get so out of control that they get weeks named after them. The NFPA has devoted itself to keeping fires from turning great, and the best way to do that is to keep them from getting out of control. It’s counterintuitive, but they would not then be called “good”.

 

            More importantly is to keep people from getting killed in a fire, which is the job of smoke alarms, which are just like smoke detectors except with fewer syllables. A working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half. You don’t have to be Captain Obvious to see the value of that.

 

            Here’s the fun part, though, and by “fun” I mean “tragic”: When talking smoke alarms, you always have to stick in the word “working”. In 23% of home fire deaths, there were smoke alarms—but they didn’t work. Why? Sometimes they were old or damaged, but usually the batteries were dead or missing.

 

            “Honey, the batteries in the camera are dead.”

 

            “I’ll just take some out of the smoke detector. Don’t worry, I’ll remember to put them back.”

 

            Sure you will. Stop at the dollar store and get more for the camera, you schmuck.

 

            But even if the batteries stay in, there’s no guarantee they’re working. Batteries go dead from time to time, and dead batteries lead to dead people.

 

            Thus the idea of changing them twice a year, when Daylight Savings Time comes and goes. Whine all you want about springing forward and falling back (and you will … you will), but it’s a great reminder to put in a good set of working batteries. If the old ones are still good and you’re particularly cheap, put those in your digital camera. Sure, there’s a chance they’ll go dead and you’ll miss catching that UFO hovering over your house, but the little green men are going to steal your camera and make all the photos blurry anyway, so why bother?

 

            In between changes, you should test your smoke alarm batteries every month. This is about the same rate at which a major celebrity gets arrested. If you’re really paranoid you can check them every few days, at the rate a minor celebrity gets arrested.

 

            If the smoke alarm is more than ten years old, replace it. If you can’t remember how old it is, replace it. If you can’t remember how old you are, have someone else replace it. And yes, if it doesn’t work when you test it, replace it. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

 

            There was a time when experts recommended installing a smoke alarm on each level of the home and outside each sleeping area. They now say to install one inside each bedroom, in addition to the others. By my estimation that would mean five smoke alarms in my house. If you count every room my dog sleeps in, that would mean nine smoke alarms, or more if you count each spot as a separate bedroom.

 

            That may seem like a lot, but I’ve long had a suspicion that my dog smokes when we’re asleep. Have you ever seen hairballs burn? Not pretty.

 

            Can’t afford a smoke alarm? Yes you can. You, put down that beer. You, put down that cigarette. You, put down that game controller. And you, put down that—oh, man. Dude, close your curtains! I can’t unsee that.

 

            Yes, you can scrape up the money to save your life. I did a quick internet search, and found smoke alarms for sale ranging from twenty to less than five dollars. I wouldn’t necessarily go for the cheapest ones, but you can cover your entire home for less than the cost of that 20 inch flat screen TV you want to mount in your bathroom.

 

            On a related note, you do not need a flat screen TV in your bathroom. We’ll talk electrical safety in a future column.

 

           

 

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            Following your dreams can take you to some strange roads that might not have anything to do with your dreams, at all.

            We can’t all have our first dreams, of course. America really wouldn’t function with fifty million actors, one hundred million singers, and two hundred and fifty million lottery winners. What do those all have in common? Long odds.

            Still, it’s important to pursue a dream, even if it isn’t the dream you end up with. My grandkids want to be ninjas. It’s probably not on the average college curriculum, but who knows? I’m saving back some masks and black pajamas, just in case.

            My first dreams were to be a scientist, or an astronaut … or better yet, a combination of the two: a Science Officer. Yes, I was a Trekkie, why do you ask? But I had to give up those dreams because, it turns out, both jobs require being good at math.

            A writer doesn’t have to be good at math.

            Or so I told myself. By the time I was halfway through high school, I settled on a career plan: I would become a firefighter, and on my days off I would write best-selling novels. My backup plan would be a forest ranger, thus putting me in a position to battle forest fires in between writing books.           

 

I took some photos at the Albion Fire Department’s recent vehicle extrication training (it was 86 degrees!) and, naturally, posted them on the AFD’s FB page:

 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1442727146000864.1073741835.1417039808569598&type=1
.

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