Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Shift Stuff

I just finished browsing the UFLAC's proposal on the 48/96 shift schedule. My big takeaway: they use lots of primary colors and childrens' book fonts in the report.

Not too many years ago, I was employed at very busy public safety agency where I drove big trucks with flashing lights and two (!!!) sirens required at all times during Code 3 operations.

This particular agency operated on a 24/48 shift schedule. One day on, two days off. Year-round, every year. On paper, it wasn't such a bad schedule. Bust your ass all day and all night at a busy house and get two days off as reward--one day to recover, one day to enjoy. At a quiet house, you'd run a few calls, sleep all night and go home relaxed and refreshed. If you wanted to take five days off, you simply had to burn one vacation day--10 days off and it was only two vacation days. Better yet, find a trade and burn no vacation days.

Sadly, life isn't lived on paper. The biggest drawback of the 24/48 was the overtime issue. At the time, this particular agency had a constant staffing shortage. There was a mandatory overtime list everyday that was eight people deep. On average, you were on the list twice a month. The theory went that one time you'd be near the top and the second time you were supposed to be farther down. Generally, the list didn't go much past poor bastard three or four, though some days it went way deep. It was pretty much a given that if you were number one or two on the list, you'd for sure get hit for overtime the next day.

Suddenly, your 24/48 would turn into a 48/24. Technically, if you were at a busy house the day before you got hit for overtime, then you were supposed to be sent to a quiet house if your number was called and vice versa. However, people generally didn't call in sick or take vacation days at the quiet houses--but they would suddenly be stricken by middle of the night ailments just hours before they were scheduled to report for a 7 a.m. shift at a busy city station. So, more often than not, you filled the holes where they opened.

You had a little more control when you made a trade, since you generally knew where the other person worked and agreed to it beforehand. But the deal with the devil on trades was that you'd get a free five-day but end up having to repay it with a 48/24. That, of course, was tacked on to your two or three days of potential forced overtime each month. So, in any given 10 day per month work cycle--you could do at least two 48s if you got hit for OT, or more if you had to repay a trade or for whatever reason volunteered for an extra shift.

Long story short, the money was good, the exhaustion, not so much. I never fell asleep at the wheel while driving, or had a major screw-up on the job (that I remember; I was too tired most of the time to recall much of what happened after about 10 p.m. on the back half of a 48). I did, however, sleep through a few loud tones going off and fluorescent lights going on, sleepwalked through the fire station and fell asleep on the steering wheel waiting for my partner to drag his or her ass out of bed. There were plenty of drives that I just plain don't remember and more than a few pissy words exchanged with the general public who had utilized 911 and expected a fresh-faced sympathetic responder to show up at 3 a.m. to deal with whatever they needed.

(Sidebar, but important:Even if I did remember any major fuckups on the "important" parts of my job, why the hell would I ever admit them? I mean, I could blame it on the 48 and lack of sleep and all that, but still, where's the incentive to admit mistakes of major consequence--other than a solid moral compass, of course.)

Instead, they got an asshole who'd been on duty for going on two days and had been running calls that whole time. Now, the LAFD has more than 104 stations and a goodly number of those run only a few calls a day--some only a few calls a week (FS 23, FS 40, FS 8, FS 69, FS108, cough cough). But it only takes one exhausted paramedic, Engineer or A/O to fuck up big time. Granted, many LAFDer's already work 48s and 72s on trades, etc., something that can be just as dangerous. But to make every front line employee work a 48 isn't good business. Some folks just aren't made for it. Mental acuity, reflexes, judgment, decision making skills--they all fade rapidly when start to hit that wall in the middle of a busy 48. What if all of above are in short supply with some guys (and gals) to begin with? What if you're riding a busy 800 RA's and (even scarier) the guys on the busy paramedic RA's, say nothing of engineers or A/Os driving the heavy stuff "Emergency" all over town?

It's one thing for a slower department like Beverly Hills or El Segundo to go on a 48/96, but the LAFD?

And institutionalizing a system that puts anyone on overtime automatically on a 72 isn't a great idea. Despite assurances that systems will be in place to rotate folks from busy houses to quiet ones, etc. etc., the reality is that staffing demands rule the day. Fill the holes with warm bodies.

My previous employer only started to learn the hard way when a guy driving a big old Freightliner ambulance at 7 a.m. (on the tail end of a 48) flipped the truck on the freeway when he fell asleep. Wasn't a great experience for his partner or patient in the back.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Problem...

...with a blog, my friends, is that one must actually update it once in awhile to remain current. Clearly, I stumbled through October and skipped November entirely. That's not to say that public safety took a break during the same time.

I'll be back with some fresh stuff again this week, aiming for a strong 2007 finish.

Let me just say this: I heard from a birdie that the LAFD union membership is strongly considering a schedule change from the current 3-4 Kelly shift to a 48-96 (two days on, four days off). Here's the union puffery on the issue. Generally, I'm unilaterally against this kind of schedule, but I haven't totally read through the issue.

Once I do, I'll elaborate on it when I've got more time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hot Time in the Old Towns...


Best picture of firefighters being over-run that you'll ever done see. (They all made it out alive and unhurt)

I was in the midst of a long and winding post last night, and then sort of ran out of steam. There's so much fire and so much scanner activity, it's just been very hard to keep up, though I've been listening almost nonstop for the last two days.

All of the usual outlets have good coverage so I point you in those directions. I'll surely post something more coherent and thoughtful when the situation has calmed and I have time to put some energy into a real post. Also, don't overlook San Diego; that's where the real tragedy is unfolding (again).

p.s. What's crazy is that since Sunday morning, the wind has been negligible in the greater L.A. Basin. Not a wisp of wind in the last 36 hours in the Beverly Hills and West LA area.

photo: Karen Tapia-Anderson, LA Times

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Malibu is About to Burn

For those of you into the Scanning Arts, tuning into 470.6125--LACoFD's "Blue 3" channel--will afford you a front row seat to the County FD losing the early battle against today's brusher in Malibu.

A new spot fire at Civic Center Drive and Winter Canyon Road sees only two Engines (570, 566) on scene, with fire around residences and a school building. Three buildings are now well involved.

Now there's another spot on PCH that just jumped the road. With LAFD tied up in Porter Ranch and the rest of the city holding its collective breath amid the dry brush, it sounds like the County hasn't gotten enough resources out to Malibu fast enough.

Nasty Out There...

...Already. October's typical mix of fire and brimstone has arrived with a vengeance. At 0745 on Sunday morning, with Red Flag parking restrictions set to go into effect in 15 minutes, City News Service--and my scanner--already report three big brush fires crackling through the northern part of the County.

--Nearly 200 acres have been burned up at Castaic Lake, near the Ventura County border, with the fire being pushed north, away from populated areas.

--LAFD is working a brush fire in the Porter Ranch area where the City and County adjoin. It started at 0550 this morning and it's going strong.

--The main event this morning sounds like a brusher the County's got burning up in Malibu, near Pepperdine University and Malibu Canyon Road. Two mutual aid Strike Teams (1 from Long Beach) are on the scene, and the County has requested two LAFD helos already.

It's going to be a long, messy day as the wind has yet to even truly pick up. Check back for updates.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WeHo Burner

The gents of LACoFD stations 7 and 8 made quick work of a condo fire in West Hollywood this afternoon. The small city has been getting a decent amount of fire action in the last few months. Today's fire saw a female resident on the fourth floor of the building jump to escape the flames. Sounds like she broke a variety of bones, but she'll live.

Can't find any good fire photos yet, maybe some will pop up later.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I-5 Aftermath

If that's not a vision of Southern California's own kind of hell, I don't know what is.

There's a tunnel behind those flames where roughly 15 big rigs and cars were immolated last night during a heavy rainstorm and subsequent pile-up.

The CHP has I-5 in Newhall Pass closed until further notice. The CHP and Caltrans say they hope to have portions of the affected tunnel re-opened by Tuesday morning. First, they'll have to check the structural integrity of the designated truck tunnel's concrete walls, which became the insides of an impromptu oven as more than a dozen big-rigs cooked off inside the 550-foot long tunnel. As an aside, a quick view of the CHP's CAD today shows the media misbehaving all day while trying to get close to the site.

Just heard LACoFD dispatch some units from the Carson-area to move into the scene up in Newhall. The County is obviously rotating units in and out of the area. Earlier today, there was still active fire suppression going on for smoldering inside the tunnel and they've begun cutting up and hauling away the mess.

As I grimly predicted in my first post last night, three fatalities. Click here for the LA Daily News photo gallery. The LA Times' is here. Thanks to Kevin at LAObserved.com for the link.

photo: LA Daily News

Friday, October 12, 2007

Holy I-5 Cluster...*

...Batman. So it's rare when Batt. 12 from LAFD checks in on OCD 8 and tells the dispatcher in the middle of a rainstorm that LACoFD is on scene at the interchange of the Golden State (5) and Antelope Valley (14) freeways with multiple tractor trailers fully involved with fire on both the north and southbound lanes of the designated truck lanes. Further, he has multiple other accidents up and down that stretch of freeway.

Sounds like a Class 1 clusterfuck. LAFD has dispatched a full physical rescue assignment and the County has thrown a ton of resources at it, too. LAFD has a helo moving up there for observation. The CHP CAD is pretty wild to look at. It's incident #3700 on the CAD. The CHP is shutting down the 5 in both directions, which is a rare occurrence except if it's snowing in the Grapevine.

It's such a mess up there that the County and City have been unable to establish a joint-command and it's every man for himself. Adding to the problem is lack of water supply on the freeway to assist in extinguishing the multiple big-rigs that are exploding and burning. LAFD has a Foam Carrier en route. LAFD Fire 6 (observation helo) had to return to Van Nuys Airport due to the low clouds and solid IFR conditions.

Expect this one to have a fatality or two and keep the freeway shutdown well into the day tomorrow!

***UPDATE*** As of 0010 hours, multiple big-rigs are still fully involved inside the truck-lane tunnels on Interstate 5. City and County fire units are using master streams and wagon batteries from their engines to direct water into the tunnels in an attempt to extinguish the flames. There is also a serious HAZMAT issue with runoff from the water used to fight the burning trucks (and their contents). Totally crazy. Nine patients transported by LAFD. Unknown number via LACoFD.

As of now, LAFD Division 3 is o/s and in charge, about 100 yards east of the tunnel. Unified command with LACoFD has been established. The entire tunnel is on fire, with multiple explosions from the trucks burning inside. The incident itself is classified in the County jurisdiction, according to Division 3, but all LAFD resources on scene are being used to aid the County.

Let It Rain...

I was out of town a few weeks ago when the heavens opened in SoCal for the first time since April. But tonight, I'm all warm and cozy as I watch the rain fall against the orange sodium of the street lights outside my apartment.

Scanner on, and like clockwork, the traffic accidents are lighting up the frequencies. Rain started about half an hour ago and already LAFD is working one Physical Rescue in the deep Valley; LACoFD has two big traffic collisions with fire going, and already allegedly have an Airsquad heading out to somewhere in the NW part of the county at a particularly nasty wreck. Who knows if they'll be able to fly the bird out there. My rule of thumb is to try at all costs to stay off the roads for the first hour or two of any rain.

radar image @ 2303 hrs

Sunday, October 07, 2007

If An Ambulance Is Stolen...

...in Hollywood, does its siren make a noise?

Surprisingly, just a faint one. After a thief made-off with Rescue 27, and I breathlessly blogged about it last week (see below), it rated a small brief in the following day's L.A. Times. That brief, by the way was ripped off, per usual, from the local City News Service.

Now I understand that the LAFD is loathe to have a wave of copycat ambulance thieves swoop into unlocked RAs idling at ER bays, but come on. Some dude steals a bright red ambulance in the middle of the afternoon with big white lettering and numbering that clearly identifies it and makes his way almost 200 miles north on MAJOR FREEWAYS. People, this is a great story!

This is the last sentence of the AP report posted on CBS2's Web Site that evening:

"Even after the ambulance was found, fire department officials still had no idea about the circumstances behind the theft."


That's a classic journalism who, what, when, WHY question if I've ever seen one.

My guess is the LAFD/CHP/LAPD either didn't cooperate at all; asked the media to keep it quiet; and/or the local beat reporters didn't follow up. Also, not a whisper on the LAFD Blog. This is the same blog that chronicles the department's highlights--and recently, with the EEOC report and Tennie Pierce settlement, its lowlights. But nothing on the wayward ambulance.
It's also the same blog that last year posted a thorough and illustrated account after Rescue 75 was stolen and then pursued in Panorama City.

Come on, folks. If you can't laugh at yourselves, then we'll have to laugh at you.

By the way, wonder if the thief managed to get his hands on the narcotics inside the rig, since that's always a prime reason for ambulance theft.

Red Flag Riffing

So round 1 of the famed October Santa Anas blew in and blew out this weekend without a major conflagration. The Trojans lost in the most pathetic fashion of the millennium (thus far) and things haven't been all that exciting on the scanner front. Granted, I haven't been listening much this weekend, and things are definitely hopping--even at this hour--because of the heat.

The Red Flag warning remains in effect through tomorrow night, but the LAFD has lifted hillside parking restrictions for tonight and tomorrow, so they don't seem too worried. Hope that doesn't come back to bite them.

In other news, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission last week released a report that....wait for it.............said the LAFD has racism and sexual harassment within its ranks!!!!! I, for one, am shocked. Just shocked. Apparently, the military also has a few homosexuals scattered throughout its 1.4 million-plus active-duty members!

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Month....

...New look. My live-in design consultant has helped me refresh the blog's look. If you don't like it, I don't give a shit, since it's my blog. See previous reaction to some of my more idiotic commenters on this site for reference to how much I don't give a shit about what my readers think.

If you like it, however, I'm happy to hear from you. This ain't a democracy, people.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stolen LAFD Ambulance!**

So someone made off with an LAFD RA from good old Queen of Angels, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital around 3:45 this afternoon. It's 5:11 and they're still looking for it. I'll recap this when more info comes down the pike!

***UPDATE*** Per a wire story, the stolen ambulance was spotted going northbound on the 101 Freeway in SAN LUIS OBISPO (about 200 miles northwest of LA!!!!!) at about 8 p.m.; five hours after being taken from outside the ER in Hollywood. The CHP managed to use spike strips to stop the rig outside of Paso Robles and arrested the driver.

That's all the info I've got now. Can't wait to hear which RA unit got nabbed.

***UPDATE 2*** Per a kind commenter via ABC7 News, it was RA 27....a dear old friend of mine back in the day.

photo: via Code2High.com

The End of Tennie?

So, Mayor Tony V. the other day signed off on the latest settlement of "victimized" LAFD firefighter Tennie Pierce. I mentioned his case way back in March on this blog. The original $2.7 million settlement was vetoed by the mayor after it was approved by the City Council last fall.

So it looked like all of the messy details (especially those involving Pierce's own behavior) were going to be on full display at trial. Alas, no. Among the media coverage of the new settlement was a very thoughtful piece by columnist Sandy Banks in the LA Times. With the exception of Steve Lopez, I usually approach the LAT's columnists with great disdain (Joel Stein, anyone? Anyone?), but Ms. Banks surprised me in a good way. It makes for good reading and it's a window into Douglas Barry, the now permanent LAFD Chief.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Long Live COPS

I've been a fan of COPS since its debut 20 years ago (and CHiPs, TJ Hooker and Adam 12) before that. Hard to believe it's been on TV for so long, especially in this age of the fickle TV viewer. But in the same way the New York Times wedding announcements are a work in voyeuristic sociology, so too are the 30 minute windows into ordinary people dealing with law enforcement all across the country.

I've gone my fair share of stretches without tuning in, but have recently been putting my DVR to good use taping episodes again. As for me, I hope for another 20 years...and 60 more of reruns on CourtTv!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Talk About The Dog Days....

Something about the record heat and humidity we had here a week or so ago has kept me from the blog...just couldn't muster the energy. Did a bit of scanning over the last two weeks. Nothing too exciting except for some amusement two nights ago in Beverly Hills.

Nearly all of the on-duty patrol units get sent to a house way up near the BH city limit, off Coldwater Canyon Drive. Responding to their equivalent of a "hot prowl," where the caller reported a white male trying to break into her house. As units were hauling ass to get up there, more information came in--now, the suspect hadn't tried to break in per se, more like the woman saw him outside. She got scared. She screamed. He got scared. He ran away.

Units got on scene and it only took about eight minutes to realize the man had been making the first delivery of the family's "nutri-fit" food service. The lady of the house wasn't expecting the drop-off at 11 p.m. Classic.

# # #

Gave Sept. 11 a few minutes of thought yesterday. Hard to believe it's been six years. Back then, I was in public safety full-time and watched the Towers fall on TV before heading into work for about 48 very tense hours. Seems like a lifetime ago.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Help Calls

Two good LAPD "help" calls in as many days. First one went down late last night in Southwest when a two-man car had multiple suspects and at least one gun behind an apartment building. A few hairy minutes while the backup units got on scene, and the air unit did a nice job of calling the action from above and directing the patrol units into the scene. Suspects arrested, gun recovered.

Second one hit around 9 this evening in 77th Division. Didn't hear what precipitated it, but it was a scramble as units got on scene down in South-Central, and were still breathlessly calling for more help. The zone was quickly flooded and everyone taken into custody.

Must be a summer night.

Hurricane Dean???

Pretty wild that a storm that formed more than a week ago thousands of miles to the southeast--somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, in fact--could eventually pass over SoCal! That's what happened this weekend with the atypical high humidity, tropical clouds and rain, wind and hail. Just our little taste of the wild summer weather the rest of the nation seems to be experiencing.

The Hideous, Hideous Future

This, my friends, is the new ass of the LAFD. Thanks to John Gregory for the shot (outside of the new LAFD FS5 in Westchester). These day-glo yellow chevrons are apparently becoming standard fare on emergency rigs across the U.S. A couple of Federal agencies have decided that bright yellow arrows will increase safety for the public safety crews, so these things are becoming mandatory.

Too bad that conventional wisdom--and the experience of thousands of public safety pros--will tell you that DUI drivers, and, idiots operating motor vehicles in general, already swerve towards the bright, blinking lights of emergency vehicles parked on scene. To me, this seems like a giant arrow directing some drunk asshole right into the back of my shiny new RA. Leave it to the think-tank feds to come up with this idiotic scheme. And it's ugly as sin.

Friday, August 24, 2007

More Kudos...

...for the Blog of LAFD Batt. 14! Way back in January I plugged this blog. Just checked it out again today and it's really chugging along. Some good info both for folks in the Department (and the Battalion) but also for the general public. It really peels back the layers of the happenings in the North Hollywood area and gives a good glimpse into the day-to-day out there. If the 17 other battalions in the LAFD followed suit--over-lorded by Mr. Humphrey--that would be a truly glorious public service.

Have Leopard....No Clothes

In any other city but this one, built upon a queen of angels, a story like THIS would have been front page news for at least a week....but nary a peep out of the L.A. Times, of course (even the usually reliable City News Service, with its often patently ridiculous stories, didn't chime in). Defamer, posted it a few days ago and has some great on-scene photo action of a naked man walking down Melrose Avenue with a live leopard draped over his shoulders.

Let's put aside any sort of an explanation from the man as to why he was walking nude with a leopard: a funny story on its own would be the tale of the two poor-bastard A-unit LAPD Hollywood patrol officers dispatched to the call. I'm sure the story is already legendary at Hollywood Station.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WeHo Fire...

Don't have any good pics to share on this one, but that probably means I'm not looking hard enough (There is an embedded video on KABC's site. I noticed the smoke from the Micky's gay bar fire about right as the call was going out over LACoFD's Blue 8. Classic clusterfuck on the County's part, but only because of the horrible geographic island that West Hollywood sits on.

The two WeHo stations were quickly committed and LAFD E41 made a fast appearance on scene, along with BHFD E1, E3, T4 and Batt. 1. LACoFD moved units in from Inglewood and Baldwin Hills and East LA, I believe. I craned my neck out of my office window just in time to see an LACoFD engine (171's?) moving Code 3 up San Vicente Boulevard. It gave me the first glimpse of the County's new fluorescent yellow chevrons on the back of the Engine. Ugh.

They got the fire knocked down in a reasonable amount of time, but the highlight of the radio traffic was hearing BHFD's Assistant Chief and the on-duty Batt. 1 BC bitching at each other about the city's resources being used at the WeHo fire. So, eager Batt. 1 rightly committed his three BHFD resources (including the city's only Aerial truck) to mutual aid on this ripping commercial structure. The AC got on the radio and asked when the BH resources were going to be available and was super pissed when the BC told him they were all working the fire, leaving only two engines (E2 and E5) and both BHFD RA's (RA1 and RA2) available for the whole city.

Folks, 1.) this is more fire than BHFD has seen all year so the lucky on-duty crews at Engines 1 and 3 and Truck 4 were totally psyched to be catching some fire after spending most of their days picking old people up from various positions on the floor. 2.) That's what "mutual aid" means--it doesn't mean send your shiny, expensive and almost brand-new fire engines to the scene of a commercial structure with limited County resources available and have them sit at staging. 3.) The city of BH was not going to burn down and if it did, LAFD can throw at least two task forces and three engines that basically border the city at any big fire that came down the wire (especially since BHFD screams for LAFD task forces on big fires anyway).

There was also a big brusher going on out in Hacienda Heights at the same time, so the LACoFD radio traffic was a bit confusing and hectic.

Good times.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Catching Up...

Apologies for my absence. Just a few tidbits, most recent at the top:

--Caught the tail end of the LAX Customs computer meltdown last Saturday night. Got home in time to hear the LAFD medical strike teams in effect at Tom Bradley Intl. terminal. Sounds like they'd been at it for a few hours, and some of the medics were getting quite edgy with the EMS captains who were dispatching them to EMS calls through the throngs of thousands gathered at the airport. LAFD command broke the incident down around 2 a.m., but still managed to hear an LAFD unit (RA 51 or E51, I think) crash into an airport shuttle bus on their way off the airfield.

--Finally laid mine eyes upon the new BHFD Rescues, as one of my faithful readers alerted me to their presence a few weeks ago. Here's why I probably never noticed them before: Because they are the SAME UGLY TRIANGULAR MODS that BHFD seems to be in love with (the link shows the old BHFD rescue units, but it's the same design on the new ones).

This, my friends, is what a brand new Freightliner ambulance should look like. That's a beautiful brand new rig proudly serving the residents and tourists of Las Vegas's Clark County, Nev. Notice the nice rectangular box sitting behind the cab! Not some ridiculous polygonal shape that just looks like it belongs at some crappy vollie rescue squad somewhere. The LED light package is nice and all, but seriously BH; Nut up and get a REAL big, badass, rescue next time. I know you're not hurting for the funds.

--Saw a nice grey Acura TL shear off a hydrant on Beverly Drive in the middle of mansion-ville in BH a few weekends back. Eerie, in that a geyser of water was shooting straight up and the driver was stil behind the wheel, shaken from the deployed air bag. Took a few minutes, but since it was a quiet Sunday night, the cavalry arrived in the form of four BHPD units rolling Code 3, followed by Engine 2 and Rescue 1. Didn't stick around after that.

-- Had a nice little earthquake at 1 a.m. a few weeks ago. Was scanning at the time. LACoFD went into "Earthquake Mode" and started a station recall over the LA. In the City, Battalion 14 came up on the air asking OCD if "we're going into earthquake mode?" OCD clearly didn't know anything about no quake (in their defense, they're a few stories underground encased in a re-inforced concrete bunker) and told Batt. 14 there would be no earthquake activation. That caught the BC by surprise since the quake was centered NNW of Chatsworth, which is most certainly LAFD territory.

-- Heard the LAPD "Help Call" go down in Hollenbeck a few weeks ago. Turns out, suspect got shot and killed after he started choking the female part of the patrol duo. Was a domestic violence suspect who returned to the scene of the crime. I heard the help call broadcast, then a Code 4 a few minutes later. Then heard the LAFD get the shooting call. No other radio traffic in the clear.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Nothing doing...

With me or much on the scanner the past week or so. Heard a high volume of serious traffic accidents in the Valley on Saturday night, but not much else. Hope to get back into the swing of things this week. LAPD's clearly had some good calls, judging by the newspaper reports of shootings and the such, but I've missed them.

I'm just glad I wasn't on duty in Minneapolis last week. That's one of those calls that comes down over the loudspeakers and you immediately think is a prank. Until you're on scene and it's just the most surreal experience of your life. I had one of those in Central Texas a few years back. No bridge collapse, just a structure fire with lots of dead kids.

On that note, happy August! My site traffic, while pathetically small, is creeping up just a bit every week thanks to referrals and some fortunate links on sites like EMTBravowest.com

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fire and Politics

So there was a ripping Major Emergency Structure Fire in the Jefferson Park area on Tuesday night (7/24). Cheyane Caldwell, the A/O of Truck 26 fell through the roof while doing truck work on the vacant building. Luckily, he was quickly rescued by fellow firefighters. The roof was cleared and the firefighters then went defensive.

Caldwell was initially transported to Cedars and then moved to the burn unit down in Torrance, according to a fairly comprehensive post on the LAFD Blog by Pat Marek--a new name in the spokesman world of the LAFD. (Might mean that longtime PSO Ron Meyers is retiring as d'Lisa Davies recently replaced longtime fixture Jim Wells on the "C" shift. Of course "B" Shift stalwart and star blogger Brian Humphrey ain't goin nowhere!).

Anyway, there are some really high quality pictures taken on scene of the West Adams Boulevard fire by John Conkle hosted over on the LAFD Flickr site.

So I wasn't that surprised when I checked the LAFD blog this morning to see Humphrey's open letter to the California Parole Board asking that they deny release of one Mario Catanio who set the fire that killed another Apparatus Operator who fell through the roof in during a North Hollywood blaze in 1981.

First time I've seen Humphrey (presumably with the full blessing of Department brass) take such a public stance on an issue such as this. Usually, Public Information-y things like "change the smoke alarm batteries when you change your clocks" or "Don't play with fireworks," are the message of the day on the Blog.

My brain's a little fried right now, so I don't know what the greater significance of Humphrey's post today means, if there's greater significance at all. Clearly, the close call experienced by A/O Caldwell two days ago brought the issue to the fore today.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Close But...

...no Greater Alarm. LAFD Rescue 827 rolled up to the rear of the CBS studios and called in some fire showing from the rear on the second floor. OCD filled out the assignment and once Batt. 5 got on scene he reported heavy fire venting from the rear of the complex at the crowded Hollywood intersection of Sunset Boulevard and El Centro Avenue.

Batt. 5 pushed the "Greater Alarm" button and OCD sent a nice big assignment with USAR rigs, and plenty of Light Forces, including LF89 all the way from North Hollywood, and Task Force 3 from its quarters Downtown! Sounded like it was shaping up to be a gnarly Major Emergency, that I would have caught from the very, very beginning!!! A true rarity these days.

Alas, it was not to be. Batt. 5 quickly tucked his tail between his legs and told OCD that it was an exterior fire only and it was knocked down. Boooooo! Station 27 and 82 handled the overhaul. Everyone else went home.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

LAFD Station 36

I must be a tad slow on my LAFD station updates but the new Station 36 appears to have finally opened down in San Pedro on July 8. Just heard them on the scanner going available from some EMS call.

Take a look at the pic...looks like a classic "retirement house" to me...not a rookie in the bunch. Also notice the classic 1990 vintage Seagrave holding down 36's fort. Quiet enough house that they're probably way down on the list for a new rig. What's funny is that I'm sure they were on tonight's shooting down in Pedro, but I didn't hear them go out because I was locked in on the LAPD Harbor frequency.

What I did hear about two minutes ago was Rescue 112 telling OCD that 36's was closer on a call they got dispatched on. One of the familiar female voices working OCD 4 tonight came back and told the medic on 112's that "the computer still says we should send 112 to this call." Medic's reply: "We're enroute." Old habits die hard, boys.

Nothing like hoping to get out of a Sunday night call by trying to beat the system and sacrifice the "new" boys on the block. My advice to the boys on Rescue 112: For every call you're on, there are two others that they can't dispatch you to.


Couple a' interesting calls on a muggy (for L.A., at least) Sunday night:

-- LAPD Wilshire units sent for a man-with-a-gun call at the 99 Cents Only store on Wilshire just west of Fairfax. I work about a hop, skip and a jump from there and was just telling the wife that we should check it out for the brand-name items under a buck--after reading a profile of the company in the Southwest Airlines magazine earlier this week. Turns out, that store is the chain's most profitable, but not such a great PR move when some old guy in an Aloha shirt and a gray beard is waving a gun around and chasing customers.

First unit on scene was an LAPD "William" detective unit, which effectively cased the joint while 7Adam21 was responding Code 3 from Wilshire station. A few more units were requested and they took the guy down just up the street on Wilshire. Never actually found out what he was doing in the store, but the primary unit told another that there were two "victims" in the parking lot. No RA's requested though so it wasn't a shooting.

-- Few minutes later heard the "ambulance shooting" call go out down in Harbor Division, which brought at least six black & whites screaming down to Gaffey Street and Paseo del Mar where they amazingly and quickly apprehended the suspect; quite improbably--for that neighborhood--a white female in a yellow sun dress who had apparently just shot a white male of 45 years square in the chest.

That one might actually make the 11 o'clock news.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Angry Mood Out There

Driving around Beverly Hills at lunch time and drivers and peds seemed unusually pissy. Saw BHFD and BHPD racing all around town Code 3. Anger in the air.

Monday, July 16, 2007

LAPD Air Unit Gets Sick

Mellow Monday night, until Air 18 comes over the HOTSHOT frequency to broadcast a "Help" call and announcing a precautionary landing in the old K-Mart parking lot in Northeast Division. Pilot puts the bird down and the black and whites swarm the scene (as well as seven plainclothes guys in the area who fruitlessly tried to shut down traffic while the helo's blades were still spinning.

LAFD sent a full "aircraft down" response, but Task Force 50 arrived on scene and alerted the cavalry that it was a medical call only--seems the helo pilot had a medical emergency of unknown type. The LAFD RA arrived on scene to transport the cop.

A little bit of spice to start the week!

Watching the Vollies!

Spent a nice weekend in the "Finger Lakes Region" of upstate New York. Never been up there before, and it's really pretty country, though I know that it's probably a bit chilly for most of the year. Hung out in the charming town of Skaneateles and stayed at a little B&B about 300 yards from the central volunteer fire station. It's been too long since I've been around a vollie town but over the course of two days, we heard the big air-raid siren go off four times.

We'd watch the various pickup trucks with flashing blue lights race into the town center from all directions before mounting up and heading out to the call, sirens screaming. Of course, it was at least 10 minutes from first air-raid siren to actual fire engine siren, so I'd hate to be on the receiving end of that "emergency response"--but, of course, better than no response at all. Almost makes me wish I lived in a small town again and had my old 1995 Honda Accord with the red and white mounted dash strobe!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Caught the LAFD working a physical rescue traffic accident late night on Thursday on a particularly nasty stretch of Sunset Boulevard out in the Pacific Palisades. When I was in high school back in the 20th Century, a boneheaded classmate totaled his car in the exact same spot when he head-on'd some unsuspecting baby boomer going the opposite direction. Miraculously, he wasn't killed, or even badly hurt.

Not the case for the 17-year-old kid driving his Honda a few days ago. He wrapped it around a tree on the curvy road and died. I heard Battalion 9 rolling out there getting an update from Task Force 69 on the scene. You know it's bad when they have Heavy Rescue 56 responding from their quarters in Los Feliz (probably a 25 minute Code 3 response with no traffic, at the bare minimum). You know it's even worse when they don't cancel them....means the driver's really stuck and very likely really dead.

I Scanned....

...myself! An emergent basement flooding situation late last week forced me to wake the fine men of BHFD Station 3 well after midnight. I heard the dispatch go down over the scanner (we only warranted a "Minor Flooding" incident type!!!)

They brought the engine screaming Code 3 down Olympic Boulevard and promptly shut off some water and gas lines in the basement before trudging back to their engine--and back to bed.

Thanks guys!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Griffith Park Burns....

....Internet survives. This is a long-winded post by a woman named Donna Barstow. Check it out. If you don't have time, just read below.


She lives near Griffith Park. She loves animals. She loves her Griffith Park. She doesn't understand fire. She doesn't really understand fighting fires. She admits this. She blames the LAFD for letting the recent Griffith Park brusher burn too long and too bright. She is happy no one died. I think.

She is happy no one lost their homes. Sort of. She is unhappy lots of plants and animals died. She doesn't like that they may have suffered. She doesn't like that no one is taking responsibility. She doesn't like her City Councilman's, the cops' or the fire department's reasoning or explanation about why there was a fire that burned so long and so bright. She senses conspiracy. She loves animals. She doesn't like that the media ignored the story of how many animals died; in what gruesome fashion and why they weren't saved. Same goes for the plants.

I love animals. My wife loves animals. We have an animal. I would be sad if my animal (or my wife) died in a brush fire.

Donna Barstow, however, doesn't really give much thought or credence to the idea that there are forest and brush fires all over the world every day--far from the reaches of people--where plants and animals die horrible deaths. Where is the media, the LAFD, the LAPD or the City of Los Angeles then? Donna Barstow clearly does not care for all of the majestic creatures big and small that probably perished in the forest fire in South Lake Tahoe last week. She makes no mention of the hundreds of acres of charred pine forest during that blaze, or the ash that fell into the gorgeous lake.

Nor does Donna seem to understand (as has been ably pointed out in her blog's comments section) that nature takes care of nature. That undergrowth and chaparral needs to burn every generation or two. That this is a natural process. Donna seems to take a misguided view of nature in her backyard. Her view is one of coddling and cuddling, not the reality that life is nasty, brutish and short...and that's often the case with a large portion of the world's humans, let alone animals. Survival of the fittest, etc. Where is her outcry for all of the helpless creatures that have certainly died in three or four brush fires currently raging in Southern California?

Donna loves her park. Donna doesn't really want to understand much beyond the fact that the fire hurt plants and animals. But that fire is one of the best things to happen to the park since the last big brusher there about 80 years ago. It cleared out vast sections that needed a good burn. And one other benefit--yet unmentioned--is that it also burned out the tons of garbage that has been collecting unchecked in Griffith Park for decades. Donna's City of Los Angeles (or her park) wasn't in any hurry to clean up a cluttered urban garbage dump. Luckily, nature did it for her.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Calls O' The Weekend

One of the great things about scanning the BHPD (still not trunked!) is hearing them leap into action. Sure, if you scan the LAPD "Hotshot" frequency all day, you'll hear some of the gnarliest calls go down. In fact, an hour of LAPD hotshot calls is likely the equivalent of many smaller police department's violent calls for the entire year.

Such was the case on Saturday night when Beverly Hills' finest were dispatched to a report of juveniles shooting at cars and buildings with BB guns from a parking lot on Olympic Boulevard. The location is about two blocks from my house, and despite the temptation to go running out to watch the action, I didn't particularly want to get shot with a BB or, more likely, with a 9mm from the boys in blue.

Needless to say, things in South Beverly Hills were a bit quiet that night, so virtually the entire on duty patrol force responded to the scene. Two units shut down traffic in both directions, while at least four more staged a little ways from the lot. The citizen calling 911 had stayed on the line and was directing the cops in. In short order, the kids with the gun must have realized the absence of traffic on Olympic was a bit suspicious and as they jumped in their cars to make a quick escape, they were surrounded.

The BHPD made quick work of the ruffians and once more opened the busy street to late night traffic. But it's one of those that definitely got the BHPD's blood pumping.

And just when I thought that'd be the best call of the night, the good folks over at LAPD West LA Division requested backup and an air unit in one of the ritziest parts of town--Brentwood.

Turns out, an unruly man had fought with some patrol officers in a backyard and tried to pull the female officer into the pool with him. He was unsuccessful in this attempt, but he ended up in the pool anyway. A few Code 3 units and an Airship later, the suspect was still in the pool, surrounded by officers and a nitesun. They eventually called the LAFD in to fish him out of the pool and they then tased him for good measure.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


The LAFD might have a completely fucked internal culture with lots of bad apples (and a few truly rotten ones), but they're the best fire department in the world because of the way they handle things like today's early morning fire out in Van Nuys.

Don't ask me what I was doing awake at 2 a.m. on a "school night" but I heard LAPD Air 8 tell OCD that they had a single-family dwelling with smoke and fire through the roof near Sherman Way in Van Nuys. OCD sent out the structure assignment and a few minutes later Task Force 39 was on scene in the 13800 block of Enadia Way. I don't know who the Captain (II) was on TF39 last night, but he was as cool as a cucumber.

Until Battalion 10 arrived on scene a good eight minutes or so later, the Task Force Commander of old 39's was directing a finely choreographed ballet of fire-attack teams, search and rescue, truck companies on the roof, truck companies inside, and staging companies as they arrived on scene. No chaos, no confusion, no concern. The fire was raging inside a home under renovation, but each firefighter and captain who got on the radio during the incident was calm, cool and collected--even the guys at the end of the nozzle inside. The boys from Battalion 10 (who catch a decent amount of fire in the modern, generally fire-less, era) obviously work well together.

Knockdown was achieved in only 22 minutes, a remarkable feat, given that likely more than 90% of fire departments in the U.S. would have lost the house completely. Anyway, it's fires like those that make visualizing the LAFD at work through the little scanner speaker such a joy.

Kudos also to the LAFD and LACoFD who played well this morning on the radio on a mutual aid response to a brush fire in the County along the Antelope Valley Freeway. Everyone played nice and kept the fire to only about 10 acres.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Heat and Helos at Hansen Dam!

So I was waiting on this post to see what, if any, photos would pop up on the Internets from Saturday's "American Heroes Airshow" out at the Hansen Dam Recreation Area in the deep San Fernando Valley. Despite my fairly cursory search, I was unable to find any good pics, though I saw at least five or six credentialed photogs out there in the 88 degree heat with their telephotos. The best I can do is link to this from 2006's show taken by some guy (please ignore the many random pictures of dudes, and also note the hardware was slightly different this year, with less heavy military presence).

****I found the one above on the LAFD Blog's Flickr site from this year's show****

This was the first time I've made the trek out to Hansen to see the show (I meant to go last year, but probably overslept and didn't feel like making the 45 minute schlep). Got out there around 11:30 a.m., and just parking in the lot brought back fond/painful memories of many hot summer days more than a decade ago at air shows in places like MCAS El Toro (deactivated), NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps air base), Pt. Mugu NAS and out at Edwards AFB.

I trudged from my car past the hot dog/churros booth and past a ton of static displays that were part of the "CODE 3 Recruiting Fair". Lot's of helos on static display.


--LACoFD Copter 15 (video), one of the big bad-ass "Firehawks"--a converted Blackhawk.

--USCG HH-65 Dolphin helo out of USCG Air Station L.A. (based at LAX) and an HH-60 Jayhawk out of Sector San Diego.

--The FBI brought quite a presence to the show and career fair! The coolest helo on display was the Bureau's Bell JetRanger SWAT ops model. It's sick JetRanger with an all glass-cockpit in a gunmetal gray profile with a blue stripe. Based out of Pt. Mugu, it's the FBI's sole (allegedly) rotary-wing asset used for HRT, SWAT and (obviously) surveillance duty. There was nothing overtly cool about the bird, but it was so sleek and speedy looking that you know it totally kicks ass in the air.
Meantime, the FBI's static displays were pretty damn impressive, especially give how hard it is to get hired by the FBI (I, for instance, smoked a bit too much dope during my college years and slightly beyond to ever even bother applying for the august agency). Besides the bomb squad, dive team, evidence techs and SWAT team, the Feebies brought along their ridiculous one-year-old Mobile Command Center, which they keep down at the Federal Building in Westwood. Once inside, it's a mess of flat screen TVs, computers, printers and other gadgets...pretty goddamned cool.
All in all, a nice day of public safety porn.
photo: Chester Brown

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Something to Do

If you're in LA this weekend and looking to geek-out with the always killer combination of public safety and helicopters, then I recommend you visit the "American Heroes Air Show" way out in the Hansen Dam area of Lakeview Terrace out in the Valley. I'll be out there looking for some good T-shirts and gawking at the birds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Always...

...miss the good stuff. Case in point: I was watching the Pitt/Clooney crew in a darkened movie theater while Santa Monica got their first Major Emergency Structure in recent memory around 7:30 last night! Usually I'm stuck in some restaurant while there's a good burner, in this case it was the cinema.

Would have been a good one to scan since it was the first big fire since the LAFD took over dispatch responsibilities for SMFD. Would have like to hear the integration in action. Next time.

Didn't even hear about it until this morning, and it's overshadowed by the terrible LODD's from the South Carolina fire.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

TV Chase

It's often lamented in local news circles that there's nothing more sensationalistic than the fascination with the televised police pursuit. I, for one, love them. Especially when they go down just like they did on Friday night when the hovering news helos near Olympic and Robertson alerted me to the caper a little before midnight.

Turned on the news in time to see the LAPD pursuing a silver pickup truck just a few blocks from my house. Grabbed the scanner, muted the TV, and then it got about as realistic as possible--the helos provided the video and the LAPD Air Unit the audio!

Sort of anti-climactic, though. Suspect surrendered about 10 mins after I tuned in.

Friday, June 08, 2007


So in the few years I've been sporadically posting this blog, I don't think I have actually ever explained the meaning of Code6Charles.

Simply put, it's the term broadcast on the radio by the LAPD when a unit has run a warrant check on an individual and that check comes back with a felony warrant. Instead of broadcasting to the officer that the suspect he or she is standing near is wanted for a serious crime, the dispatcher uses the term "Code6Charles" and then asks the officer if he's "Code 4," meaning is everything okay (i.e. is the suspect in custody and the situation is under control). Usually, the suspect is either already in handcuffs, or the warrant isn't for that particular individual--similar names often confuse the computer and it will issue a false positive for a warrant.

If the officer is not "Code 4" he can request additional units to help him or can then move to place the suspect in custody and still have the element of surprise if the suspect hasn't deciphered the meaning of Code6Charles.

Unlike most police agencies in the nation, the LAPD does not use the so-called "10-code" system made famous in many cheesy movies and CB radio references. They prefer a plain speak radio system with their own codes thrown in and the California penal code designations to indicate the type of crime (e.g. the infamous "187" rap stars love to bandy about in their songs, which is the penal code for murder).

Anyhoo, I stumbled along this slick site today www.code2high.com. Never saw it before, but it's clearly been around for awhile. Good blanket public safety information site for all of LA County. Hat tip to a guy named Todd Pompey who apparently runs the site.

Code2High is an LAPD term that has been relegated into the dust bin over the past few years.
When units respond to emergency calls with lights and sirens, they got "Code 3." When they go to non-emergent calls, they go "Code 2," with a sense of urgency, but no lights or sirens. Code2High was a middle ground the LAPD used to employ in days before Chief Bratton changed the scheme and now has all the LAPD coppers going Code 3 to all manner of calls. Code 2 High was basically Code 3 without the lights and sirens but lots of fast, dodgy driving.

Anyway, nice to see the old term "immortalized" on the Web.

LASD and Ms. Hilton

Yes, they stupidly let her out early. But it was almost worth it to see her cuffed up and transported back Downtown courtesy of a nice Police Interceptor patrol car. Also, it's sorta hard to tell in this pic, but doesn't the female deputy riding shotgun look--as Paris would say--HOT?


Finally dialed up the old Bearcat in the last few days and heard some good bits:

--BHPD ran code 3 to a report of a woman standing in the middle of Beverwil Drive screaming for help at 1:30 a.m. About four patrol cars went screaming over to Beverwil X Olympic Boulevard to find no woman screaming, just some lady standing by a Jeep in the parking lot of a nearby gas station. No idea what happened to her or any other lady screaming in the middle of the Beverly Hills night.

--Next morning, heard BHFD go out on the infrequent traffic accident with entrapment up on North Rexford Drive. They actually had a trapped pt. and used Truck 4 for the extrication.

--LAFD had a good wee-hours physical rescue at Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher. Solo car wrapped itself around a telephone pole. Not a bad place to get into a gnarly crash since it's right in Heavy Rescue 56's first in.

Otherwise, there seem to be the usual smatterings of structure fires, T/A's and the usual LAPD riffraff capers.

Stay tuned.

Hat tip to Code2High.com for the photo.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Back in the Saddle...

...but haven't turned on the scanner yet. Been home for two days and just havent dialed it up. "June Gloom" is in full effect here these days. I'll probably start listening sometime this week and have some fresh posts then.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Someone just...

...got shot down in South LA; BHPD is doing its usual Sunday night traffic stop routine, the LAFD is going about its end-of-the-weekend business and I'm gone on vacation until early June.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On One Hand...

...the LAFD and allied agencies did a great job keeping the flames off the multi-million dollar homes in Los Feliz. On the other, their pilots were grinding it out all day and all night making crucial water drops. Luckily, none of them augered any of those Bell helos into a dark hillside or sliced through a power line or we'd all be reading a story much different than this one.

The backslapping today becomes the second-guessing of tomorrow when a bunch of firefighters get overrun on a dirt fire road or a helicopter crashes while flying night missions into smoke and fire over urban areas.
photo: Mad Science flickr

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another Barn Burner**

LAFD is working a major emergency brush in Griffith Park right now. Great vantage from my office on this 95 degree, no humidity day. LAFD's been pouring resources at it for awhile and staging at the Greek Theatre. For about 20 mins, looked like it was darkening down, but then the wind shifted and all hell broke...

Hot, dry brush is fueling this one and they've got a ton of City and County companies committed and no knockdown in sight. So far, no homes destroyed, but this thing still looks really ugly.

It's a busy day throughout the sizzling county.

***UPDATE*** So three-plus hours into the incident, the fire's still raging. Probably going to top out at over 150 acres when all is said and done. They've got a 20-year-old arson suspect being treated for severe burns at Hollywood Presbyterian right now.

It'll be at least 24 hours before this one is fully done. Meantime, the Johnny-Come-Lately L.A. Times got their act together today and are blogging the incident. Welcome to 2007, kids! (Sample of some text taken from the LAT Web site home page(!!!) at 11:33 p.m. The bold is mine. "BREAKING NEWS BLOG: According to the bayor, the blaze has now burned 600 acres."

Meantime, everyone is getting hammered on the call volume because of the heat, but since the Griffith Park incident is virtually all Engines, the City still has plenty of Light Forces available for the other crap.

Out in Malibu, Ventura County Fire is sending a helo to air-ambo someone out of LACoFD's 71's first-in over to UCLA Hospital.

***UPDATE*** 11 p.m. So today's fire might not be the "big one" of the summer (or even the Spring if it stays so hot and dry) but with 33 LAFD companies on the scene and probably at least that, if not more in mutual aid, Griffith Park is getting pretty worked over by fire.

When I started listening to this one go off on OCD 9 at around 1:30 this afternoon, the LAFD was doing what it usually does so well--flood the area with resources. They requested engine companies in groups of 10, which were then divided into As they ramped up the assignment, the wind shifted and moved the fire quickly into tinder dry brush that hadn't burned in years. What happened next is both amazing and fairly predictable: Fast moving flames fed by erratic winds (often caused by the fire itself) and and years of overgrowth long due for the burner.

Again, credit to the LAFD and allied agencies is plenty due here. So far, I've only heard of one structure getting minor damage (I think some embers got into the attic on a hillside home on Shannon Drive. Wood shake roof, natch, the culprit. For shame!) and no lives have been lost. Injuries have been limited to the alleged fire-starter who may have tried to extinguish the blaze before stumbling onto the Roosevelt Golf Course and being scooped up by the LAFD and transported to the hospital.

Mayor Tony V. on the tube right now, tie loosened doing his thing. Meantime, fire is still burning hot and heavy and throwing out tons of embers, which are one of the greatest dangers in a situation like this. Pray for the Marine Layer to make a return to the coast tonight, bringing higher humidities with it.

Also amazing to watch the LAFD and LACoFD helos doing extremely dangerous night drops. They've been on the fire lines for almost 10 hours now and have to contend with smoke, fire, unseen power lines, and, of course, the rising hillsides that like to eat aircraft.

LAFD on the tube right now saying the fire is "laying down for tonight" and they'll try to get a knockdown tomorrow. Councilman LaBonge says it's the worst fire he's seen in Griffith Park since the 1960s. That's what happens, my friends, when the vegetation doesn't burn for 40 years.

photo: laist.com

Saturday, May 05, 2007

They Just Can't....

...help themselves. The LAPD, I mean.

It's been a few days since riot cops pushed through MacArthur Park on May Day and shot rubber bullets and foam projectiles at all manner of folks, including the media. Thousands of words in print and minutes on the tube have been thus far expended on the fallout so I won't rant too much about it here.

I am usually quick to jump to the defense of the folks in Blue on this blog....scroll down...but this one seems fairly indefensible.

It is astounding that in 2007, your average LAPD officer is stupid enough to use any type of force on a member of the accredited media. Everything else aside, in a vacuum let's say, this alone is about the worst single thing a uniformed officer could do--almost worse than hitting or shooting an unarmed woman or child. Not only because it's a spectacularly bad decision, but because the self-righteousness of the Fourth Estate alone is enough to make such an event the crime of the century.

Listening to Fox 11 "journalist" Christina Gonzalez scream on camera at you in her finely-tuned and supremely annoying high-pitched whine that "you CAN'T do that" should be enough to make any police officer question whether he or she wants to push a reporter or camera operator. If that's not enough, then you'll be fucked six ways sideways as soon as that videotape starts airing.

In the past, there's been the predictable outrage when the LAPD has threatened and used force on so-called "citizen journalists." These are nothing more than annoying gadflies and run-of-the-mill assholes with digital camcorders whose existence at various events is solely to bait the cops into hitting, shooting or arresting them. But trampling local media is truly beyond the pale, even for your average IQ patrolman or slightly higher IQ (and more muscular) Metro officer.

These reporters are people who cover the Department--and the crimes they are investigating--day in and day out. While laughing at Gonzalez (which she alleges is what the cops did as they pushed her around) is probably the norm behind the yellow police tape at crime scenes and behind closed doors at Parker Center after press conferences, doing so on camera while shoving her camera operator into the dirt is lunacy. And while the average cop probably has wet dreams about pushing the media around, like most fantasies, it's one that is much better left unfulfilled as the reality is a lot harsher than simply washing a set of sheets.

These coppers just don't learn and that's what's really amazing about the LAPD. Institutional memory is at once long and terribly short.

The scene at MacArthur Park (where it seems that officers faced a threat that equaled the average Palestinian rock-throwing teenager) was reminiscent of footage out of the Middle East or South Korea when those riot cops decide to quell protests. Heads will rightly roll on this one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LAFD Experiment

A few words on the incident page system being tested by the LAFD. They recently beta'd an alert notification system not unlike incidentpage.net. It was pretty good, though if Brian Humphrey is reading this, I'd suggest adding a first-in fire station district to each incident page, so those who are conversant in station locations could instantly know what part of the city the call was going down (to their credit, they already include Thomas Guide pages, but that's a pain in the ass for most of us to rely on).

They took the system offline a few days ago, but I hope it comes back soon..it's a great step in the technology direction for the LAFD.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hand Wringing In Virginia

I was going to compose a long-winded post about the difficulties of securing a college campus with 26,000 students, but instead, I'll say only this.

Yesterday's shooting at Virginia Tech could happen at "Any University USA." Securing a sprawling campus from a gunman carrying two pistols is very hard, if not impossible. Even given a two hour headstart when you're being led by clues that tell you one thing, it's hard to devote the enormous resources required to shut down an entire university on the off chance that the gunman will show up across campus at carry out a massacre.

Nevertheless, it's likely the VT police chief's head will roll and maybe the school's president, too. But when I worked in the public safety sector in cities with big universities, even responding to the smallest emergency calls came with their own sense of chaos and disorder, if for no other reason than because colleges are almost always a swirling hive of activity.

An event like this could unfold exactly the same way tomorrow right in your own town...and it'd be just as hard to stop.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More Wind = More Brushers

Some of the strongest winds this L.A. native has ever experienced here are raking the Basin right now. My modern office building is creaking and groaning; the wooden parking gate arm has snapped off and one very expensive home has burned to the ground in Beverly Hills on a gnarly hop-skipping brush fire going on right now around one of my favorite park areas.

Stepped out of my car in BH this afternoon during the windstorm and immediately smelled that brush fire smell. Quick secret call to the LAFD PIO confirmed they had one acre of brush going up on N. Beverly Drive. The fire straddled the border between LA City and Beverly Hills, a mutual-aid nightmare.

While eating, I saw the usual suspects LF92 and LF58 blast by going north on Beverly, as well as Battalion 18. Towards the end of the meal, E26 (stationed down at Arlington and the Santa Monica Freeway!!!) and E43 from Cheviot Hills/Palms heading up to the fire. After lunch couldn't see a good loom-up because the wind was blasting so hard but headed up to the area to see if it was still going.

Streets were closed and traffic was bad so I flipped a U and headed back to work as E47 came up Beverly from Sunset. By the time I got back to my desk and flipped on the Bearcat, they had Strike Teams staging up at Sunset and Beverly including a LACoFD unit based in Carson and entire Downey FD team! Crazy. Santa Monica Fire is in on it too under a Strike Team arrangement.

They got a handle on it but it's still windy as hell.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lunchtime and Lost Comms

Invariably, the big stuff goes down when I'm at a meal and far away from my scanner. In fact, the last time a huge structure fire dropped in Beverly Hills, I was sitting at the same joint watching BHFD and LAFD units cruise by. Of course, I'm sans scanner the whole time so I don't find out what's cracking until I get to my radio!

This time, as I swung a right on Wilshire I look up to see heavy smoke sitting overhead, but my view is obscured by high-rises, so I couldn't see the origin. Thought at first it was a big commercial structure since it was putting out a ton of dark smoke, but when I finally got a glimpse of the hills a few minutes later, could see the smoke charging over the ridge on the Valley-side. By the time I got up to my office, had a great view of the fire and the helos were but little specks in the distance making water runs.

Turned to OCD 9, but all the fun was pretty much over by then. Just the usual mid-incident requests for random crap. The traffic on the Tac Channels was also pretty routine about fire roads, flare ups and hose lays. I missed all the unit dispatches, which is usually the best shit.

Anyway, they're getting a good handle on it right now and never ceases to amaze me how good these LAFD and LACoFD guys are when it comes to this stuff. Burbank FD got in on it, too.
photo: deposee

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sounds About Right...

A little late on this one because I was out of town and am not a regular L.A. Weekly reader, anyway. But a slightly snippy post on the L.A. Times Web site pointed me to an excellent investigative piece of journalism by Christine Pelisek over at the Weekly.

It's a long story that attempts to chronicle and explain the Tennie Pierce debacle. Long story short, Pierece was a black LAFD fireman with about 20 years on the job. He was unwittingly served dog food down at the old FS 5 in Westchester a few years ago after a beach volleyball game (FS 5 is down by LAX and includes some prime L.A. beach sand in its First-In).

Pierce, whose self-appointed moniker was "Big Dog," apparently hurt a young FF/PM's feelings during the game and was served the food in his spaghetti as a result. Without going into the details, it looks like the LAFD fucked-up its internal investigation, but the real crime was the city attorney's office bending over as it agreed to a nearly $3 million settlement that was rubber-stamped by the City Council. The ridiculous amount, for which Pierce claimed racial discrimination in the prank, was later vetoed by Mayor Tony. The council upheld the veto after it emerged that Pierce loved himself some pranks, too! Now the whole thing is heading to trial, where I suspect Mr. Pierce won't get a dime.

Anyway, read Ms. Pelisek's enlightening story.

As I've mentioned way below on this blog (maybe my first entry?) I, once upon a time, was a real-life emergency worker. One of my fairly brief stops along the way was at the LAFD, where I was on the receiving end of a very thorough EMS education and an even more thorough case of hazing and being at the very bottom of a shit-rolling hill. When the Pierce case was making big headlines a few months ago, I seriously debated posting a long diatribe about both my experiences with the Department and my opinion of Mr. Pierce's case. I decided against it at the time, and I won't do it now.

All I will say is this: Until the LAFD's culture changes in a VERY fundamental way, there will always be hazing, pranks, hurt feelings and the spectre of impending lawsuits in its fire stations. The Department's (and top city officials--including City Controller Laura Chick) insistence that change must begin at the top is exactly the opposite of what must happen.

The change in attitude must start at the very bottom of the ladder. The experience of fire department recruits from their first day at the Drill Tower these days is allegedly fairer and more judicious than ever before. But it's their first year or two in the field that shapes the behavior and attitudes that they will carry with them for the rest of their career. The culture that "turds," humiliates, denigrates and punishes the "boots" throughout their probationary year produces the same personnel that will, in turn, foist the same behavior upon the next generation of recruits. Until that cycle is broken, so too, will be the LAFD.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

All Around The North America

Left the SoCal last week and spent a few days in Nueva York and then wintry Montreal. Didn't bring the scanner, but a few bits and bobs, as they say:

So about the time I was having a drink or three in the Lower East Side at this fine establishment, a gunman was shooting a bartender in the back at a Greenwich Village Pizzeria. After fleeing the scene he ran down the street being trailed by two of the NYPD's finest "Auxiliary" cops. These are unarmed volunteer officers who walk the streets in the "Bag" (NYPD lingo for the patrol uniform). While they have rudimentary cop training they are supposed to only act in an "eyes and ears" capacity. Now, I'm all for local cop-shops liberally using reserve and civilian officers to take the burden off the duties of the sworn personnel. Both the LAPD and the LASD have great reserve and civilian programs.

But if you're going to put on an authentic cop's uniform with a badge and go on foot patrol UNARMED(!!!!!!!) it's not illogical to think that you might get shot. In fact, the batshit-crazy gunman left the restaurant and began walking down the street with the two Auxiliaries trailing him from across the street. Seeing them, he quickly turned around and ran at them, catching up and shooting both of them dead from point-blank range. Luckily, the two had radioed ahead and sworn personnel were barreling down--but not in time to save the Auxies. A short foot chase ensued and then the cops pumped at least 30 rounds into the gunman (shooting both his thumbs off in the process).

Lesson: Wear the uniform = Carry a gun.

* * * *

Headed up to Montreal for some fun on Friday, and boy they do things different up there. Mostly, it's the French that trips you up. All the Police, Fire and EMS trucks seem to be fairly normal. Even the lime-green Type III Ford ambulances don't look all that goofy. The city was getting about 20 inches of snow in the two days I was on the ground. Didn't keep the EMS, Fire and PD units from trucking around Code 3 all night long. It's been awhile since I drove and ambulance and ran around in the snow, but the memories it brought back weren't pleasant.

* * * *

Back in L.A. after a hellish Sunday travel day in the metal bosom of the best Regional Jets and 737s Continental Airlines had to offer, I was unable to break away to watch the giant A380 arrive at LAX. I had to settle for the Internet video re-runs. Don't know what the wind was like out there yesterday morning but the the French pilot didn't exactly grease the 24R landing. Looked a bit rough and sideways. Still that thing is a fucking monster. It was supposed to depart this afternoon, but it's IFR and rainy out here today. Don't know if it has left yet or that no one has had a chance to YouTube the takeoff.

Monday, March 12, 2007

March Scorcher

As is sometimes the case here in SoCal, for a few days at least, we've skipped Spring and gone straight into Summer. The picture shows flames burning through the Anaheim Hills yesterday, a locale that's way out of Code6Charles' world. I followed the story with limited interest since it's so far south of where I live. LAFD, as is custom, did send two strike teams down there to help and the County also pitched in, but I'm not sure which specific units mobilized. Even though we're setting record temps again today (92, or so, right now), they've managed to knock that thing down after it burned more than 2,000 acres.

Up here in the hot city, I was scanning during the workday and tuned in just in time to hear an LAPD airship report a fast-moving brusher not far from the Griffith Observatory. It took awhile for BC11 to get on scene as the first unit, and E82 was already giving size-ups as the units got on scene. Only about an acre in heavy, remote brush, but they quickly upped the assignment. They flooded the zone with dozens of land-based units--including a pre-assembled Strike Team staged at FS88 in Sherman Oaks. Air Ops got in on it, too, with an assist from the County.
Funny thing, only saw a wisp or two of light smoke from my panoramic office view.

Right now, however, more than two hours into the incident, they're sending E34 into staging and things are still going strong. Hope they don't get another brusher today.

photo: Jebb Harris, OC Register

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Pain In My...

...ass seems nigh. As commenter Karl helpfully pointed out below, Beverly Hills' application for a trunked system seems to have been recently approved. It's only a matter of time, I suppose, before I'll have to dig out the manual on my BC296D to figure out how the hell to program talk groups and all that shit. It used to be BHPD was one of the more annoying scanning channels in SoCal (not counting the head banging inducing game of trying to monitor the L.A. County Sheriffs).

BHPD used to be all about "459 Audibles"--ringing burglar alarms, and traffic stops. The traffic stops are still there--and more interesting these days since those cops basically racially profile every T-stop, and in doing so, actually pull over a goodly number of people driving suspended/revoked and/or with warrants. The volume of ringing alarm bell calls seems to have diminished in the past few years so it's more fun to listen to BHPD than LAPD these days. Especially since so much of the latter's radio traffic is now conducted quietly through the MDTs.

Anyway, I figure I'm on borrowed time in my own city.

Monday, March 05, 2007

First Heat

So the year's first real prolonged heat arrived in SoCal over the weekend, just in time for the L.A. Marathon. Did some scattered scanning over the weekend but didn't really lock into anything good.

A 50-year-old bicyclist collapsed and died during the Bike Tour portion of the Marathon festivities. But this fool ain't usually up at 7:14 on a Sunday morning, so I didn't hear the action. But the heat and temperate evening brought out a rash of Structure Fire calls in both the city and county that continued well into the night. Nothing spectacular there, either.

Supposed to cool down the rest of the week, but it was a nice little dose of heat as the Spring gets closer.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Visitor In a Trunked Land

Did a quick 36 hours up in lovely San Francisco this weekend. Stayed at a nice high-rise hotel right downtown and heard the music of sirens all day and all night long. Used to live up there a few years back and had some pretty decent scanning on the fire channels. The dispatchers were all salty and old school and pretty lousy on the air, but they caught good fires (just like the old East Coast city it wishes it was) and threw a shitload of resources at pretty much every alarm.

While I was there, the whole thing went trunked, which was annoying as shit. Of course, I've got the fancy digital Bearcat and Trunktracker etc., etc. But when you're a tourist, it's no fun to drag even the little Bearcat up there and set up all the Talk Groups. So I listened to the music and saw the badass Rescue 1 tearing ass down Mission Blvd. on Saturday afternoon. Couldn't find a pic of it online, so I had to settle for a Truck Company working something downtown.

I guess my misery index will increase down here in SoCal when BHPD and BHFD finally trunk it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Flying Eggs!

Beverly Hills PD never ceases to have that small town feel. Officers are on the lookout for flying eggs, near the intersection of Brighton and Camden. "Eggs were seen flying through the air five ago," the dispatcher says. Laughter heard in the background.

Running At Half-Speed

That seems to be the case over at the LAFD blog where Brian Humphrey & Co. have resumed sporadic posting, with incidents generally a few weeks behind. Here's hoping that they catch up soon and are back at full-speed ahead.

* * * *

Also, my fish-out-of-water sighting today came as I strolled down South Beverly Drive in the B.H. and I saw Light Force 102 moseying south gawking at the hotties on the sidewalk and the Ferraris parked at the meters. Based in the Valley's non-descript South Van Nuys area, 102's rarely makes an over-the-hill appearance. No idea what they were doing down here unless they were moving up C-A-V (Conditionally Available) to cover a nearby Task Force house like 58's or 92's while those companies were out on a drill or something.

* * * *

Saw BHFD Engine 2 and one of the Freightliner Rescues working hard today on North Beverly Drive. Parked in the red zone, per usual, while the boys sipped on their $4 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf drinks. That's a tradition almost as old as I am. What was unusual were the two muscle-T-shirt clad dudes in jungle fatigue pants and black shirts with a stealth BHPD patch on the sleeves. Bright gold badges and 9 mm sidearms on the hips. A little over-the-top per usual for the Beverly Hills public safety. Probably SWAT guys. Enjoying their coffee on the public dime.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Short and Bittersweet

That's the gist of the message the LAFD's Brian Humphrey posted on the LAFD blog earlier today. "Staffing issues" are cited as the reason for the blog's indefinite hiatus.

Humphrey alluded to staffing changes in a mass email he sent to LAFD email recipients earlier this week. Times could be a'changing down in the bowels of LAFD's OCD section. Maybe they're re-evaluating the role of the 24/7 Public Service Officer who takes up a chair (and bed and meal) down in Dispatch, hundreds of feet below City Hall East.

We'll see how this all pans out, but I hope it doesn't spell the death of the excellent blog Humphrey et. al. have put up for the last year or two.

Monday, February 05, 2007

While We're At The Fire

It's worth checking out this great photo from eecue.com of an old 1980's Seagrave working hard as Engine 210 at the Structure at 4th and Broadway this morning.

This is why they call the 200-series engines the "Pump!

All Those EMS Calls...

...are worth it for the overworked downtown LAFD crews if their reward is catching a Major Emergency Structure like the one that hit this morning at 4th and Broadway. I was fast asleep when it went off this morning a little before 5 and by the time I got the scanner cranked up around 8 a.m., all I caught was a little traffic on Tac-12 about shutting down ladder pipes.

LAObserved has a good round-up of the blog action and photos here.

photo: Dave Bullock/eecue.com

Tuesday, January 30, 2007



This ain't a breaking news site. Nor do I plan for it to ever descend into a place filled with posts about which agencies use what frequencies and what PL tones (if you have to ask, you really don't want to know).

It was pointed out in the comments section that the devoted enthusiasts over at the SoCalScan Yahoo Group have been dissecting the LAFD/SMFD radio consolidation for months. Those people dissect just about anything public safety radio-related.

In fact, I've been a member of that particular Yahoo Group, which apparently now has 1,735 members, for a number of years. Truth is, I haven't logged on to that site in more than a year. When I need some nagging radio question answered, that's the first place I'll turn.

But you wont find it here. This is place to read random shit about the public safety agencies I'm interested in and other odds and ends I feel like posting. Head over there for the nitty gritty.

Expect my sometimes untimely discoveries and analysis here.