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April 27, 2012 > Firefighter's Diary

Firefighter's Diary

By Jesse Miller-Smith

Fire Station #1, on the corner of Mowry and Argonaut, is considered the central hub of the Fremont Fire Department. The station houses a paramedic engine company staffed by three personnel and a paramedic truck company, also staffed with three personnel. It is, by far, the busiest station in Fremont with over 4,000 calls a year between both companies. As a rookie paramedic/firefighter, my first goal was to pass firefighting specific training on Truck 51 at station #1. Since I was brand new to the department, I worked as the fourth firefighter on the truck so that I was watched over and didn't have too much responsibility. The goal of the two month truck training period was to teach me Fremont Fire Department operations on incidents such as structure fires, grass fires, vehicle extrications, and technical rescues.

It's an interesting experience, walking into a firehouse for the first time as a rookie paramedic/firefighter. Generally speaking, crews are tightly knit socially because of time spent working 24-hour shifts together; over time your co-workers become like family. But that only happens over time and as a rookie, I had to prove myself both on calls and working around the firehouse. Luckily for me, even though I worked with one of the most experienced crews on the department, they were open, friendly and didn't treat me like a complete outsider.

My first morning on the job, my Captain and senior firefighter sat down with me and went over all that was expected. They explained how I would be involved in training, call response and station duties over the next two months. A goal was for me to work at the training tower on Stevenson Boulevard 3-4 hours every day, learning hands-on operations, in preparation for a written and manipulative test at the end of the two month rotation. Over the next two months, countless hours were spent drilling on everything from throwing ladders and pulling hose to ropes and ventilation techniques during structure fires.

In addition to training, Truck 51 also responded to about 3-4 calls a day. While most of the calls were for emergency medical response, we also responded to several vehicle accidents, fire alarm activations, and structure fires. Structure fires are probably the most intense and labor intensive incidents; after being on the job for a couple of weeks, I was involved with my first structure fire in a Fremont uniform. At around 2 p.m. on a weekday, a single family home in Niles caught fire, probably caused by an electrical short. The fire was fairly extensive involving two bedrooms and the hallway. Luckily, the residents were alerted by their smoke alarms and escaped out the first floor windows of the house.

Engine 52 from Niles arrived very quickly, made entry into the house and started putting the fire out with their 1 3/4 inch hose while the crew from Engine 51 performed a search to make sure no one was inside. Simultaneously, my crew on Truck 51 threw ladders to the roof and cut a ventilation hole so crews working inside could attack the fire and perform rescue in a more tenable environment. I was pretty impressed with how smoothly and coordinated the fire was extinguished and, even though the family lost some of their possessions and part of their house in the fire, we were able to save the majority of the house and its contents; no one was injured. It was a great introduction to fire ground operations in Fremont.

At the end of my two-month rotation on Truck 51, I felt completely prepared when the day of the big test arrived. The test lasted 3-4 hours at the training tower and was very comprehensive assessing all the skills I had learned over the previous two months. I was relieved to find that I passed and excited to learn that I would be moved to station #3 in Irvington for the next phase of my probation.

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