By Tim Moser
Moser is a retired educator. He lives in Roanoke County.
Melville’s Moby Dick is about a man obsessed with a whale. Ahab eats, sleeps, and breathes of one day killing the great white.
And when the moment comes to go after him, the harpoon line had better not be tangled. Or the sails not ready to go full speed. Everything had better be ready.
Ahab might have made a good Roanoke County Fire and Rescue member. These guys are not obsessed, but they are passionate about their job. When they are not answering a call, they are making sure they are ready for a call. This is fire ENsurance.
When a call comes in, they have one and a half minutes, to be on the truck, leaving the station. Fully dressed in 70 pounds of gear, another 30 pounds of air tank equipment next to them ready for entering a burning building.
This is no time to ask, “Is the aerial ladder in solid condition?” “Are the medical supplies fully stocked?” “Do the hoses have any leaks?”
As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, I already had an appreciation of these first responders. On a given day, they do not know what will happen on a call. It may be a day when one less member of the brotherhood returns to the station. They understood that risk when they took on the job.
They also understand there is no reason for not being totally ready when they respond to a call. That is why I found the ladder truck in the station parking lot with the 105 foot aerial ladder fully extended and the Captain walking carefully down it, checking each ladder weld for potential weakness and making sure the ladder easily fully extends. That is why I saw the chainsaw being checked for sharpness, and gas and oil. And the water pressure gauge being checked. And the hoses shooting 90 feet into the air. And the bandages being replenished.
Every day. All this to ENsure total readiness for answering a call. Whether checking out every aspect of every vehicle or every piece of equipment to ENsure it is in working order, these guys will not let being unprepared be an excuse for not doing their job the best they can.
A major part of being prepared for a call is personal physical fitness. Besides a psychological and intelligence exam, they must also pass a rigorous physical fitness test. This means a lifestyle of weightlifting, running, other exercise, eating right. And deliberate ways to improve strength needed for a call. Flipping a giant tire over and over. Swinging a sledge hammer against that tire. So, they can carry a smoke inhalation victim. Or drag heavy hoses. Or smash in a door or wall.
Then there are the teaching sessions. A group of firefighters gathered around the K-saw, used to cut through steel walls. Everyone needs to know how to use the saw, and this knowledge best comes from a veteran who knows all about the saw by personal usage.
Another session was at the side of the ladder truck. What does each of the myriad of gauges mean? Why is it important for them to be functional? At 3 a.m. at a house fire is not the time to know the water pressure gauge does not work and there is no pressure to pump the water on to the house fire.
How are the hoses attached when needed? How is the ladder extended to the fourth floor of a burning building? What is the proper way to carry a victim in a fire? An endless number of things firefighters learn from each other.
Captain Ahab’s life was an obsession. Firefighters lives are about passion, commitment, dedication, serving the community. They give their time at the station to answering a call, or ENsuring their equipment will not hinder them when answering that call. They are sold out to that mentality.
It’s 10 p.m., and I just heard the siren as the truck responds to another call. Thank you for what you do. For personal reasons, I already appreciated you. I just had no idea of the attention you pay to fire ENsurance. If I ever see you on a call to my house, I know you will be as prepared as you possibly can and will do everything you can to serve me. I sincerely thank you!
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!