Last week, I took him up on his offer and showed up at the fire station.
First of all, I have to thank Justin, the firefighter who took the time out of his day to show me around and answer all my questions. He gave me a tour of the entire station, including where the fire fighters sleep.
I had no idea how many hoses they stuffed onto a fire truck. Yeah, sure I knew there would be a lot, but seeing it was something else all together. Here is a picture of the back of the fire engine. You can see they have hoses of all sizes tucked up there ready to go. There is a similar array of hoses on the driver's side of the truck as well as a bin on the front of this particular engine with yet another hose. The hoses differ in length and diameter and have different uses. They have to be prepared for every possibility when they go out on a call. Since they never know what they'll need, they have to have their bases covered.
Along the entire length of the fire engine there are storage compartments. Some house tools such as axes and pry bars. Another has a generator so they can see at night if the utilities have to be turned off and a fan to blow the smoke out of a house after a fire. This picture is of yet another compartment. In this one, they have all the tools they need to enter a badly damaged vehicle. There are pneumatic tools and lifts to move stubborn metal out of the way if needed. Most people have heard of the Jaws of Life first responders use to open crushed car doors. If you look closely, you can see them there on the left.
Every nook and cranny of the fire engine is utilized. The interior of the vehicle, what you can't see on the other side of that wall behind the tools, is a water tank. This particular fire truck carries with it 1,000 gallons of water. It sounds like a lot, but when fighting a fire it goes fast. If they have the hoses on full blast, they can drain the tank in under a minute.
My afternoon at the firehouse wouldn't have truly been complete if I hadn't gotten to see how the guys respond to a call. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go with them to the scene, although that would have been amazing. What I did get to see is how they respond when a call comes in.
On TV and in the movies, when the siren goes off in the fire station everyone runs to the fire engines. It's very dramatic and gets your adrenaline pumping. That's great for Hollywood, but that isn't the reality.
The call came in a little after four o'clock. Justin had just finished showing me where they refill their air tanks, the laundry room, and the gym. There was a sound over the loudspeaker that was broadcast throughout the station. Instead of running toward the truck, everyone stopped to listen. The dispatcher's voice filled the intercom seconds later. They had a possible injury accident. The dispatcher relayed the intersection, and only then did the firefighter's begin to move toward the truck.
Their gear sat in piles on the floor near the truck. It took seconds for them to don their gear, and then lift themselves up into the truck. I stood to the side and watched as the EMS vehicle and fire engine pulled out of the bay and into traffic.
All in all it was a great time. I learned a lot. Not only the technical stuff, but I was able to get a feel for what being a firefighter is like. I can honestly say I left there with more respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to respond when we need them most.