Friday, June 24, 2011

Renaissance: Fireman’s edition

It’s been precisely four weeks, almost, hasn’t it?

Well, I might as well make the announcement—now that I’ve begun work as a journalist in a little town, a lot of the thoughts of which this blog is a fount will most likely revolve around my experiences each day.

Such as that time I rode in a fire truck at a firefighter’s training.

A couple days ago, I spent half the morning out at the wastewater treatment plant watching ten guys rip into a few cars as fast as they could while not endangering themselves. It was pretty cool, aside from the stench of the waste water…

There’s this little tool that firefighters use to break open car windows. You know, those reinforced windows that are designed to be difficult to break and even harder to shatter? It took one guy several hard whacks with a sledgehammer to get through one window. Anyways, this little tool—a little longer than a pen, and about the thickness of a man’s thumb, perhaps—will take out a car window with a couple jabs. Maybe one jab. And it turns the whole window into what looks like frost. All teeny tiny bits of broken glass that the firefighters can just scoop out of the way.

And I learned that the Jaws of Life are actually a set of three tools—one of which is a spreader, that works like Mom uses pliers to spread things apart. Ever done that? Stick a pair of needle-nosed pliers into somewhere and pull the handles apart? Think that, but about ten times as big and powered by a hydraulic generator.

Another part is a cutter, and that reminded me of a crab’s pinchers… only large and metal, of course. Then the third tool is a ram, which kind of works like a tension rod—it starts short, then when you put it between a couple things and power it up, it lengthens and forces the things apart. It’s for gaps that are bigger than the spreader works on.

Oh yeah, and the truck! At one point one of the firemen went over to back a truck up a few dozen feet, and asked, “you want a ride?” Well duh!

I do regret, though, having worn flip-flops. I was slipping all around the piled-up dirt next to one of the cars.

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