The Continuing Chronicles of the FNG(irl): Throwing Ladders

I ambled into drill tonight fully expecting yet another evening of videotapes or chalk and talk.

Noticing that the projector and a/v system wasn't set up, I inquired "What are we doing tonight?"...

The 1st Asst. Chief grinned at me...."Hope you're feeling limber, we're playing with ladders and hoses tonight"


Here's the gig....I have what I like to call a "situational" fear of heights. There are certain circumstances that inspire that ooogy feeling, and others that, inexplicably, do not. To the casual observer, there's not much to differentiate between the two, but as I've tried to explain...If I think that there's a chance I might accidentally fall, and it's an open exposed setting, it's not a happy place for me.

On the flip side, I have no problem standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, or, when the World Trade Center was still standing, leaning forward and resting my forehead against the floor to ceiling windows of Wild Blue and looking down the gap between the window and wall all 110 stories to the ground. To further elaborate....roller coasters...indoors, in the dark? (Rock N Roller Coaster)...can't get enough, can ride it ten times in a problem. Superman at Six Flags New England?
Not in this lifetime, sucker. I'd refuse to ride that thing at gunpoint. My hands are getting sweaty right now just thinking about it. Obviously bungee jumping is right out.

Having not scaled too many ladders in my lifetime....I simply had no idea how I'd feel about it until I got up there. But I'm getting ahead of myself......

Drill Step 1.) They took all the newbies and never-ever drivers out in our apparatus (what's the singular of apparatus, is it apparati?) with the line officers to get a feel for driving the big rigs.

LOVED IT. I could drive that thing all the live-long day....and I'm good at it. Driving is an instinctual talent for me; I'm not rattled by the size of the vehicle. Four newbies...three rigs.....rotating off on three vehicles every ten grinning like the village idiot the entire time; "Can I play with the lights? What does this do? What happens if I push THAT....What's this dial for?" --you get the picture.....holy annoying Batman. My captain has the patience of Job.

Drill Step 2.) Ladders. We drive the apparatus up to the training buildings...and we start with the single story flat-roofed burn building. After a brief explanation of what type of ladders are used, and for what purpose....we run drills on pulling and throwing. "Well, ok...this isn't too bad" I thought to myself.

Ladders, as my friend Kenzi has told me so often, are heavier than they appear. "Let me just grab this end and JESUS MURPHY that's heavy".....

Now we have multiple ladders in position, and it's time to cut bait or fish. My sole fellow female recruit takes one look and says "nope, not doing it". I see the looks going around the group and realize that if nothing else, I'm going to take a whack at it, because as I've said so often, it's the rare occasion that I back down from a challenge; personal or otherwise.

First things first is the leg lock on the ladder. Not anywhere as easy as it looks. After contorting myself like Houdini I finally manage to hook my foot back through the ladder rung (Keep in mind that this is the same foot that took the beating falling off the treadmill two days ago...that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.)--finally accomplish that, and it's time to climb or step off.

I choose to climb.

What in the name of all the tea in China was I so worried about????? This is NOTHING. This is CAKE. This is....can it be? Why yes, I do believe it can be.....FUN!!!! I'm absolutely astonished (not quite as astonished as I was at reading about our Governor's hijinks with the Emperor's prostitution ring ---oh Elliot....we clearly never knew ye) at how little impact this is having on me. I step onto the roof and look down, feeling like I've crossed some invisible "acceptance" line within the department.

Oh wait, I still have to get down......hand plant, foot plant, swing my hips around....second foot plant...second hand plant.....what the hell.....this is NOTHING.....I'm INVINCIBLE........ ;) (and I'm in full turnout with SCBA by the way).

Hooray!!! Maybe I actually CAN be a firefighter!! I believed, way down deep inside, packed away with all of my other hidden insecurities, that maybe heights and ladders were going to be my Waterloo. I crossed the Rubicon and felt a wave of something....belonging? .....fate?......dunno. But I felt like I belonged.

We repeated the exercise on the training tower to the third problem.

I'm elated.....I'm a fire geek........and I've found a home.

Rolling hose? Not loving that so much.

Until next time........

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Comment by Kimberly A Bownas on April 10, 2008 at 5:58pm
Ok, I just read about you first ladder throw. Great job and I have a fear of falling so, heights and I are not real close. I have climbed ladders but really am not fond of it. One of our SCBA recerts was this course set up by our Cheif and one of the sections was climbing a ladder onto the storage shed roof, then walk across and climb down the ladder at the other end. The Chief, who has known me since I was knee high to a grasshopper also knew my fear and told me I could skip that part. I told him that I wanted to try and I did it. It was a great accomplishment. Since then I dcided that since I had rope basic under my belt that I would try the next step. I figured it would help with that whole fear thing. It was a blast and we asked the instructor when do we get to do the basket across a gorge. We were ready. HE told us we needed more people, so we are waiting for more to get caught up. It has helped with that fear. Keep up the good work and oh the hose rolling sucks I agree....

Comment by Ed Curran on March 30, 2008 at 5:59pm
ladders are ok in order to pass our essentials class we had to climb up one side and down the other side of a 55 ft bangor with your classmates holding on
Comment by LadyChaplain on March 18, 2008 at 10:09am
I take it you haven't seen the shirt "firefighting is a dirty job"? Get your minds out of the gutter, you two!
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on March 18, 2008 at 8:25am stole my line!!!!

Evil minds think alike.
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on March 18, 2008 at 6:26am
hey, great....thanks for the pep talk guys.

Comment by LadyChaplain on March 17, 2008 at 11:25pm
I had some dry rotted ol' rubbers, so I think that saved me... still hurt like a mofo though....

The only toe crushing experience I had was during firefighter 1 @ the tower... hurts just thinking about it.
Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on March 17, 2008 at 11:17pm
Except we were in thick smoke and I was carrying a saw.

Spent the night in the ER after my steel-toed boots crushed my right foot.

My guys got even.
Comment by LadyChaplain on March 17, 2008 at 10:59pm
GAH Tiger the same thing happened to me during Fire Prevention this year!!!!!!!! My boot ripped right in half!
Comment by Mary Ellen Shea on March 17, 2008 at 10:56pm
I'm not answering that....and I think we all know why.
Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on March 17, 2008 at 10:42pm
It's only that sudden stop at the end that will kill you.

I had a bad experience with a bad aerial operator while venting a roof at a restaurant fire several years ago. We were near the end of a 75 foot stick. The dumb-ass operator swung us around and simultaneously advanced the ladder without telling us and my boot nearly dropped to the ground with my foot in it.

But don't worry - you'll be fine. After all, what are the chances???????

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