December 14, 2011

Everything in its place

In my tiny neck of the woods, I’ve been immersed in the history and culture of firefighting as of late while creating work for Fire Station 128, a new fire station being built in the city of Santa Clarita. As part of the project, I got to spend an entire day with the fire fighters of Station 126. In no particular order, here are some things I learned and contemplated. More will be added in the weeks and months to come : ) 
-Fire fighters exist in this sort of parallel universe ….working 24 hour shifts during which their time is totally in the hands of the community. 'me' time.

-A, B, C, as steady as 1, 2, 3. Each station, at least in LA County Fire, has 3 shifts of fire fighters (A, B, C).  Each shift is on for 24 hours. I got to be with the fire fighters of shift C at Station 126. These 8 fire fighters have been together for the last 6 years and will continue to be so until someone retires or decides to ‘bid’ (request transfer) another station (not a likely scenario for this particularly super tight group!)

-Everything in its place. Could you imagine 2 other people having the exact same job as you at your workplace? 2 other people who sat at your desk, using the exact same computer, pen, everything. And that every day after you left work, you had to make sure that EVERYTHING went back to the exact same place for your co-worker who was coming in next to replace you. And that other peoples’ lives actually depended on this? That’s how it works with the 3 shifts! After one shift completes their 24 hour shift, the next shift checks in with them to go over if anything has changed, moved, etc.

-They say cleanliness is godliness…well we can also add, cleanliness is livelihood.  I’ve always thought that Fire Stations looked very serene from the outside. Well, it feels that way inside as well. Especially where the fire engines are parked. The ceilings are super tall and the atmosphere is calm and serene- probably a must in terms of being able to spring into action at a moment’s notice. There’s no way they could be as available and do what they do, if the environment was cluttered, disorganized, or dirty. 

-“We’re not heroes, we’re just doing our jobs.”  And they mean it. It takes a whole crew of firefighters to fight fire. Depending on the day and the situation one fire fighter may get to be the one with the hose, while another has to shut off gas and electricity in a building, another may be checking the roof to find a possible ventilation spot, another may be running hoses…all while keeping completely even, calm, and discerning minds. Having the training and the mind to not be heroes, is what saves our lives.

And lastly, a funny joke I heard at dinner. 

One fire fighter asked his father one day, 

“Hey Dad, how long have you and Mom been married?” 

Dad, “30 years…Longer than you get for murder!!”

Thanks to all the Shift A fire fighters of FS126  for all the laughs, information, and experience!!!