LA County FD Task force stages for mobilization to Chile

Information from the Los Angeles County Fire Department at 11 pm PT today:

UPDATE at 2:34 pm PT, March 1

LA County sent us a corrected new release, clarifying that the Task Force is only staged for deployment. The updated news release is below:

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LOS ANGELES – March 1, 2010 – California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), Los Angeles County Fire’s world-class Heavy Rescue Task Force, is staged for possible deployment to Chile to help rescue and recover earthquake victims in Latin America, following a 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Maule, Chile.

Commanders of the 74-member team received the request from the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID-OFDA), and are currently staging at the Department’s USAR Facility in Pacoima.  The team includes two additional search team managers, three physicians, three structural specialists, and six rescue canines.

California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2) is a specially-trained and equipped Urban Search and Rescue Task Force consisting of Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters and paramedics rescue specialists, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment specialists, canine search dogs and handlers, hazardous materials technicians, communications specialists, and logistics specialists. This unique technical rescue team responds with 70,000 pounds of prepackaged search and rescue tools and medical equipment to conduct around-the-clock search and rescue operations at domestic and international disasters, both natural and man-made.

The rush of battle

“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Chris Hedges

The movie The Hurt Locker, opens with that quote on the screen. I saw it yesterday, an excellent movie about a U.S. Army bomb squad, or Emergency Ordinance Disposal team, working in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. It is a very gripping movie that as Kenneth Turan, a film critic for the LA Times said,  “it simply blows you apart and doesn’t bother putting you back together again”. The movie has been nominated for nine academy awards.

The interactions between the individuals in the bomb squad, and the tense drama as improvised explosive devices are being disarmed, are fascinating. The leader of the unit, Sergeant First Class William James, is a risk taker, a reckless cowboy sometimes putting not only himself but the rest of the unit and innocent bystanders in peril.

After Sgt. James put out a vehicle fire with a 20-pound dry chemical fire extinguisher, and then disarmed a huge bomb in the car’s trunk, an officer called him repeatedly a “Wild Man, a Wild Man”.  At first I was not sure if that was a compliment, but the officer thought it was. He was proud of the Sergeant, while the rest of his unit had been advising him to abandon the rigged car, since everyone had been evacuated from the area and it was much too hazardous to attempt to disarm the bomb in the still-smoking car which could have been detonated at any time by an insurgent with a cell phone.

You may know someone like this in the firefighting profession.

But I hope you don’t.

I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that firefighting is a “potent and lethal addiction”, or is a “drug”, but a person could draw some parallels between warfighting and firefighting.  Well, on second thought, it might be a potent addiction, while being occasionally lethal, unfortunately.

Vote for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Wildland Firefighter Foundation
NASCAR is sponsoring a contest in which you can design a paint scheme on one of their drivers’ cars, then anyone can vote once a day on their favorite design. The winning paint scheme will actually get painted onto a car and will help pace the field at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 22.

Tom Stein and his wife, of Boise, Idaho, designed this car to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation which assists the families of fallen and injured wildland firefighters. Tom’s father was an air tanker pilot at Hemet-Ryan air tanker base in southern California and Tom has been a big supporter of the WFF.

If this car wins it will result in a lot of recognition for the WFF and could help support the families of our fallen and injured firefighters.

VOTE once a day for the car.

2009 Safety Gram

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Safety and Health Working Team has released the 2009 Safety Gram listing the serious accidents, burnovers, entrapments, and fatalities on wildland fires last year.

According to their report, there were 15 fatalities on wildland fires, which is a substantial decrease from the 25 recorded in 2008.

Below is a summary of the fatalities; the entire Safety Gram is here:

  • Driving – 3: One fatality occurred when two trucks collided head-on in dense smoke. Two fatalities occurred when a fire vehicle left the roadway and rolled down the mountain side in California.
  • Entrapment/Burnover – 0
  • Medical Emergencies – 5: Four of which were confirmed as heart attacks and one unknown cause of death.
  • Hazard Tree/Snag – 1: One fatality occurred when a firefighter was conducting tree felling training.
  • Aviation – 6: One fatality occurred when aircraft crashed while observing a fire in Wisconsin. Three fatalities occurred when retardant aircraft was mobilizing to a fire in New Mexico. One fatality occurred when a Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) aircraft crashed on a fire in Nevada. One fatality occurred when a firefighter was involved in a rappel proficiency test.

And remember, Let’s Be Careful Out There.