Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Other Fire Truck at my House

I've alluded to the other rig at my house, but it was pointed out to me that I never really elaborated on it. Since we are in the winter offseason, here's some more filler content disguised as a useful blog post.

I have served on four fire departments as I have moved around the country (five agencies if you count my two years concurrently serving as a wildland firefighter with the State of Minnesota). I've been in the job since 1993, but have been a probie four times. Hopefully never again, as it gets old starting over, and I'm not very good at keeping my mouth shut about "at the other place we ...", and even I hate it when other guys do that.

I joined a mid-sized county fire protection district, upon the return of my family to the Pacific Northwest. It is a primarily volunteer fire department, but there are a handful of career members and several part-timers, who help fill the gaps when volunteers and live-in residents are not available.

Last year, the fire district opened a new "satellite" station, the district's sixth fire station. The new location filled in the last major coverage hole in the district. It's not like we have career guys ready to staff the place, but the district wanted something more than a shed on the corner for a few apparatus to sit in. Besides, the district recently experienced the difficulty of selling old fire stations after a new headquarters was built and another station was overlapped by a city annexation. It's hard to sell an old fire station. In fact, we ended up keeping the overlapped station (for now), as it didn't sell and is now being used for other purposes.

So, instead of just building a 'shed' that required duty crews to go check on the rigs, maintain the building, and mow the grass at least weekly, the district bought an existing home in the right location and intends to put up a two-bay building for the apparatus by the house. In the future, should district/station reconfiguration happen again, selling an existing house with a big garage will be comparatively easy. And as long as there is a house, the district realized that a live-in resident firefighter can do all the rig checks, grounds maintenance, building maintenance, deter vandalism and theft... and when home, run a few calls to boot. Saves the district a bundle on the hourly costs of sending duty crews to do the work when they could be doing other useful things.

I applied for the resident position, and was blessed to be selected. So I live, with my family, in Fire Station 6. I don't pay rent, but I earn my keep by doing all the above mentioned tasks, and running calls when I'm home. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to me. I still have a full-time job, which is also true for most of the other resident firefighters living in dorm rooms in some of the other stations. When we're around, we help, and if not, the next closest staffed station and nearby volunteers pick up the slack.

The building is not yet completed, so for now I am assigned just an EMS/brush 'rescue squad' kind of mini-pumper vehicle (Squad 6) which fits in the existing space at the station. When the planned building is completed, Squad 6 will tentatively be joined by an engine, though exact plans are still up in the air on exactly what the district will do for Engine 6 as yet.

I had a moment to snap a picture of Squad 6 while out on a traffic accident today. This is my 'take home' vehicle. It's my baby. I absolutely LOVE this little truck, it can do a lot and fill many roles comparative to its small size.

Thus, Engine 17 was actually the second fire apparatus to live at my house.... at Station 6. But to be absolutely clear, Engine 17 is not in service and will never be utilized as a district apparatus. It is not certified for that use, is too old to be accredited by a fire insurance company, is not equipped, and I would almost for sure be asked to pack my belongings if I tried that stunt anyway! Necessarily, I talked with the neighbors (all really great people) so they understand that the old American LaFrance fire engine is not a district rig, not in service, and not coming to their fire, so please don't get angry at the district when it doesn't show up.

So, that's the story.

Thanks for reading.