April 10, 2007

FIGHTING FIRE, CONTINUED, plus updates on coal mining and a bonus feature

Caption: Lily would be a good first responder.

This week's Goat Rope will cover all kinds of topics, but the guiding thread is El Cabrero's fond memory of his short and inglorious career as a volunteer fire fighter.

Brief summary: fighting fire is cool, metaphorically speaking (literally, it can go either way).

((Speaking of metaphors, there are a lot of fires that need to be put out in our world right now.))

If this is your first visit, please scroll down to yesterday's entry.

As I mentioned yesterday, there's a lot more to being a volunteer firefighter than just showing up and riding the big red trucks. Extensive training is required to be able to fully participate in running calls and the basic classes offered are just the beginning.

First aid and CPR training are widely available to many people outside the fire service and are required for all firefighters. The investment of a few hours here can make all the difference in a critical situation. Particularly in rural areas, volunteers may be the first people on the scene and need to know at least the basics.

The hazmat training was a real eye-opener. Learning even a little about the mountains and rivers of dangerous and toxic items all around us makes you realize how vulnerable we are.

I'm not talking primarily about dirty bombs or terrorist attacks. We are more than vulnerable enough through the ordinary hazards of production, transportation, and accident.

After completing the basic hazmat course, people can go on to the implementation stage clear up to the tech level, where you get to put on a space suit and wallow in the nasty stuff.

I decided to pass on that; I'd prefer going into a burning building any day.

Basic firefighting was as challenging as many of the college classes I’d taken. Actually, harder as I am a mechanical idiot, a fact I attribute to left-handedness and, well, being a mechanical idiot. It included some of the science of fire and the techniques and strategy of fighting it.

It also included fun stuff, like crawling through a dark, smoke-filled room while wearing turnout gear and an airpack, operating fire hoses, and climbing ladders. For a few minutes, I even relearned all the knots I’d forgotten from Boy Scouts.

At one point in the training, when we were sitting on the ground holding 2 ½ inch wide fire hoses between our legs and spraying away, the instructor asked us if we'd ever felt that much power there before.

I asked him about the psychological symbolism involved. He chose to ignore me, possibly feeling that no answer was required. I will only say in this respect that fire fighting offers endless diversion for those inclined to Freudian symbolism.

Next time: auto ex and a blog is named...

"THE REVERSE NUREMBERG DEFENSE." It looks like our dear friends at Massey Energy are still having a rough spell. I need to stop once again and compose myself. OK, I'm back. First, here's an item about the lawsuit filed by the widows who lost their husbands in the Aracoma mine fire in Logan County in 2006. Here's the lead:

The Nuremberg defense is widely known – sorry, just carrying out orders.

Now comes the reverse Nuremberg defense – sorry, just giving the orders, not carrying them out.

Lawyers for widows of two miners killed in a January 2006 West Virginia mining fire argue that Don Blankenship – the CEO of Massey Energy – is using something close to the reverse Nuremberg defense to escape personal liability for the deaths of the men.

But wait, there's more. Six miners who survived the fire have filed another lawsuit against the company.

And more. Ken Ward reported in the Charleston Gazette Friday that more mining permits may face scrutiny in federal court and Saturday that the same judge, Robert C. Chambers, refused to allow Massey to continue mining under a permit that was rescinded last month.

GOOD RESOURCE. For those interested in coal mine safety, here's a useful link.

GET YOUR iRACK. This one speaks for itself.


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