Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Little Boy Named Christian

x ChristianThe call came into dispatch early one Sunday evening. It was a young mother, frantic because her young son had set a fire in his bedroom. Dispatch called me because fire crews were out on other emergencies. And the need wasn’t to extinguish the fire – mom had already done that – it was to do something with the boy.

The mother met me curbside in front of her small home as the sun was setting. She explained that her husband was incarcerated, she had two young sons, and the older one – Christian – had recently grown fascinated with cigarette lighters. Today’s fire was his second.

She went right to the point of her call and asked, “What can you do?”

I politely told the mother this was a problem more suitable for somebody in mental health, not a fire chief. She explained that Christian had already talked to one of those folks and it hadn’t helped. I could feel the helplessness from the crackle of her voice and the watery look in her eyes.

I told the mother I would visit with Christian as long as she called the mental health professionals too. I gave Christian as stern a talking to as I ever have a young child. I raised my voice to just under a shout, berating him for thinking so little of his younger brother and mother. Finally, I told him I was through for now, but I wasn’t through – I was coming back tomorrow.

I then turned to the mother and told her to search every single inch of the house for lighters and that I would come back the next day.

As I drove towards home, I thought about what to do, knowing fear seldom invokes long term change. The answer came to me like a message from above. I would call on the young boy’s sense of responsibility, his manhood.

The next day I purchased a gift card with a fire department theme and placed inside a St. Florian medallion – The Patron Saint of Firefighters. I explained with my writing the significance of the medallion, what it means to firefighters, and the responsibility Christian would have as a carrier – to remember me and the agreements we had.

Christian and his mother were standing in the yard when I arrived the next day. Lying on the ground was close to forty novelty lighters, stolen from neighborhood stores. I locked eyes with Christian and could sense his fear. I directed him to come with me to the fire car. He started to get in the back seat and I redirected him to the front.

I again locked eyes with Christian, but fear was no longer my motive. I talked to Christian not as a boy, but as a young man. I explained to Christian that I could tell that he was intelligent and had so much potential in his life. But, I also explained that he needed to be the man of the home. I told him that I hoped someday he would consider becoming a firefighter. Afterwards, we got out of the car, shook hands, and we parted. I thought that would probably be the last I would hear of Christian. It wasn’t.

Several months later a friend of Christian’s family stopped me at the courthouse, asked if I was Chief Moody, and handed me an envelope. Inside was a letter with two medals taped to it and a message from Christian.

Dear Mr. Cheif,
Hi Fire Cheif Steve,
How have you bean sence the last time you seen me. Thank you for the meatle you sent me and thank you for the card. I’ve been good and I haven’t bean lighting fires and hiding lighters and knifes. Thank you for your time and the card I truley appreciate everything you have done you are an awesome guy. I love you fore your help and the charm – here’s one fore you as well. {Medallion taped here} Please take care of it and remember me every time you look at it. I have potential to do the right thaing. I will start to do for others as I want to be treated. You went out of your way for me. I hope that we can count on you when I have a problem.
Thanks, again for evrething please call me any time and I will call you as well.
You are a hero my hero. {Medallion taped here}

Here’s my last one fore extra luck.
Your friend Christian.

I have never forgotten you Christian – and have always cherished both your letter, and the medallions

House Fire – 4300 Block of SW 4th Terrace

*Photo by Chad Wittenberg
*Photo by Chad Wittenberg
The retired couple was sitting in their home this morning when the husband thought he smelled smoke. When he got up to investigate he discovered smoke and flames coming from the laundry room wall. A 911 call was made.

On arrival firefighters found active flames around the main electrical box on the backside wall of the home. Bare wiring coupled with aluminum siding made the fire fight more difficult. Firefighters had to be extra careful to not apply water directly on the “live wires”.

The fire went up the wall into the open attic forcing firefighters to pull down ceiling sheet rock to gain access. Blue tarps were placed on the floors and over valuables once the fire was under control.

And, firefighters didn’t just put the fire out. They cleaned up the ceiling materials and insulation that was pulled down. They also carried out numerous keepsakes that were in close proximity to the fire. These were carried outside to a family member’s vehicle.

Firefighters from both El Dorado and Towanda fought the fire. The utility company also helped with the firefight by shutting down the electrical power to the home.

Firefighters cared for the couple like they were family because in a way they were. The couple were the grandparents of an El Dorado firefighter.

Atchison House Fire

IMG_2484Firefighters are fighting a fire in the 700 block of Atchison this morning.

The home owner said he put a log in his wood burning stove and shortly thereafter he noticed smoke coming from the eves of the roof. He immediately called 911.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the eves of the entire circumference of the roof line.

Fighting the fire was difficult because of numerous voids in the attic space. Firefighters finally had to cut a hole in the roof to completely extinguish the fire.

Volunteer Reserves as well as firefighters from Towanda assisted with the fire fight. All did a great job.

There was heavy fire damage to the home making it uninhabitable. The homeowner was going to stay with family.


Football Players, Firefighter Players, & Bose

Head set this oneThey assemble in groups to do battle on Sundays. A fine tuned operation that has established moves, but moves only when the leader barks the signal. Any movement before the signal is a violation. Some of the best athletes in the world. Football players.

They assemble in groups to do battle when beckoned. A fine tuned operation that has established moves, but moves only when the leader barks the signal. Any movement before the signal is a violation. Some of the best athletes in the world. Firefighters.

The game of football and the game of firefighting has similarities. But, then there are the differences.

Football is a game that brings in millions upon millions of dollars revenue. Firefighting is a game that has operational costs, yet doesn’t generate revenue. Football is a game that when over the loser simply feels bad. Firefighting is a game that when over the loser might have missed saving a life.

The success of both games depends upon clear communications. Likewise, both games have difficulties with communications. Seventy thousand people screaming are the problem for football players. Tools screaming, breathing air packs, and raging fire is the problem for firefighters.

*Photo by Chad Wittenberg cwittenberg@smugmug.com
*Photo by Chad Wittenberg cwittenberg@smugmug.com
The question is how do both game players overcome the problem with communications?

Football teamed up with a company named Bose. A wireless Bose headset is donned by the sideline coach. The quarterback has a wireless speaker system.

I spoke today with a Bose representative and asked if it would be possible for a fire department to purchase the system they provide the NFL. The answer was “No”. The NFL has an exclusive contract.

The representative said he would pass along my request.

Hopefully, when they look at the importance of our game they will make an exception.

*If we do ever get to buy the Bose system please don’t treat it like this coach.