Monday, May 31, 2010

so fun I can hardly sleep!

Holy smoke. Took a couple of days to come down off the high. Last shift was insane. We had not one but two fires. :) The first fire was a pot on the stove so one crewmate might win firefigter of the year for grabbing the pot and running outdoors with it. ;) After ventilating, and placing a smoke alarm in their home (folks..... PLEASE make sure you have working smoke alarms and CO detectors), the call was done. In the evening we had a 2 alarm fire and I felt like I was in a movie. I was driving the ladder truck and had the pedal to the floor. On the radio I could hear that there was one severely burned person at the front of the house and someone else in distress from a knife wound. Then I heard a firefighter yell 'everybody out!'. I thought maybe the floors had collapsed. Turns out it was a home invasion. Upon arrival, Command asked us to suit up and stand on deck to make entry. When I jumped out of the truck I saw the SWAT team running down the street a la Flashpoint. We were at a working crime scene and there were coppers everywhere. We were at the call for a few hours and when it was time to go we were jammed in because of all the vehicles and bystanders. It was impossible to turn a 40 foot ladder truck around so I had to back up the beast something like 5 blocks in the dark. Took forever but didn't hit anything and my Captain was all smiles. There was money on whether I could do it or not.... it was pretty tight. The toughest part was not being able to set up for the next turn because there's no rearview mirror in the truck and so I had to rely on my crewmate to be my 'eyes'. It was total teamwork and trust. The irony is that by the time we got back to the hall, it took me two tries to back the truck into the bay and I told my crew with a laugh that I had used all my magic backing up powers and there was none left. I was soaked with sweat down to my skivvies but still gave my crewmate a huge hug. I LOVE MY STINKING JOB!!! Can't remember the last time I had this much fun!

Can't wait to see what tomorrow's shift will bring!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


It's rare that I end up in a photo with my children, only because I am the one usually taking the pictures. So for posterity's sake, here's one of me and the kids at our favourite outdoor Indian restaurant. Food is delicously spicy and hot. The kids aren't able to eat much but love the mango kulfis and it keeps them busy long enough to sit still so that we can finish our meal.

truck maintenance

We're in the middle of truck maintenance this week. This is where we inventory each and every piece of equipment on board (one day I'll list every item but it is literally dozens of pages long and would take me and hour to type), and wash and lube, wax or whatever needs to be done. No one really likes to do this chore because it's so labour intensive but many hands make light work so once we all get into the groove it's not so bad and we end up with a clean equipment and truck that looks shiny new. And then we sit and wait for a good call to get it all nice and dirty again. ;)

J and M

Weekends are crazy town in our household.....
Maiya has turned into a bit of a holy terror (not unlike her mum... lol) and is quick to tell you what she wants or doesn't want. She holds her own against the older kids and of course her big brother. I have had to break up many a fight. She climbs, she jumps, she flies. And does she ever have a set of lungs. We've been going non stop all day but my husband did capture 30 seconds of peace..... right before they both conked out for a long nap.

Thank God.

Monday, May 24, 2010

nature of fire

Feeling slightly ill today. Took in a bit of smoke at a call last night. The fire was teeny tiny (electrical fire) but produced a ton of thick acrid smoke. We were all coughing and gagging a bit. The plastic coating on the wires was the culprit. Unfortunately, these days housefires no longer smell like campfires because the combustibles are all plastic now. Which makes it far more dangerous for everyone because the smoke and fumes are so toxic. Fires are now burning hotter than ever with the petroleum by-product, and flashovers and backdrafts are an even greater threat than ever before. I have been in a house fire where there was a rollover that thankfully did not develop into a flashover. Although I've been to post-explosion fires, I have not witnessed a backdraft and hope to never come across one apart from what I've seen in training videos. And in the videos the house looks like it is an alive being, huffing and puffing and breathing angrily which is one of the first warning signs of backdraft (along with greyish, yellowish smoke). So I guess in the scheme of things a bit of smoke in the lungs is nothing.

Again, another one of those posts where there is no real beginning or end. The warm summer-like weather has me frolicking outside with the kids rather than wanting to be tied to the computer. But I'll try to make a point of blogging to at least capture this amazing time I've been having with both my real life and fire families.... xo

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

boy bits

This morning as Jacob was getting dressed, Maiya spotted Jacob's boy bits and pointed to them.... and asked "what is that?' I told her using the correct anatomical terms and then she said 'whoa!' very matter of factly. And then she toddled off to play and do whatever 18 month olds do.

The things that come out of the mouths of babes. ;)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

firefighters have curves

I often get asked why I chose to become a firefighter when there are a plethora of jobs that are deemed more 'suitable' for a woman. The simple answer would be that I'm made for this job. I have the genetics that make me strong giving me the advantage of height and heft, I understand the physics of fire and have a knack for hydraulics and the mechanics of operating different types of fire trucks. I love working with the public and crews. You don't need to be a man to do these things well. But having said all this, there are some inherent challenges to being a female firefighter and living life in the firefighting culture:

No matter how new or how much seniority you have, as a female firefighter, you are always being watched and judged. You will often be questioned about your ability, either by your colleagues or by the public. Because females make up 2% of the firefighting population, we stick out like a sore thumb and as such, we are not able to fade in the crowd. Everyone knows your name and this isn't always a good thing. If there isn't a rumour about you already, one will be made up. Any mistake made is magnified ten times over. All the female firefighters I know have very thick skins. I wear mine like a badge of honour. Thank God I have a sense of humour and never really give a rats ass what people think of me on or off the job.

A guy can go with his crew off shift and party and act like a dumbass and no one will blink an eye. Should a female firefighter do the same, her actions may haunt her for the rest of her career. There is that fine line between friendliness and flirtation. And while you want to be friendly and easy-going with the guys you work with, taking things a step further isn't the wisest choice. Things are usually fine until the big breakup then camps get divided. And the guys will remember you for who you dated rather than the great work you do on the job. The saying never sh*t where you eat applies here. As much as I would love to socialize with the guys off the job, if it's at an event where there is tons of booze being consumed, I tend to pass. Once I saw a captain who was so wasted he stripped down to his tighty whities. To this day I have a hard time taking him seriously, let alone am I able to look him straight in the eye. The image of him dancing on a table in skivvieis enough to send me to therapy.

The physical demands of the job are demanding. On everyone. Male or female. Firefighting is tough and not gentle on the body. For the women, add a pregnancy or two, the body doesn't get much of a chance to rest. After some days on the job, I crawl back home bone tired only to continue with my work running a household. This I suspect will not get any easier as I age. I do not look forward to menopause. The day I fear breaking a hip dismounting from the firetruck is the day I hang up my helmet. But as bad menopause might be for the gals, it might be far worse for the guys while we unleash on them as we go through it. Or fight to lower the station thermostat. Dudes, payback is a bitch. lol

Even if I won the lottery, I would still go into work because I love the chaos, the dirt, and the unknown that comes with the territory. And there is no other place apart from my own little family, that I feel as needed, loved and respected in spite of the ups and downs. Female or not, firefighting is my dream job. And while I may never be the greatest, the strongest nor the best, I am darn good at what I do. And that's all that really matters at the end of the day... and to be able to include myself in this band of brothers. xo

just plain crazy

My husband and I have been house hunting. Although we adore our loft, we figure we might as well get serious about finding a house since at some point we will need to move to get within walking distance of Jacob's school. And it would be nice to have a backyard so I can let the kids loose. And a BBQ would be stupendous since that is the only way my husband knows how to cook.
I think moving in general is a pain in the arse but not looking for a house would be just delaying the inevitable.

But I've been completely out of touch.

Back when the loft was purchased eleven years ago, housing prices were normal and reasonable. The seller listed a price, and you bought it. Perhaps for a little less than asking, or perhaps you paid the asking price. In any event, the deal seemed pretty fair. Nowadays there is this thing called the bidding war and frankly, I think it's a bit of a scam and I have absolutely no time for it. I wish buyers would start thinking a bit more logically. A lane house (as in, a house built on a laneway and it has no parking and no backyard!) just sold for $950, 000 in our neighbourhood. Even with the low interest rates it's a bit nuts.

We've been looking for a gut job so we can design the house of our dreams. We figured if we found an old dump we could invest funds into rebuilding. The perfect house came up right in the neighbourhood we wanted. The house hasn't been lived in for years and was basically condemned and raccoons had taken over. But at $329, 000 we loved the price and would bring us well within budget with reno costs. Except that of course this house went into a bidding war and sold for $460,500 and it needs at least $250,000 worth or reno work. We weren't too disappointed but holy crap.... does money grow on trees for some people? Have people lost their brains? We're gonna stay put in our loft for now... because who needs debt? And we realize that you don't need a house to have a home. And we can be happy living anywhere, especially when our necks don't belong to the bank.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

aye aye mon capitaine

During the course of my career, I have had a total of nine different fire captains. Sounds like a lot but it's not really. In the first six months each rookie is assessed by two different captains. If it's a one truck hall, you report to one captain, and if there are two or more trucks, you report to your assigned captain but really, you report to the other captains as well since you can interchange trucks and crews on any given day. You might get a new captain if they retire or get promoted, or if you get assigned to a new station, or get moved to another shift. There are some great captains. And there are also some good and not so good ones. The great ones are the ones who not only have the fire ground experience, but more importantly have the people skills and lead by example. The good ones are the ones with less experience and are wise enough to rely on the talent of their crew when they are unsure in their decision making. The bad ones are the ones who, because they have a few extra stripes on their shoulders, are quick to boss around those who don't, and micro manage or belittle to get their point across. Fortunately, they rarely get away with that kind of behaviour for long. Because for every one captain, there are four firefighters and four firefighters sticking together can pull a mutiny when necessary. And sometimes, no matter how amazing a captain is, try as you might, things may not click simply because of lack of chemistry.

I have had all three types of captains.... the great, the good, and the not so good. Of course I would always prefer to have a great captain, but the thing is, no matter what type of captain, you can still learn a lot: you learn how to be or not to be, how to rely on yourself and your crew if you can't rely on your captain and you learn to pick your fights or when to let things slide. And most of all, you learn that no matter who your leadership is, you are still who you are and nobody can take that away from you.

I am eligible to write my acting captain's exam next year. And I am still deciding whether or not I am captain material or if I even want to be in that position of being somewhat apart from the crew simply by being their superior. I've never like playing the boss. (Well, except when it comes to the household.. ha ha). Part of me is excited by the prospect of challenging myself and facing my own fears and stepping everything up a notch but the other part of me is not sure if I can dedicate 6 months to study for the exam while I am raising two young children. And if promoted, I will have to switch to another crew and perhaps even another shift. And this would be a bit devastating because I have never been happier with the the crew that I have. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. I will probably give it a shot. The worst thing that happens is that I learn a thing or two along the way by studying. And the best thing is that no matter what, promoted or not, I will still remain a firefighter which is, and for me will always be, the best gig in the world. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I know more than anything that I am in exactly the right place when it comes to my job. Because I always feel a bit of a letdown when the shift is over and I count the days and hours until I head back to work. You see, even though there are aspects of my work that deal with the harshest of human reality, I feel like I am in dream land because even the dirtiest of calls leave me high and walking on air. But at the same time, the job keeps me grounded and humbled by the things I get to see. The job balances my life out perfectly and after a shift I race back to the familiar comfort of my own home and run into the outstretched arms of my husband and children. And soon as I've had enough of the household craziness, it's time to head back into work again. I was criticized the other day for sending my kids to daycare on the days I'm off shift. But the thing is, there are certain things I need to do... like clean the house which takes at least a couple hours a day, meal prep, and mostly, take care of myself.. which might include going to the gym, or going for a coffee with a friend without a babe in tow. And basically just give myself a chance to breathe. I know I wouldn't be an effective mother if I had the children underfoot all the time. No tomatoes please, but I don't believe in living for my kids. It's unfair to me and my kids to live up to that kind of expectation. Although there are moments I feel pangs of guilt that I go cross eyed with boredom and I'm not that mommy that enjoys playgroups and sing-a-longs and baby-and-me yoga, I do know one thing.... that to be the best mother to my children, I need to be the best person to myself. I think people need to start breaking the myth that you have to be everything to your children. There are many out there who can give love as well, and I know I've said it before but it is good for children to know that the world out there is full of people who love them besides mommy. I believe the only thing we have to be to our children is to be loving and forgiving of ourselves when we perceive that we don't measure up and mostly, we, as mothers, just have to relax and enjoy the ride. I'll never be the perfect mother.... but I wouldn't want to be either.... xo

Happy Mother's Day. xo

Monday, May 3, 2010


Like all families, the fire hall gang is not without its own dynamics. Not sure if it was a full moon but during yesterday's shift, one of the guys with the most seniority decided to show his alpha dog stripes and started barking and unleashing his frustration about something seemingly mundane... and totally not worth losing sleep over. Normally I don't have a problem with this.... after all, we all have our bad days. Except that this dude was freaking on moi. Because the fire department is a paramilitary organization, I should technically defer to anyone who has more seniority than me. And in normal circumstances I would.... BUT.... because this guy kept barking at me long after his point was made, I was starting to lose my cool. If it's one thing I've learned in my almost ten years on the job, if you don't stand up for yourself, no one else will. And unless you're yelling at me to hustle because your ass or someone's else's is on fire, when it comes to yelling, I'm just sayin' don't. Nothing gets accomplished and nothing erodes morale more quickly. So, as this dude kept barking, I finally just barked back. This mama bear's roar is bigger than any dog's bite. Maybe not the most mature way for me to handle things but it quieted him down anyway.

Geez..... and everyone was so worried way back when that women on the job were going to be the moody ones.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

my beautiful boy

It's the simplest of things that make me smile. Today was special to me in the fact that it was just me and Jacob for a few hours. Maiya was napping at my parents' house and it was a gorgeous sunny day so Jacob and I walked to the local mall to buy him a sticker book and some new sneakers. To walk hand in hand with my little guy chatting away beside me was comforting and familiar. As much as I love both my children, I crave alone time with my oldest since Maiya, being the baby, has demanded more attention, and Jacob, always the understanding child, found ways to be busy with Daddy. I love the fact that my husband has been so hands on with the children, but I often find myself envious of not being able to give Jacob the attention he needs and deserves as well. So days like today mean the world to me. I don't realize till we spend time together like this how much I really miss him. He, like all children, is growing up much too fast.