Andrew Pollack's Blog

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well, -15 degrees (f) makes for a hard time firefighting

By Andrew Pollack on 01/16/2004 at 03:49 AM EST

Hi all; Sorry for not posting often right now -- I've been as busy as a one legged man at a butt kicking contest. With the conference getting close I'm working to get the first Java based enterprise version of NCTSearch out the door.

Tonight at 2:30am my fire pager went off. That's not that unusual by itself, but if you've been following the news at all you know that its been cold here. Really cold. Cold enough that the Governor declared an emergency to allow fuel truck operators to exceed the limits on the amount of time they can spend working. Tonight it was -15 on the thermometer outside my house. Engine 1 went out with just me and an Explorer (a 15 year old who can do some things but obviously not fight fire directly). That meant that I ended up driving and also being the senior firefighter for our truck. Another firefighter met us on scene, but oddly I was still senior. As we were the second engine on scene, we went to the hydrant but on a cold night like this did not make up or flush the hydrant, simply stood by. After putting the pump in gear to circulate -- which involves pulling the "tank to pump" valve to run water into the pump but also pulling the "tank fill" valve so that the water runs back into the tank -- to prevent the water from freezing, I gathered my crew and had everyone squeeze into the cab to wait. At -15 with wind, you do not stand outside if you don't have to. Engine 1 is due to be replaced this year; its a 20 year old Ford cabover chassis and does not generate any real heat in the cab but at least we were out of the wind.

Its unusual for me to say this, but I'm really glad there was no fire tonight. Portland had a 2 alarm (on 3 alarms we go in to cover their stations) and other towns have been busy as well. We've had a few chimney and furnace problems with the cold spell as well. The cold makes everything harder. Hose lines freeze to the ground, water becomes instantly dangerous on your skin or gloves - or on the road where it spill from the thousand fittings and connections. People get frostbite in minutes just trying to do the job.

This weekend, it warms back up to the mid-teens as a high (high today was below zero). A heat wave. I can't wait.

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