My daughter left today for a week long guard/fire school. I have been in the fire fighting business as an agency employee for 35 years and spent 22 of those years on an Incident Management Team. 22 years in Operations and a few assignments as IC on type 1 and 2 incidents. It’s hard to accept that she will be responsible for her own safety and that others will be responsible to make sure she has safe work assignments. What is a safe work assignment in fire? In a complex way a safe work assignment is one where most hazards have been identified and plan of mitigation and action items are developed to lead all efforts in a fire safe manner in spite of the known hazards. LCES… Situations, Orders, Guidelines… etc…
I found myself not being able to sleep last night worrying about my little girl. A 130 mile trip to guard school…a live fire exercise… I worry about her first fire assignment on a fire that is rock and rolling… or otherwise went gunny bagged or even if it has flame lengths longer than her beautiful auburn hair!
I tell you I worked myself up to and beyond a frenzy…
To calm myself down I had to examine the policy and guidance for fire schools …we have zero tolerance to drugs/alcohol/harassment and violence, Only those that have been through drivers training are allowed to drive. We train… practice and then provide more training. We assign green recruits with experienced engine operators and crew bosses. The safeguards are there to protect not only my daughter but also your sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Why am I still worried? Because of the national drawdown of experienced fire managers and fire fighters? Lack of appropriate funding for tools and other fire fighting resources? Or is because she is only 19 and I was once 19 and 35 years ago to the day I was the new recruit. I think back trying to identify my capacity to deal with my own safety that first season. Sure I could lace up my boots and put my tin hard hat on… heck I could even run to safety when instructed. Chimneys…c old fronts… Fohen winds, fuel availability, RH and live fuel moistures? All still mysteries to me that first year… My training consisted of digging hand trail, throwing brush and dry mopping. I’m sure my crew boss had unlocked the mysteries of fuels, weather and topography… he didn’t seem to be as worried as the rest of us.
I don’t know where I’m going with this post… It’s just that I find myself on the other side of the fire fighting business where loved ones are at risk and I’m at home. Maybe I’m getting old and senile… or maybe it just the normal worries of parenthood.
Why wouldn’t she take the job at the coffee shop for college money? The tips were good and she would never need to pull a night shift? Why did she have to take on fire fighting at $9.40 and hour? Where did I go wrong as a parent? My son listened to me and found another career.