41 Years – The Secret of Life

“Do you know the secret of life? It’s “one thing” – just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit. What’s the one thing? That’s what you have to find out.”
Those are lines from the movie City Slickers when old-time Cowboy Curly is life counseling City Slicker Mitch.

This year would’ve been my 41st emergency service anniversary along with my marriage of the same time. I retired this past year.  I must have done some things right to thrive for that long in two challenging ventures. So, if I had to boil it down – like Curly – to one thing, what would that one thing be?

It would be “harmony.”

The definition of harmony that I like best is – “A combination of sounds considered pleasing to the ear.” This musical definition is one that can apply to every situation – the smallest to the largest, the least fortunate to most fortunate.

Music is something that you can produce with the smallest of resources to the grandest. You can have a full orchestra accompaniment or you can sing a duet with no instruments at all.

Somebody famous once said, “If you can’t be happy with what you have, how could you be happy with more?” To me what this means is happiness should be happening all along during your trip. You won’t have much fun – possibly none at all – if happiness doesn’t come until you reach some grand attainment.

Strive for harmony. Harmony will bring happiness


Out of Service

All equipment reaches a time when it needs to be retired.  Case in point was a Salina American LaFrance Ladder Truck.  The truck was a 1947 model.

The truck was an open cab with screw-out outriggers.  The aerial unit itself had a slight turn to the right when fully extended.  It certainly had some issues.

The fire came in the downtown, a three story brick commercial building.  The fire had a good start on firefighters and was located in the upper stories.

The truck was set up alongside the curb.  Two firefighters were on the ladder when the outrigger closest to the curb flipped over. This sent the ladder folding into the building.

Luckily it stopped when it rested on the wall of the building.  The firefighters both came close to the fire but neither firefighter suffered serious injury.

Not to long afterwards the ladder was taken out of service.  Probably a little later than it should have.  Tragedy shouldn’t drive truck replacement.


Fire Truck Modifications – The Mitchell Questionnaire

The big gong slammed the sides of the brass bell as it rocked back and forth in its cradle. The message “wasn’t” that it was lunch time. This was a fire message and the firefighters heard it.

Two of the responders were Fred Brodbeck and Raymond Miller – fire chief and driver. Their means of travel was a Mitchell car with a custom rear bed that carried firefighting equipment. This was a custom addition designed by the chief.

They raced down Ohio Street and just as they were approaching the Iron Street Bridge a horse and buggy pulled onto the street. Miller swerved but the car caught the rear of the buggy and launched the car down the banks of the Smoky Hill River.

Brodbeck was seriously injured in the accident and was taken to the hospital. But, this was well before we knew how to treat infection. Gangrene set in and the chief died five days later at the age of 39.

Brodbeck came to Salina, Kansas from Chicago. The local press chronicled the innovative things he implemented. Many of them were successful, but unfortunately one was the Mitchell modification.

Those of us in wild land firefighting have to be master innovators too. Standard trucks are converted into fire trucks. Military trucks are converted into fire trucks. All terrain vehicles are converted into fire trucks.

Most of our changes are good, but are there possibly some Mitchell modifications? Before you make modifications to a truck ask yourself some questions.

Have you exceeded the vehicle’s weight capacity? Turning ability could be adversely affected. Braking could be adversely affected. Rollover potential could be heightened.

Are undercarriage components heat resistant? Plastic brake lines could melt from heat. Fuel lines could do the same. This could happen at the most inopportune time, possibly endangering the lives of firefighters.

Have you designed rear-riding locations properly? Hand rails must be present and must be adequate. Some type of belting system needs to be present. Sharp cornered impact points should be eliminated or covered.

Are you changing a key operational component? You should not change the size of a truck’s tires without getting a stamp of approval from the manufacturer. Too small of tires might cause a heat build-up on brake pads.

Let a picture of the Brodbeck accident be your visual reminder. Prepare a list of safety questions before making any truck modifications. A good name for it might be The Mitchell Questionnaire.

Cigarette Lighters and Children – A Poor Combination

It was the Christmas season and there was snow on the ground.

The mother had just started a new job at a nursing home and had left her two children with her good friend named Charity.

Poncho and Rogue were their names.  Poncho was three years old and Rogue was five.  And then there was four year old Monique who was Charity’s daughter’s name.

The three children were upstairs playing with a cigarette lighter when the fire lit some plastic toys on fire.  Monique and Rogue came downstairs, but for some reason Poncho didn’t.

Minutes later Charity noticed the smoke coming down the stairs. Rogue and Monique made it downstairs, but Poncho was still upstairs.  She tried going upstairs but the smoke was too dense.

The fire department was called.  Firefighters quickly rescued Poncho, but not before he was in cardiac arrest.  Poncho was quickly taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The fire investigator determined the fire was started by a cigarette lighter. Pictured above are two novelty cigarette lighters.  If you smoke, be sure and keep your lighters secured so no children play with them.  Cigarette lighters and children are a poor combination.

Pictured below is Chief Moody carrying Monique over to the ambulance.