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September 29, 2004

Always on duty

Off-duty firefighters save toddler
Annapolis Capitol
When volunteer firefighter Meghan Hiponia went to a family reunion at Sandy Point State Park on Saturday, she didn't expect to save a life.

The St. Margarets woman, who volunteers at the Woodland Beach department, revived a toddler who nearly drowned.

"It's so weird being on the other end of things, waiting for the ambulance," she said. "I had so many skills I could use, but no tools."

Naod Mehari's family found the 2 year old floating face-down in the Chesapeake Bay just before 5 p.m., said Lt. Frank Fennell, a county Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighter Hiponia and her boyfriend, Prince George's County volunteer Firefighter Rich Cunningham, ran to the child.

"When we saw him we really didn't think we were going to bring him back," Firefighter Hiponia said.

They started CPR, flipped him over and were able to get some of the water out of his lungs. She said the boy began breathing but remained unconscious.

Lt. Fennell said the toddler's family, which was having a celebration at the park, had called 911 but was having communication problems in telling the dispatcher where they were.

County Firefighter Robert Ogilvie, Firefighter Hiponia's uncle, called 911 and gave a detailed description of the location for the ambulance.

Lt. Fennell said firefighters from the Cape St. Claire station had been to the park earlier in the day. On their way over, they contacted officers from Natural Resources Police at the park to alert them to assist with the situation.

"It was a lot of heads-up, forward-track thinking for everyone involved," Lt. Fennell said.

Firefighter Hiponia said she took the boy up to the street and waited for help to arrive.

She removed the wet clothing from the child and wrapped him in a warm blanket. She said he started to "come around," and when he was in the ambulance he started reaching for his mother.

The boy was flown to Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was in good condition as of this morning.
"At the beach you're supposed to be there to relax and put your work aside. It just goes to show emergencies can happen anywhere," Lt. Fennell said.


September 26, 2004

Hollywood and Firefighting

Linked below is an article offering the Director's insights into the Travolta movie "Ladder 49".

Quoting the article,

""The original script was set in New York," the director explains. "I had lived in New York for 11 years. I would love to shoot a movie in New York. This wasn't gonna be the one. Then it's a movie about one day, obviously the defining moment in the New York City Fire Department's history. And the whole point of this movie is that, while it is absolutely a tribute to the firefighters on 9/11, it's also a tribute to the firefighters on 9/10 and 9/12 and 9/13. The world saw in an extreme the sacrifice and the bravery that they do every day."


September 21, 2004

Fair fire ground depiction?

The photo below is apparently a still from the movie Ladder 49 staring John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix. The set below has many flaws. If this were a real emergency scene what would be different?

From Ladder 49 set? Posted by Hello

September 17, 2004

John Ames

Uncle John was my son's Godfather. When we looked for Godparents for our first born the search began and stopped at Deed and John Ames. I never heard John say a cross word about anyone. John was a gentleman who always looked to the comfort of others before himself. John was what an uncle should be. He was genuinely interested in your life and issues but never critical.

I enjoyed Johns stories about growing up in Oatman Arizona. He talked fondly of his mother, how he marveled at her ability to always cook a dinner for the family even when it was 115 degrees with no air conditioning. I loved hearing him talk about Tombstone, Bisbee and Douglas. He loved the region.

John joined the military during World War II. He told me he went to his school principal in the middle of his senior year and asked to be excused so he could join up. The principal told him if his parents agreed he would be allowed. His mom said no. He would wait until the school year ended.

John waited on the Island of Maui Hawaii with a group that was to invade and occupy Japan. The war ended before his company could embark.

John was there to serve his country.

John talked about his grandkids. He was always proud to tell his niece and I how they did in their high schools and universities, Notre Dame and Stanford. He and Deed traveled to all of their graduations. His pride for these boys was worn on his sleeve.

My younger son collects rocks. John and his Grandpa fed his collection. My sons knew that a visit to Uncle John's house meant a trip out back where he would bring out his special stash of rocks and give the kids a few to take home. John collected rocks since his childhood days in Oatman. When John found I liked old bottles he started sending old bottles to me.
When my wife or I were in the hospital John and Deed would come by every day and say hello.

John kept an eye on his sister in law Mary. He cared about Mary as he did all of those in his reach. He was a caring husband to Deed. He was a valued neighbor. John would talk about the kids next door with glowing praise. Neighbors like John Ames are rare.

My family is better for knowing John Ames. He gave us a blueprint for gentlemanly behavior.
John Ames is the type of man I hope my sons turn out to be.

I will truly miss you John.

September 15, 2004

Hurricane Ivan blog

The blog linked to below is right in the middle of the action.
Good luck to the first responders riding it out to protect their cities.

Hurricane Ivan blogger

September 13, 2004

CDF Firefighter killed in line of duty

Eva Schicke age 24 was killed on a fire outside Yosemite National Park Sunday September 12. Below is a link that shows her with her helitack crew.
Our thoughts are with her family and friends.


September 09, 2004

September 11 FDNY firefighter story

Shortly after September 11 we recieved an email from FDNY Firefighter Tommy Dunn. Tom shared with us his amazing story of his experience on that tragic day.
Follow this link to his story.
Tom is a genuine guy and exemplifies the word hero. At Firefighter Exchange and here at the blog we are lucky to count Tommy as a friend of the site.


Sept.11 hero story

"Firefighter Jay Jonas was trapped for more than three hours in the World Trade Center debris.
Des Moines Register
Survivors of Sept. 11

--Three years after he was entombed in the rubble of the World Trade Center, New York City firefighter Jay Jonas worries that Americans have forgotten that the country is vulnerable to attack."The biggest lesson? Don't fall asleep," said Jonas, who flew into Des Moines Wednesday and will give an insiders' account of Sept. 11 at a public lecture tonight in Newton. "Make no mistake about it. This is a serious group of people. They want to destroy us."
Jonas, a battalion chief who led one of the first fire crews into the World Trade Center, recently studied Al-Qaida and other Muslim extremist groups during a 14-week counter- terrorism course at the U.S. Military Academy."All is not well," said Jonas, 46, of Goshen, N.Y. "None of us are going to be safe for a very long time. This is not a war that's going to be over in a couple years."With major cities tightening security, terrorists may go for "softer targets," Jonas said.
"As we're driving in from the airport, I'm thinking, there's a target . . . and there's a target," he said. "It can be something much less conspicuous than a high-rise building in a big city."Jonas declined to identify the potential targets, saying it would be inappropriate to do so.On Sept. 11, 2001, Jonas was awaiting orders in the lobby of the north tower as a raging fire consumed 20 floors - each an acre in size - 100 stories above him. He saw a black shadow cross the floor. The second plane hit the south tower with a violent explosion.
"That radically changed things," said Jonas, who was then captain of Ladder Company 6 in Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood. "That naivete disappeared. We knew we were under attack. One of the firemen said, 'I don't know if we'll make it through today.' "It occurred to Jonas then that terrorists had actually declared war on the United States when they bombed the twin towers in 1993. "We just didn't do anything" then, he said.Jonas gave his crew of five firefighters their orders: Stick together, walk up 80 flights and help anyone you can.
"Without hesitation, they all said, 'OK, Cap, let's go. We're with you,' " he said.As they hit the stairs, Jonas wondered if the U.S. Air Force would be protecting the building from the air. "I've never been to a fire where I was wondering if we had military backup," he said.Jonas was on the 27th floor, waiting for two firefighters to catch up, when an earthquake-like rumble shook the building and knocked out the lights.The south tower had just collapsed.
"I couldn't believe it," Jonas said. A 22-year firefighter with two college degrees, he knew no U.S. high-rise had ever collapsed from fire.He looked at his firefighters for a moment, then said, "If that tower can go, this one can go. It's time for us to get out of here."Still, Jonas was nervous because he hadn't gotten an order to evacuate. He later learned the order was radioed before the south tower fell, but he couldn't hear it - probably because the repeaters, which boost radio signals so they can be heard inside skyscrapers, weren't working.
On the way down, they passed a firefighter Jonas used to carpool with to work, Lt. Mike Warchola, who was helping a civilian suffering from chest pain."Mike, come on," Jonas told him. "Let's go.""We'll be right behind you," Warchola told him.Around the 20th floor, the firefighters found an injured woman in a doorway crying. Helping Josephine Harris, 59, limp down the stairs slowed their descent and bottlenecked everybody behind them."This was the terrifying time," Jonas said. "The spooky music in this whole scenario is that the clock is ticking. Instead of descending with a normal gait, it was: Step. Step. Step. It was like water torture."
By the fourth floor, Jonas felt a twinge of confidence. They could make it, he thought.Then Harris' legs gave way. She could no longer walk.Jonas broke into the fourth floor to find a chair in which to carry Harris."It's the biggest office building in the world, and this is not an office floor," he said. "It's a mechanical equipment floor."He searched, running to the opposite side of the building, but couldn't find a chair."Something told me, 'This isn't working out. I've got to get back to the stairway. We're just going to have to drag her.' "
About four feet from the door, there was a thunderous roar and the floor bucked like ocean waves. The collapse had started.Jonas pulled the door handle, but the compression effect kept it stuck shut. He yanked again. It opened.He dove into the stairway, curled into a ball, and waited to be crushed, he said.Rushing wind picked up one of his firefighters and threw him down two flights of stairs. Debris pummeled them, cutting and bruising their skin. Each time a floor pancaked onto the one below, the tremendous vibration bounced them like basketballs. Steel twisted around them with an ear-splitting screech.
"It's over," he thought. "This is how it ends."Then it stopped - 110 floors flattened in 13 seconds.Gagging and coughing in a cloud of dust, Jonas did a roll call. Of the 13 people with him - 11 firefighters, a Port Authority police officer and Harris - one had a concussion, one had a separated shoulder and one possibly had broken ribs. But for the most part, they were fine.Maydays crackled over the radio from elsewhere in the tower.Warchola, the firefighter they'd passed as he helped a civilian, radioed that he was in the B stairway on the 12th floor, badly hurt.
Jonas tried to reach him, but chunks of the stairway were missing or blocked with debris. They were trapped in a two-story pocket.A second mayday came from Warchola. Then a third.Jonas took a breath. "I'm sorry, Mike," he said into the radio. "I can't help you."The firefighters could hear fires crackling around them.They found a toilet on the fifth floor that wouldn't flush, but would be handy if someone needed to use the john. They found some sprinkler piping they could break into when they got thirsty. They found a service elevator with an open shaft below and figured that, if desperate, they could rappel down into a subcellar and find a subway tunnel out. They found a can of orange soda and shared sips.
An hour passed. Then two hours.Rescuers repeatedly asked for their location.Over and over Jonas said, "North tower, B stairwell, fourth floor."At one point, he heard a firefighter on the radio say, "Where's the north tower?""I'm thinking, 'You hayseeds. It's the big building on the corner,' " Jonas said.He was unaware that all the physical landmarks of the World Trade Center had disappeared.After 31/2 hours, the dust cleared and a ray of light beamed through a small hole.
"Guys," Jonas told his crew. "There used to be 106 floors above us, and now I'm seeing sunshine."By widening the hole, they were able to use ropes to climb out.The view stunned them: 16 acres of rubble and two buildings ablaze just feet away.As they hiked over the treacherous debris, Jonas was optimistic he'd see other survivors emerging."We had a nice little pocket. There's got to be hundreds of them," he thought.To Jonas' shock, only his group of 14 and four others escaped the wreckage alive.
The rescue personnel death toll: 421.Altogether, about 3,000 people were confirmed dead in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."The numbers are kind of cold," Jonas said Wednesday. "I hope my story gives this a personal feeling. People aren't recognizing how significant a day it really was.

September 08, 2004

Herioic firefighters honored in PA.

Kingston honors 5 firefighters
By Tom Venesky , Citizens' Voice Staff Writer
The Municipality of Kingston recognized five firefighters for their actions that saved the life of a 10-year-old boy last month. During Tuesday's regular council meeting, Mayor James Haggerty read proclamations for firefighters Brian Bloom, Brian Krahel, Brian Lawson, Paul Klecha and Floyd Young. The five firefighters worked to rescue the boy and two girls, ages 9 and 11, after they were swept away in a swift current while wading in Toby Creek. The body of 12-year-old Bradley Okraszewski, who was with the group of children, was found the day after the rescue.
Haggerty said although one life was lost, the incident would've been worse if not for the heroic efforts of the five firefighters."These men put themselves in harm's way and they're a credit to the skill, training and courage of the members of our department," he said.Kingston Fire Chief Bob Cannon said the department conducted a "long and involved" search effort during the ordeal and he commended all those involved."Firefighting is a team effort and nowhere was it more evident than on that night..............."

September 04, 2004

Hurricane blog

Hurricane Frances blog from Brevard County
Prayers and best wishes to first responders and the citizens of the Sunshine state.

Fire stories from the FDNY archives

Great site found on the Unofficial FDNY home page.
Each fire profiled is accompanied by media photographs.


The REAL Ladder 49.

September 03, 2004

Ladder 49 is due in theaters October 1st. I have been disappointed with firefighter depictions in by Hollywood. Howie Longs version of fighting wildland fires was an affront to every firefighter who ever fought one. Another sad attempt was with John Goodman and a dead Richard Driefus coming back to help his girlfriend land a tanker or some such event. The scene in the bar which was supposed to be in the base camp was pure Hollywood fiction. No one parties after a day on the line. Sleep is the only thing anyone wants besides a steak or a giant plate of chicken.
This movie site for Ladder 49 offers something unique. Ordinary visitors to the site are invited to add a story about a hero of their own.
Take a look http://ladder49.movies.go.com/main.html
Look under the tab named "everyday heroes"

A great Fire Story

Laura Hovie sent this story to http://firefighterexchange.com/ after I met her on a fire in Mariposa County in the central Sierra foothills in 2000.

Laura's Story By Laura Hovie, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fresno/Kings Ranger Unit, Piedra Station As thick as fog in San Fransisco Bay was the smoke on the Beal Fire Road that afternoon. And before we knew it, there we were in the path of the on coming fire. Our assignment that day was structure protection. We arrived at our destination and backed down the driveway of a large 2 story home positioned on the hillside above the rapidly approaching fire. We quickly deployed our engine protection line and two structure protection lines on either side of the house. On the back side of the house we found a spacious wooden deck extending from the second floor and about 50 feet from the house, where a travel trailer was parked. On the other side of the trailer the land sloped downward toward Highway 168. With the assistance of local volunteer fire fighters, my partner, Lupe, and I manned the structure protection lines and took our stand. Upon our arrival I observed only a slight breeze but as the fire drew nearer the upslope winds grew more intense. Because of the thick smoke I was not able to see the fire until it was nearly upon us. It was hard to breath the thick smoky air. My nose was running, eyes watering. Through my goggles the smoke stung my eyes. And then the bushes down the hill caught on fire, then the trees, and the grass. The fire grew closer, larger, hotter! I waited until it was in reach of my hose stream and then opened the bale. A burst of water surged through the nozzle . . . and the hose went limp in my hands. My heart sank. I looked over to where Lupe had been standing and saw only flame. I called out to him but got no response. I grabbed my radio and waited briefly for a pause in radio traffic but the tac channel to which we were assigned was jammed. I keyed up and called to my engineer for water. I did this several times. Finally I felt pressure in the hose again. During this time the Volunteer and I had crouched behind the trailer as the flames rolled over our heads. We got water to our hose but only in small bursts between which I would have to close down the bale and wait for the pressure to build back up. When the fire had nearly passed I sent the Volunteer up onto the deck to check for fire. He found a spot that was burning and we quickly extinguished it. I ran around to the other side of the house and found Lupe and the other volunteer putting out hot spots. When we realized that the fire had passed and we had saved the house we were ecstatic! We checked the house and the trailer and found that nothing had burned!