Sunday, July 1, 2012

In honor of firefighters

Firefighters are coming under assault in the general offensive against public sector workers and public services in general.  I am thinking about these folks because as a retired public utility worker working in the maintenance department of a water district it was not uncommon for us to cross paths.  Also, I just had a little fun on Facebook with a picture a FB friend posted of firefighters refusing to leave the scene at the Colorado fires opting to sleep in sleeping bags on the street.

The favored line of attack is to point out how firefighters get to hang around at the station, read, play ping pong etc. etc. After all, how many fires do we read about every day?  I don't claim to know too much about the regularity of firefighter's deployment but I do know that when they do "go out" they more often than not risk their lives.

I remember one night when I was working as a troubleshooter on graveyard I think it was.  I was filling in for a guy on holiday and I would deliver water samples to different plants and respond to calls about broken lines and related stuff. 

This night I got a call because there was a mainbreak in East Oakland down by the estuary.  It turned out that there was a tanker truck carrying fuel that had turned over and I for some reason the fire department had been using water (it was about 30 years ago) and had shut the main down too quickly most likely.  When this happens,  it can cause a split or rupture on the pipe, this was a 16" cast iron main if I remember rightly.

By the time I arrived I see this overturned tanker truck full of fuel and firefighters all around it dousing it with flame retardent foam.  I remember feeling a little uncomfortable being anywhere near that truck, after all, I've seen Hollywood movies and what fuel laden tanker trucks can do when they catch on fire.  The water line had already been shut down as the firefighters were covering this potentially powerful explosive device with foam and I asked one guy what they were going to do.

I remember him telling me that they were going to have a special type of welder come in and cut a hole in it so they could let out the fuel, or remove it in some way.  I was 30 years younger then and remember being so impressed by that; I was full of respect for these brothers and sisters. 

I left and never got to see what was done in the end but I know they earned every penny they get as most workers do.  Despite the massive anti-worker propaganda in society, working people want to do a good job and go home at the end of the day knowing we were productive.  Not like a hedge fund manager or other coupon clippers who do no productive labor or offer any real service to society, just live off it.

I also remember the Oakland fire and we lost at least one firefighter in that huge conflagration. After 911 I wrote letters of support for the firefighter's' Union in NYC that my local passed and we sent them some money.

Firefighters are alright in my book.

No comments: