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.