When I left you, I had been assigned to Engine 8, then U-83, in Matoaca. I spent three years there initially. With it being a slow house, I was able to get my self-study work done pretty quickly.
Matoaca was also the house where I had set a goal to become an Advanced Life Support (ALS) provider on an engine. In 1987, I went to cardiac technician school, which is now called EMT-Intermediate.
I left Matoaca in 1989, headed back home, Fire Station 1 in Chester. I did not stay in Chester long because Engine 1 was not a designated ALS engine, but Engine 14 (U-143) was. I spent about the next eight to10 months at two of the busiest engine companies in the county and I was loving life. Busy engines gave/give firefighters the opportunity to gain a wealth of experience. As I stated, my stay would not last long and I would find myself back in Matoaca on what was called Medic 8.
Medic 8 was a quick-response, non-transport vehicle that was used to transport an ALS provider to many locations in the southern part of Chesterfield County. Though No. 8 drove me crazy the first time, I was glad to be there this time. When I became an ALS provider, I knew that I had to be somewhere that was going to test me on a regular basis. Medic 8 did just that. We ran several calls each day, from medical to trauma. This was the opportunity of a lifetime to gain experience and I also decided to continue my ALS training, by going to Paramedic School at MCV. This tour would last two years and then I went back to Fire Station 1.
I, again, got moved back to Engine 14, located at 10 and 1. It was during this tour that I got cross-trained on Truck 14, then U-147, which was a tractor-drawn American LaFrance, with an enclosed tiller box. In other words, this ladder truck had a driver in the front and a driver in the rear. Some would say, the tillerman’s job was one of the best jobs in the fire service and I would have to agree. As Chief Graham used to say, I had gone from being a hose head to a splinter head, his terms of endearment for those on an engine and truck respectively. I will say that I really had no clue what it meant to be a truckie back then. The day that Catfish turned me loose to till, we caught a working house fire in Glebe Point about five minutes later. Not only was I going to till down some of our worst streets, but we were also going to a working fire, on my first call. The real test came when I had to climb the aerial, on my first call as a tillerman. What I realized that day was that I was seriously overweight and needed to change that immediately. That would lead me to begin a diet and exercise routine that would take me from 220 lbs to 160 lbs.
From Station 14, I traded with a guy at the Airport Station (No. 15) and I was assigned to an engine and ambulance company. This would be my first tour at a station that had a 24-hour ambulance.
There were two medics on the shift, so we traded off from the engine to the ambulance. This was a total different kind of assignment for me, as well as the house where the P-19, air-crash rescue vehicle was assigned.
I was a firefighter for the first ten years of my career and nine and a half years had been spent on an engine company. I felt like I was a good engine firefighter. I had a good sense of strategy and tactics, where most fire situations were concerned. One thing that I did not throw in was that I had been a part of the Hazardous Incident Team, as well as a part of the Heavy Technical Rescue team. It was at this point that I got serious about taking the lieutenant’s test and in 1996, while still at No. 15, I got promoted to lieutenant. My next assignment would be Engine 2 and that’s where I will pick up in my next article.