About 10 minutes before six, we got an early wake-up call -- report of a house fire. The initial dispatch told us that neighbors were reporting that the house next door was on fire. When the neighbors call it in, it's usually a good sign that we're going to work.
What made this one different from the rest was that it was my first legitimate house fire riding the captain's seat. Because of sick time, training time, vacation time and the odd shifts we work, I probably spend a month or so out of every year as acting captain. We've nicknamed Lakeland "Pleasantville," because it's nice & quiet. This usually means that when I'm riding the captain's seat, we'll catch a small fire... handle a few fire alarms... and mostly do routine medical emergencies. The closest I've come to good fire action while in the seat was a chimney fire almost a year ago. I was due.
Here's another thing about Lakeland... Nearly all of the housing stock is "new." I can't name a house more than 35 years old. This means that the houses seem to be built better and safer. Long gone are the days of shanty fires that I fought back home. Also gone are old, woodframe homes with highly dangerous electrical wiring. So, most of our house fires are contained to the room of origin. Not yesterday.
Before we even made the scene, we could see the house -- the whole house -- on fire in the distance. To be honest, these are the most dramatic looking fires on TV... but they are the easiest to fight. You don't have to worry about rescue. You don't have to worry making an interior attack. And because of such, I think I was the most laid back I've ever been going to a fire.
Of course, no fire can happen without a bit of drama. When we arrived on scene I had no fewer than three folks tell me that there were people inside. There was fire showing from the windows, from the doors and through the roof. Anyone inside was lost and not for a second did I worry about it. Crazy to say that, I guess... But it shows what training does for you.
Our first priority was to protect the nieghboring houses -- one of which was already beginning to cook. With God, the neighbors and everyone else watching, I stretched a hoseline from the truck to begin cooling off one of the fires. And BLOOP! I tripped on something (my own feet, maybe?) and busted my ass in the middle of the yard. I'm proud that I hopped back up and kept going, but my pride was a little brusied. We then put up the big ladder pipe to finish off the house. In the end, no one was home.
I'm glad that I got that one out of the way. And if we were going to have a fire yesterday, I'm glad that it was with me as captain than in my normal engineer's position. Doing the job is often the only one you really learn it. I certainly learned a few things along the way yesterday and I certainly want to learn more. It feels good to do something new -- even when it comes in the form of something you've done many times before.