Andy Rooney Redux

Fire Trucks and Firefighters Rant

…the late Andy Rooney would ask, “ever wonder why a fire truck shows up when a 911 call is made for a medical emergency? I do.” And, I too have done so for more than thirty years without ever hearing a reasonable explanation…that is until fairly recently. Each time I pose the question to those who might know or should know, the answer I get is…“paramedics are assigned to a truck and can’t be separated” or “all firefighters are paramedics and the truck is their vehicle” or “they may be dispatched to a fire while on a medical call.” Oh, I get it. The firefighter/paramedic is going to let the victim bleed out because he/she has just been called to another incident. Really? The only answer that ever made sense to me came from a firefighter who said, “every agency gets paid on every responsive call and the more assets dispatched to that call, the more we may justify our brutally inflated budget(s).” Ah ha!


Not long ago, while at Dana Point Marina, I witnessed a middle age man sitting on a bench and being attended to by what seemed to be a cast of thousands. I inquired as to the nature of this poor guy’s ailment and learned that he felt dizzy while having lunch and thought he might pass out. A server in the restaurant did the responsible thing and called 911. On the scene was the following; two Harbor Patrol boats; two Orange County Sheriff’s boats; three fire trucks two of which were equipped with hoses; half a dozen or more firefighters in full regalia looking as if they were preparing to put out the great Yellowstone blaze; two ambulances (one private and one OC) and an OC Sheriff’s cruiser. Maybe a tad over the top?

I’ve often thought of that hypothetical guy who is experiencing chest pains and calls 911. In response, fire truck(s) arrive along with a plethora of other assets. When the caller looks out the window and sees a ‘hook and ladder’ and fireman adorned with firefighting accoutrement, he must think, “oh ****, this just ain’t my day. In addition to having a heart attack, my ******* house must be on fire.”


…Andy might also ask, “ever wonder why firefighters live at the station for several days at a time? I do.” Are they on the clock when they sleep? How about when I see them on the walking path by our home? What about when they food shop at the market or polish the trucks or cook? How come institutions such as local police departments, the entire Las Vegas machine and the automobile manufacturing industry are able to work well on three daily eight hour shifts (with occasional overtime)? This arrangement seems much more cost effective. Every firefighter I know either runs a business from the firehouse while still being paid or is a student taking classes on line or studying. And, almost every retired firefighter I know is on some sort of disability. This is starting to feel like a ‘racket.’

I Ain’t Done Yet

…Andy might also question the competence of commanders. The most recent example of poor leadership is found in that unfortunate incident where 19 ‘Hot Shot’ firefighters lost their lives in Prescott, Arizona while fighting a wildfire that did not threaten life but rather property. Those commanders said the wind shifted dramatically and their guys were engulfed within seconds and did not have sufficient time to get into their ‘cocoon’ suits or escape. How does that happen? When training, do you not prepare for wind shifts? And, if wind shift is considered a possibility then, wouldn’t you go to ‘Plan B,’ whatever that might be? I understand where a firefighter rushes into a burning building to save a life and looses his/her own in the process. That is the selfless act of a very brave soul and most of us mortals are not equipped to do that job. But, a wildfire is a different story. While unpredictability accompanies every fire, one would think that safety of the firefighters would be paramount in their strategic approach to putting the blaze down.

And in Conclusion…

This entire fire fighting, fire truck, paramedic business is not a new one with me and I doubt I’ll evoke a sympathetic response from most readers as they will say, “you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” They may very well be right. But my experience tells me something different. When a difficult and embarrassing question is posed, it is often answered with typical ‘red herring rhetoric’ which is nothing more than a device leading to a false conclusion…a ‘rhetorical manoeuvre’ of sorts. This is painfully remindful of my experience in observing political stratagem, academic dereliction and corporate greed.

But, with all of my ranting and raving on this subject, I’ll be the first to say, “when you need ‘em, you need ‘em and I’m grateful they are there.”

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