Lost my shit

Well, it happened. I lost my shit on a call. Luckily I didn’t cuss anyone in particular out. But I was hot. And I had to leave before I punched someone in the throat. (Not really…well, maybe….)

I took a mother to see her dead child. And within a second of being able to touch her child she was ripped away by people who apparently thought that was best for her. 

If you found out your child had been killed in a car accident, arrived at the scene, and had to walk by where they lay under a sheet, would you want to see, touch, hold, kiss, your child while they were still warm?

Yeah. Me too. And to witness a mother being stripped of her right to do that absolutely did me in. 

No one should feel that they have the right to say what a person can and cannot see when their loved one is killed, even if it is traumatic. 

Just because you are too weak to assist them through that process doesn’t give you the right to deny them that time with their loved one. 



She nails it! Just be prepared, when you speak up not only for yourself but for those around, some of the “fools” might not like it. 

Some find they need to “put you in your place”. They won’t hesitate to use how you are as a woman to humilate you. And they won’t ever see how what they do impacts everyone around them. 

That is on THEM! NOT YOU. Don’t pretend to be anything other than what and who you are. If that is a totally feminine woman, so be it. If that is masculine qualities mixed with some femininity, so be it. If that is all male qualities in a female’s body, so be it. 

Does that mean that your way is always the right way? No. It doesn’t.

Does that mean you shouldn’t find ways to work around differences in a professional manner? No. It doesn’t. 

Does that mean you have no  responsiblity to learn how to work WITH men instead of against them? No it doesn’t. 

Offended as a woman right now? Wondering how I could say such things? Are you reading what I just said as “bowing down” to the man?

Let me set you straight. There is no “bowing down”. There is picking battles and learning when to compromise. There is a huge amount of learning. There is a lot of time focusing on self-awareness. 

It’s give and take, ladies. And your approach is crucial. And timing is everything. If you immediately go at it like “I’m a woman, hear me roar.”, you won’t get far. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen over and over. And I’ve tried it at the wrong time and totally failed. 

The approach that has worked best for me over the years is to be quiet at first. Now let me explain something, I say “over the years” because that’s how long it has taken. I’m now at a point where I’ve been around long enough that in most situations, I don’t give a shit. But I always take the same approach. 

Does that mean allow them to harrass, degrade, or embarrass you? Um, hell no. Stand up for yourself if needed. Being “quiet” doesn’t mean being submissive. 

And I am going to go ahead and throw this out there before you read any further…men are simple. We are complex. Do not expect every man to put forth the mental effort and energy as you do. Like I said before…it’s picking battles and compromising where needed. 

When you enter a new environment filled with men you don’t know well, don’t immediately start spilling  your guts about anything  and everything.

I’m not saying be meek and mild and don’t speak at all or don’t stand up if needed. I just mean be conservative with what you share at first. And in reality, you should be conservative with what you share at all times. Not everyone is your friend or can be trusted. This includes other women (an entirety different topic and blog subject!). 

Join the group. Join the pertinant conversations. Join in the work load. Do your best. Don’t skimp. Accept some help every now and then if you need it. And certainly offer help.

Always remember there will be times when YOU are wrong and YOU are being  a fool. Own it if you mess up. And own it before someone else throws it at you. Stronger people admit they have flaws. They are self-aware and they are always monitoring how the perform. They eventually surround themselves with others  who compliment them and succeed in areas they may be slacking. It’s called ” being a team”.

This doesn’t happen overnight, in the first week, on every project, in every situation. It has taken me years to get comfortable with where I am as a woman among men. And I still have plenty of trials and errors. 

It is in those times of trial and error when you will see who has your back and who doesn’t. There is a very distinct difference in being told you messed up or that you are wrong and being “put in your place” because you are a woman. 

Trust me. I know all too well what that is like. 

There has been a time recently that I almost let it break me. But with the love and support of my rock of a husband, family, friends, counseling, and some awesome guys I work with, I came out stronger than ever.

Life is too short to let “the bar” beat the shit out of you. So stand above the fools and their bar. 

It’s never a simple extrication: Part 1

The following are some vehicle wrecks my coworkers and I have encountered that make you go “Hmmmmm…..”. 

“That’s not good.”

“How are we going to get this done?” 

“How the hell did they manage that?” 

“We are going to be pushing the limits of this person’s golden hour.”

“This sucks.”

“How are they even alive?”

This vehicle was a good 500 feet off the interstate, down an embankment, into the woods, in the middle of the night, while it is pouring down rain. See the reflecting stripes of turnout coats? Not really, I know, but they are in there.

It got called in as a trapped driver in a burning vehicle. Luckily for this kid a good samaritan pulled him out of his truck before he burned up. And of course he couldn’t walk out thanks to a very broken femur. But, he lived.

This extrication was several years ago when I was a Captain on an engine company. And this picture was taken AFTER the guy was in route to the hospital.

At some point in the middle of the night, this poor fella drove off the free way Dukes of Hazard style and landed upside down in a retaining pond. Of course this retaining pond was next to a deadend road that led to a manufacturing business area. So no one saw him until the next morning.

He was upside down just feet away from drowning. We have no idea how long because he was unconscious when we cut him out. I have no idea if he lived.

Then there was this guy. Not quite sure what he was thinking or if he even was. For some reason he took a sharp right turn where the was no right turn. Fortunately only a rock wall sustained some injury. The driver was able to climb down the ladder with no problem.

On a somber note, this extrication turned into a body recovery. For some reason this couple decided to take a short cut through the college campus. They chose to take the stairs… literally. 

Unfortunately the bounce at the bottom flipped them and crushed the un-seatbelted driver. The passenger walked away unscathed. 

And finally, one of the people who keeps us safe on the roads got hit while he was parked on the side of the interstate. The box truck that hit him landed on it’s side and the DOT truck went for a ride down into a ravine. It took a minute for people calling 911 to realized the DOT truck was the one who had someone trapped in it. 

He was one of my buddies. Someone who I’ve worked with for 5 years. Someone who is always looking out for us. I am so thankful that he lived. Although his status for returning to work is unknown.
We never know what we are going to find when we pull up to any scene. Working on the fly and adapting and overcoming is imperative. I am fortunate to work with men and women who can do that.  

I’m just going to remain rough around the edges

Yesterday I had an idea. The idea to apply for the position of fire chief that will be open soon. Now mind you, up until a few months ago, I was doing good to just get to work in the first place. Someday soon I will write about the last straw that sent me over the edge into the “I don’t give a damn” pit.

Up until a few months ago, some  good therapy, and the right cocktail to handle depression, I had said “fuck it”. (I’m sorry, Mom and Dad!)  I was even considering quitting my job. I was at probably the lowest point I could get before my brain became so unbalanced from depression that it might have considered suicide. I never wanted to commit suicide, by the way, because I have too many people that love me and vice versa. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t start that rumor. (I know some mouthy people will read this. Some who like to spin the truth.)

For me, the time before the point of no return was indifference. No care given. No feelings…at all.  No sadness. And definitely no joy. Short tempered was the closest I could get to feeling anything. But it only lasted a split second. Other than that it was: When did I shower last? Housework, schmouse-work. Why bother going to the last place I feel normal… Crossfit Hixson? Because exercise is stupid. We have dogs? You can skip school today because I don’t want to drive you over there. Good luck finding food to feed yourselves, kids. Dry cereal for dinner, maybe? And so on and so on….

So here I was yesterday, considering applying for the most stressful, time-consuming, ‘in the spot-light’ kind of a job on the department (in my opinion).

I talked to my husband, my best friend, and 4 of the men I work with that I trust to tell me the truth, not just what they think I want to hear. I can’t even begin to say how important it is to have these people. The ones who shoot you straight. Not scared to give you feedback on what you do and how you do it…good or bad. People, who you know when you turn your back, won’t talk shit about you. People rough around the edges.

Finding these people takes time no matter where you work or what position you are in. You may have to fly solo for a bit before you find them. That means keeping your mouth shut and just observing. Be careful who you confide in. Maybe even throw something out there to see how far it goes and who takes it there. Yes, that’s baiting someone. But who cares. Just be aware that someone may try it on you. So when you say “I won’t tell anyone”….. don’t.

So back to applying for the chief job…I conducted a poll with those 6 people. It came back unanimous. “You can do it.” “Go for it.” And…..”the person you will report to probably can’t handle you”. Hahaha!

I cuss. I’m a smartass. I have reached a point where pissing people off doesn’t bother me if it’s what I have to do. I suck up to no one. Money and power aren’t what I think life is about. I’ll tell you like it is. I’m rough around the edges.

Let’s face it. Around here the big chief has pretty much been chosen before the job is even open. So far in my career, none of the 4 chief appointments have been a surprise. Well….there was that one time they  made a “Rowe” chief. Worst chief ever.

But the job is always posted and people always apply. And they should. There are a ton of perfect candidates for the job. And the process can be a good experience to use later on down the road.

But me….not going to happen. I enjoy my free time. I don’t need anything more to deal with. And I rather be out with the men and women making a difference in that capacity….ya know….delivering them water and occasionally acting like an Incident Commander and stuff.

I believe that most people eventually find their niche. And mine is with those rough around the edges.

I can’t make this stuff up: Volume 2

Here are a couple of stories from when I was on an engine company…..

One night we got a called to forced entry on a residence to gain access to a patient in a diabetic emergency. When we got there we could see an elderly lady through the front windows. She literally looked like a fish out of water flipping and flopping. Knocking over furniture. Injuring herself. Making a sound I can’t even begin describe. 

One of my firefighters wanted to force the door but I said there was no sense in damaging it. I busted out a small pane of glass in the grid of the front window. I reached in, unlocked, and opened it. I then used my cat-like skills to climb through the window. I only took out a table lamp when I fell in.

I immediately made my way to the door to unlock it for the medics to come in. I turned around and the lady was suddenly on me like white on rice, pulling me to the ground with her. Strong. As. Hell.

We had to hold her down while the medic started an IV. Have you ever tried to hold down an elderly lady? It was awful because her thin skin was tearing. But once the IV started she immediately came around. At first asking us to kill her. Then asking what happened. Then saying how embarrassed she was. 

Bless her heart, she was so sweet and so horrified. But we tried to make her feel better about it. We lied and told her she had just been “rolling around some”. I’m not sure she bought it.  

One day we responded to a party having “difficulty breathing”. Lord have mercy. When we rolled up she was already coming out the door. And I couldn’t. stop. staring. 

She had very clearly gotten a face lift the day before. And when she woke up that morning…..holy shit!!!! Her face was green and yellow with infection and so swollen that the staples all around her face where ripping out. Her mouth was so taut that she could barely speak and I thought for sure the sides of her mouth would split all the way to her ears.

She was terrified. I was trying not to look terrified.

 She sat on the firetruck tailboard while we waited for the ambulance. It was so hard not to stare. She was trying to tell me something. I’m not sure what. It came out mostly as drool. Then she passed out.

I cried for her later that night. 

It. Was. Awful.


Turkey comas and dysfunction

Unbeknownst to us at the time this picture was taken, we had enough food to feed all the companies that respond on the 3rd alarm fire we had. We rotated crews to the station to eat a Thanksgiving meal.

Some days I absolutely amaze myself. They don’t happen often. As a matter of fact, it might only be once a month. The rest of the time I’m turning in circles wondering where to start.

This feeling reminds me of Thanksgiving Day 2017 when I found myself in the street looking at a 2nd alarm fire (it was only 2nd alarm at that moment). We had just finished our firehall Thanksgiving feast. I was making myself comfy on my couch when the tones hit. 

I’m not even sure how I got there. I was in a turkey coma and I just followed my firetrucks rolling out of the station. This day, I had to. I was so sleepy! Plus I didn’t hear the address. Ha!

I rarely lead the way to a call. In my opinion, the firetrucks need to roll in first. They are the most important and so is there placement. Some may say this is the wrong approach and that as a leader I should go in first. But I disagree in this situation. It took me a while to figure out my officers. To learn how they think. Learn how the respond to me. And I choose to LEAD from the back of the pack because I have faith in them.

It can be done. Pushing them forward. Letting them make decisions on their own and to take control. Hell, they are adults getting paid to make decisions. Most of my officers are seasoned and know what they are doing. They know their people the best. They and their drivers know the maximum abilities and limitations of their apparatus. Use that to your advantage.

They know I will make a decision.They know who is ultimately “in charge” (I don’t like that saying). They know when I say to do something a certain way then they need to do it because there is usually a reason. I don’t give out piddly orders just because I can. They also know that all responsibility falls on me if things goes wrong. And I have broad enough shoulders to take that. 

So back to Thanksgiving….

This is what we refer to as the fire “gettin’ it”. 

As I rounded the corner and said “Oh Shit” at the amount of flames literally roaring out the windows, I didn’t bother to look at any street sign. Genius. This building was a block long. In order to do a 360 I had to speed walk pretty far. (For those who know me, picture that in your head. Haha!). 

 While trying to direct incoming firetrucks to where they needed to go, I found myself a block down the road turning circles…. literally. I had no clue what street I was standing on. This moment later became the only way I could describe to a counselor and my psychiatrist, how I felt. Perfect analogy.

Just in case you need one I’m going to insert this here…


Most supervisors will have very similar moments (turning in circles). And they won’t tell a soul. But me?? I think it’s funny. I can laugh at myself. I’m me and I’m not perfect. Do I often say “I’m not perfect”? Yes. Do I admit when I mess up? Yes. Do I share my story about literally turning in circles in the street? Yes, obviously I do. 

I posted on Facebook and in a recent blog about pulling into the driveway and thinking the newspaper was a cat. I had someone comment “I can’t believe you would post that.” 

Well why not? A huge part of fire service in EGO. And ego, in my opinion, holds us back. Ego tells us we are all knowing, we are perfect, our way is the only way. And that just simply isn’t true. Ego tells us that those we supervise are literally beneath us. That definitely isn’t true.

Our people are assets. Treating them as such gets you further. Letting them know that you aren’t perfect too isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s just simply a way to communicate with your people. Letting them know that despite wanting things to go perfectly, they won’t. And you know that from experience.  

a 360- the term we use in the fire service to describe walking around the entire structure (360°) involved in fire in order to see everything, such as fire extent, exposures, potential hazards or suppression hindrance.

Cool, calm, and collected

In emergency services it is a gamble whether you get a full meal, a fresh meal, a hot meal, or even a meal at all. Yesterday was no different. Lunch was cut short for a possible apartment fire.

Someone called and said his apartment was on fire when, in fact, it was not on fire. We of course didn’t know that so six firetrucks, myself, a medical unit, and three patrol cars responded with lights and sirens….to open his door.

Yep. He just needed his apartment door open.

I still remember how it is to respond on a firetruck. Adrenaline starts pumping when you hear “apartment fire”. You get your turn-outs on as fast as possible. You strap on an SCBA. You make sure you have your mask, helmet, gloves, radio, flashlight. As the officer who’s truck will arrive first, you begin to formulate a plan of action. Who is going to catch the hydrant? Where is the closest hydrant in the first place!? Is there a possibility of entrapment? What if fire is going through the roof? Where will I tell trucks to stage? Who will be RIC (Rapid Intervention Crew)? What additional resources do I need to request?

Then you pull up to the address and you got NOTHIN’.  No smoke, no fire. Nothin’. Just a guy standing on the sidewalk wanting his apartment door open.

This is actually nothing new for us. It happens often for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is just because someone is lazy or just a total jerk. Other times….a majority of the time…it is someone who is a mental health consumer, has little to no resources for help, and/or they are just clueless to how things work.


“Lord Help Me”!!!  That is literally what I have to say when I exit my vehicle and I know I’ve got to keep my composure. It is very easy to lose your cool when your adrenaline is suddenly thrust into overdrive. VERY EASY. Immediate thoughts pop into your head like “What an idiot” or “What a jerk” or “He needs to go to jail”.

But this man was a mental health consumer. Testosterone was high when I walked up. Frustration was clear, not only for responders but for the man as well. I knew overwhelming him with accusations and anger might make things worse.

Not everyone has the mental capacity to understand that what they did was wrong. And people’s perceptions of their situation can be totally different from yours. I’ve learned through trial and alot of error, that your approach makes a huge difference.

A co-worker said something very simple and poignant one day while we talked about how people approach situations. He said “It’s not that hard to be nice for like 5 minutes.” Even if you have to fake it, try “nice” first.

I’ve noticed over the years that if I take a minute to gather myself before I even have a chance to lose my cool, then I myself am less stressed. Not that I’ve never lost my cool. I’m far from perfect. But it really is simple to be calm. I just remember not everyone thinks like I do. Not everyone functions like I do. Some don’t even know right from wrong.

A confident but calm approach doesn’t, by any means, say you are weak. If anything it says you are strong. You can easily manipulate a situation by being confident, controlled, and calm…even if you have to fake it. And others will follow your lead. I’ve seen it. I’ve used it. I’ve had success with it.

So if what you are doing when dealing with people isn’t working, change it up.

Be calm, cool, and collected.


I Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Volume 1

All in a day’s work…..

A private multi-million dollar company dialed 911 in order to get a firetruck to come babysit 2 propane tanks while they burned off left over propane fumes in them. 

For 16 hours. And for free.


A man calls from a gas station saying he was assaulted and he was dying. He needed cops and an ambulance, pronto! 
He had been maced by his Uber driver.


I hear one of my crews get dispatched on an assault victim. They stage a block away and wait for the police to arrive and secure the scene. All of the sudden I hear the Captain come over the radio….”Umm, dispatch? Can we tell PD to step it up? We’ve got a guy running around in the road with a machete”.

It’s 1230hrs. I’m about to turn in for the night hopeful to get some sleep. But we get dispatched on a vehicle wreck with entrapment. It’s pouring down rain, dark outside, and the incident is at the furthest end of our district…and literally at the edge of the city limits.

Dispatch then updates saying that the vehicle was off the road and was filling up with water.  I have the “this shit just got real” thought.

So here we go, one engine company, two rescue squads, my truck, several patrol cars and an ambulance driving with lights and sirens to respond to this vehicle entrapment off the road filling with water and 2 people trapped. In the dark. In the pouring down rain. 
Upon arrival, we found a car with it’s front passenger side tire off the roadway. Water was high all around it….about up to the bottom of the doors. Lady was “trapped” because she didn’t want to get her feet wet. 

July 16, 2015

WARNING: This is going to be a long post. So grab a drink or some ice cream. I haven’t talked much about it since it happened. And I’ve only sat down once before now and written anything down. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to. My role was totally insignificant compared to those who sacrificed their lives and those men who charged in and kill that piece of shit.  


It’s been 2 years since the terrorist attack in Chattanooga. Althought I wasn’t in the gunfight or have direct contact with the victims, that day messed me up. I’ve been different ever since.

 A huge part of me believes that I’m ridiculous for being so torn by it when I wasn’t directly involved with those who died. I didn’t fire a weapon or get shot at. But when you work in emergency services you never really know which call will effect you. So I guess this one got me and now I am trying to give myself a break and share my little piece of that day. 

Some would say that September 11th changed their view of the world. Back then I was 26 years old, single, with no kids. I had only about 4 years under my belt as a firefighter. I was still 10ft tall, bullet-proof, and naive. And although it did have an effect on me, I wasn’t physically there. It had no direct impact on my life.  14 years later I found myself standing in the middle of a highway trying to provide some organized help to chaos and keep account of men and women that weren’t normally under my command. 

Let me sidetrack here a minute and explain some relevant information about myself. If you know me well you can scroll past  this. Haha! For those that don’t know me, I have been certified as a “police officer” since 2003.  But you won’t see me walking around writing tickets or arresting people. Most people don’t even know. 

I attended the local police academy. At that time I was a Lieutenant for the fire department. POST (Police Officer Standard Training) is a requirement in order to be a Fire Investigator on our department. I had applied for and gotten that position. 

Although 5 years as a fire investigator gave me a huge amount of experience in law enforcement, I have NEVER been a patrol officer. And that is where you really become a cop. I have maintained my POST in order to have an extra layer of protection for myself, my family, and my coworkers.

Not too long ago I was talking with a group of cop friends during the yearly police in-service. We were discussing the 16th and how there wasn’t any mention of me in the federal reports….or any reports that we knew of. Although I am grateful I wasn’t mentioned, I know I was there. So do about 100+ law enforcement officers I came in direct contact with that day.

During our lunch break from class, I found myself having an overwhelming need to write stuff down about that day. I hadn’t at all up until that point. I had even been asked by our state fire academy and the local Homeland Security office to write a synopsis of what all we did that day. I didn’t write down a single word. I just simply couldn’t. But that day, after talking with friends, I found myself writing…..

Not writing what we did, but writing about how ANGRY I was. I was pissed off over just about anything and everything. I had gone from a “realist” to a “pessimist”. And despite all I had seen and done in my career, I had remained a realist until that day. Afterwards I was nothing but short tempered, paranoid, and negative.

After a long time and some counseling through our Employee Assistance Program, here is what I determined to be a huge factor in why this anger I had was so overwhelming….

With all my experience of law enforcement meshed with fire service, I began to ask for some sort of cross-training between our fire and police departments YEARS before this event. Even if it was just simple “awareness” training for our firefighters on what to watch for on medical calls. Something. Anything. Because I had this overwhelming feeling that something shitty would happen.

You want to know what I got from our training chief at that time? “This is Chattanooga. Nothing is going it happen here.” I also got told by another chief “We can’t be letting them use our trucks in those situations (situations like Columbine High School). What if they get bullet holes in them? We would have to pay to get them fixed.” We spend our careers training for shit we hope never happens. How is was this any different??

Well, at that point I said “Forget you”.  Not literally. Just in my head. Because at that time I still had a filter.  I contacted the person who was over the SWAT team at the time. I let them come to one of my firehalls and look at all the rescue equipment we had. I let them ride up in the platform (bucket on the end of an aerial firetruck). I let them see how we crank the trucks…just in case they needed to use one. Just opening up a line of communication with the guys who would be there for my people. 

I’m not stupid. And they aren’t either. We all know that using our equipment to do something miniscule is out of the question. But I told them if they’ve got a downed officer in the middle of a shit storm or victims bailing out second-story windows and I’m there, take one of my trucks. Or hell I’d drive it for them.

Of course adminstrations changed and little was done with my proposal. Following adminstrations did not give  a shit either. Again…. “That sort of thing won’t happen here”.  Well here we are several years later with a local kid going radical and killing 5 of our military personnel. Terrorism right in the middle of our fucking yard.

NOW they want to get together and have some training with each other. And apparently have a committee working on it. So I guess that is a positive. But it should have been started ages ago. 

    The entire time I stood in that road I was protected. Protected by men and women that lay their lives down every time they go to work. Multiple local and regional departments, state troopers, ATF, FBI, DEA, Sheriff’s Department….all surrounding me. Patient, calm, and very respectfully. 

    As a Battalion Chief I live, eat, breathe Incident Command. Form a plan. Provide resources. Keep accountability. And that is all I did on July 16th.
    I remember thinking that at some point one or more of those cops would ask what in the hell a fire chief was doing telling them where to go….why in the hell they had to give me their name…why in the hell they had to report back to me when they left the hot zone… 

    But never once did that happen. They were nothing but respectful.

    I knew over half the faces. Some where people I consider friends. Some I have a huge amount of respect for. ALL of them I was proud of. What hit me most about that day was not the killings. It was watching those men and women run forward to save others. 

    All I can really think of to describe what I witnessed is “Awe”. I love my local law enforcement. I wish everyone would take time to really, truly get to know them. Cops are humans like the rest of us.

     That day I witnessed them go above and beyond to save countless lives. Far and above anything I had witnessed before. And it makes me angry that there are people out there that refuse to treat them with the respect that they deserve. 

    We live in an incredible country. We have freedoms and opportunities that majority of the world never know. We have people all around us that sign up to be there on our worst day.

    Yet we take complete and total advantage…and then ask for more. And we want to buck and defy a system in place that is trained to respond to situations like this. A terrorist attack. By a local. In our city. 

    I was not looking forward to being on duty today because it is the second anniversary. I said “it is a shitty day to be on duty”. But a friend of mine said 

    “It’s not a shitty day. It’s a day to remember what they sacrificed. To bring to light the things that need to change.”

    Words that struck me to the core. “To bring to light the things that need to change”. We all need to remember what these men and their families and friends sacrificed. And what those who are still living sacrifice every day. 

    Remember, respect, and make changes. 

    “Uhhhhh….this train has derailed….”

    This was an interesting day.

    I was sitting in my office when I heard one of my Squads (rescue units) get dispatched on a “vehicle that has been hit by train.” That was it. All the info they had. So they only sent ONE truck.

    Something didn’t sit well with me. Probably from years of experience with “WTF? This isn’t what they said!”  So I told the dispatcher to send an extrication response, which includes an engine company and 2 rescue squads. You can always cancel your resources! 

    As I got in my truck and began responding, I heard my always calm Captain arrive on the scene and say that a roll-back truck had been hit by a train. They were having to access what was left of the cab that had landed down in a small ravine. He would give a further report asap.

    Well, 5 seconds later I heard “Um….dispatch…this train has derailed”. Calm as always with a hint of “Oh shit”. (Always know your people. Hahahaha!!)

    I arrived on the scene to find a cluster of train. Two engineers literally popped up out of no where with some minor injuries. Scared the hell out of me! They told us that at least 12 cars had derailed along with the two locomotives. Their locomotive and gone airborne and done an complete 180. 

    Meanwhile my squad crew had accessed the truck driver. He was alive and only slightly injured. He was even able to self-extricate. Honestly, his truck cab literally looked a Pokemon ball. Can you imagine seeing that thing flying through the air? Bahahahaha!

    As soon as it was determined that everyone was alive and there were no hazardous railcars to deal with, we sat back and let the railroad company do their thing.  You see, I’m not a train expert. So I just got my guys out of the way and told the guy who I thought was in charge of  the 100+ railroad employees who came out of nowhere, that if he needed anything to let me know. I’d be standing around watching the show.

    There hadn’t been a train derailment in all my time in the fire service until that day. Talk about “fly by the seat of your pants”. But even “fly by the seat of your pants” has a method. A method I have developed for myself. It is as follows:

    • Slow down.
    •  Take a deep breath…or 10.
    • Get your pen and paper…if you even have a pen.
    • Use “full-court” vision… something I learned playing basketball.
    •  Triage the issues.
    •  Focus on safety.
    •  Focus on accountability. 
    • Use your resources, get them started asap, and cancel accordingly.
    • Don’t get in the way of the experts…you don’t know everything.
    • Work as a team but remember you are the boss…just don’t say that out loud to a bunch of men unless absolutely necessary. Hahaha! 

    Sometimes the list isn’t in that order. Sometimes I have to go back to “slow down and deep breath”…often. And sometimes I’ve had to say  “I’m in command, not you”…or as one guy I used to work with called it “flex my chest muscles”. (Yes, he actually called it that. Lol!) 

    These type of incidents are fun. Until you start to think about all the horrible shit that could have happened instead. Like the Ethanol Oxide tank car errupting. The truck driver or engineers needing heavy extrication or recovery. The train hitting the propane tanks that were directly down the hill below them. The train having derailed in a residential area. 

    So many hideous possibilities. 

    My main thoughts that day and still to this day are “What the fuck was the truck driver thinking?” and “Holy shit what a ride those engineers took!”. Can you imagine being those guys??  Knowing you were off the track, yet running smoothly and in the process of stopping…Only to see a track change coming???