Bringing Out The Bic Guns

Sunday, February 06 2005

At the end of last week’s duty I was approached by my new Captain.

“DTs”, he said, “We need your help. Can you be here Saturday to run the bambulance? Everybody who would normally be here is going to a Burn. Actually, this Burn has been planned for a long time, so I’m sorry about the short notice. Can you do it?”

I assured him that I would ask She Who Must Be Obeyed.

“A Burn?” asked SWMBO. “What’s that?”

“I have no idea. It’s a Burn, they said. It’s been planned, they said. But they didn’t have anyone doing the ambulance thing while they were gone. So they asked me.”

Permission was granted, so off Saturday morning I went, wondering about this Burn thing.

I understood that they’ve planned to burn something for a long time, the Captain practically admitted it. He was particularly vague about what it was they were burning, though. Could it be that the Fire Guys had said, “On February 5th we’re gonna light something up, boys. Come that day, put on your gear and mount up and we’ll ride around in the fire trucks and find something sweet. Bring hot dogs.”

Couldn’t they just? I have seen these guys at play. I decided that I wouldn’t rat them out when the PD arrived at my station.

“DTs, we caught these guys Burning stuff – what did you know about that?”

“These guys? They was here all along. We was playin’ cards – see all the cards? The forty of ’em just went to the bat’room a minnit ago.”

Indeed, one must cover one’s EMS bruthaz.

At 07:30 I arrived at the station, where parking for POVs was at a premium. The previous shift’s bambulance crew was still there – in theory they’d get off shift at 08:00. I checked out my equipment bags while noticing the fire guys excitedly getting their stuff together – filling air tanks, tightening straps, testing masks. My sincere offer of latex gloves to the younger fire guys, whose whole lives were yet before them, was met by blank stares. Fools. Go ahead and leave your fingerprints at the Burn, then.

Into the vehicle bay strode two gallant figures, incongruously dressed. Dressed much as I was – no fire gear marred their crisp blue uniforms. We exchanged wassups, when I was dealt a shocking surprise: These two were going to be the Bambulance Crew.

I tried to explain. “No, see, the captain wanted me here today while the guys, you know, went out (wink) on this thing (wink) they’re doing…” It was for naught. This crew was manning the rig at the station.

I was going to The Burn.

So this is it, then. Perhaps my silence on the subject thus far had been misinterpreted, or too few of the fire guys knew me well enough. The only way to keep DTs from spilling his guts to the authorities is to Bring Him In. Get soot on his hands – then he’s guilty as the rest of us. As added insurance, the two young ladies from the previous crew were accompanying me – pulling a back-to-back duty. The capstone? DTs will drive. Yes, this not only keeps his hands in plain sight at all times but eliminates any “I was in the back and didn’t know…” or “I was a helpless passenger…” pleas I might have tried.

We were off. I tried to keep the conversation light.

“So, this Burn. Neat thing to do, is it? Good wholesome fun, yes?”

The young lady in the passenger (“lead technician”) seat appraised my best “innocent” look.

“You’ve never been to a Burn before, then?”

“No, no, no, not me, no, never burned up anything, really, never lit a fire, well, in the fireplace, but – my own fireplace, in winter – but no, not to a Burn, as such, no.”

Well. Boy was I wrong about all that, then. Turns out they have an entire building made of concrete block and steel, three stories, into which they toss old shipment palettes and scrap lumber from lumber yards and stuff, and light it up, and run in and put it out. The Fire Guys practice laying hose lines, hooking things up, searching smoke-filled rooms for victims (mannequins, in this case) and rescuing them, knocking down the blaze, etc.

All above-board, all great practice, skill-building and good clean fun. Each time they start a fire in the building they choose a different location (basement, “kitchen”, attic, whatever) and the fire trucks have to come swooping in from down the street. They put the fire out while Higher Ups watch ’em, keep ’em safe, praise their skills and critique them later on how they could improve.

Each fire is called an “evolution”, and they did five or six before calling it a day. We bambulance folk were invited to go in and try it. Yours truly declined – “I know’s me place, guv’nor, and it’s hon the outside wif’ the patients, it is.”

Fact is, our presence was for safety reasons only, in case (let it never happen) one of our guys got hurt, which fortunately was not the case.

Some might conclude that all that good paranoia of mine was wasted, but it gave me a chance to see where my ultimate loyalties lie – which is, unsurprisingly to me, where I knew it would, with my fire guys.

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