Farewell to Matt Smith, who is retiring from the Albion Fire Department after 14 years of service. Matt, in addition to being an active firefighter and the AFD Secretary for several years, formerly served on the Albion Town Council, and was also an EMT with the Noble County EMS.

 

 

Here Fire Chief Brad Rollins, on the left, presents Matt with his helmet shield as a token of appreciation for his years of service.
 
(Matt, who works full time as a technical writer, is no relation to Doctor Who, although I've always felt his heart is bigger on the inside.)

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.

For the first time since I can remember, I didn’t get an article in this year for Fire Prevention Week. But since there’ve been attempts to expand fire prevention into a whole month, I thought I’d repost this piece from 2013:

http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2013/10/dont-get-fired-up-in-kitchen.html

There, I feel better. And here’s some slightly more seriously fire safety information from a much more serious source:

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/fire-prevention-week

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?

 

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

 

            Years ago I shopped at a place called Excel Home Furnishings on the north  side of the Noble County Courthouse square. I liked wandering around the second floor, because they’d installed enclosed bridges that allowed the furniture to be displayed not only in the original building, but in two other neighboring ones.

            (I have no explanation for why I love exploring sprawling areas like that. It’s why I keep getting lost at the State Park … and the mall.)

            In one of those buildings most of the upstairs was open, and there was a big raised area, like a stage. For someone who lived in a utility apartment at the time, I thought it was really cool.

            It turned out to be even more cool when one of the employees showed me a normally closed off area, where we could see the outer walls and roof. There they were, plain as day: Charred wood and smoke stains. At one time in the distant past, he explained, the building had burned.           

That was my introduction to the Albion Opera House. )

 

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