And then the morning came - Saturday, August 11th. The all-day open house at the Spokane Valley Fire Department.
Armed with my digital recorder, smart phone and "got firefighter? they do a body good" camisole, I braved the heat to spend the day with my new homies. The first of what will hopefully become an annual event, Firefighter Scott Whitaker put together an impressive display of bouncy castles, pumper trucks, photo ops and demonstrations by Spokane Valley's finest. He told me - "the public deserves to know what we do and what our capabilities are, like swift water rescue, vehicle extrication, fire education, and medical calls."
Okay, you know Kat - my thought is, the public deserves to know what Spokane Valley Fire does SO THAT WE CAN PROPERLY ACKNOWLEDGE AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR DEDICATION TO THEIR PROFESSION. But I digress.
As I made my way through the various displays, I made the following observations:
1. Every single fire professional on site was courteous, patient, friendly and acted with the utmost professionalism. This is especially admirable considering the number of small children who were climbing all over their stuff and being encouraged by Mommy and Daddy to ask lots and lots of "questions."
2. The Spokane Valley Training Center is a freakin' awesome facility.
3. The firefighters were all uniformly buff. Seriously.
My dearest and dedicated readers, you know of Kat's anxiety concerning the SCBA. The SCBA is my nemesis, my foe, and the mask itself terrifies me. But fears are made to be faced, are they not? Conquered! Vanquished! So off I went to the gear table.
Okay, let me say I had absolutely ZERO intention of putting that Scott Air Pak on my back when I walked up to that table. I figured a jacket, a helmet, a photo, and BOOM move on. However, this particular table was manned by Brendan. Firefighter Brendan told me that he used to be an accountant, until he decided one day several years ago to walk away from the spreadsheets, follow his childhood dream and become a hooligan with a Halligan. (okay, I paraphrased). So Kat says to herself, "Kat, this is it. Your big shot. If you can't trust Brendan the former accountant firefighter to take care of you, who can you trust?" Nobody came to mind, so the gear went on.
I'm not going to lie. There was that 20 seconds or so between the time the mask went on and they hooked up the tank, that I wanted to scream "FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, GET THIS &#*!! THING OFF MY FACE BEFORE I SUFFOCATE!!!!" and then vomit, but I did neither. This is how much I trust Brendan. He is The Man and my new hero.
For your viewing pleasure, here we are:
I then moved on to the brush truck, with Firefighters Jeff and Mark. Here's Firefighter Mark, assisting a small child as she knocks over cones with the water stream:
And here's Kat and Mark, after I told said little girl that her Mommy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were waiting for her over on the other side of the bouncy castle:
Mark gets serious Kat props because he had just returned from the Antoine fire, which is basically in the backyard of my old stomping grounds. I wish I had a picture of Firefighter Jeff, but he was stuck holding the camera. Between the two of them, they have 32 years of fire service. Jeff took the time to explain the department-wide wellness program and the exercise regimes (which explains all the buffness onsite), and Mark knew the inner workings of the brush truck like the back of his hand.
(An aside - so much went on that day, there's no way I can condense it into one post. I am specifically going to address "Mako the Arson Dog" in his own post later on. You will love that one.)
The training center has a five-story training building, which basically looks like a really cool haunted house because it's been set on fire so many times. A demonstration of Spokane Valley's finest being lifted to the top balcony to perform a rescue:
followed by his brother in arms rappelling down:
I'm pretty sure I was the only person on site who was a complete nervous freakin' wreck. But I was. You know me well by now, dearest reader, and so you realize that this is now my turf. These are my guys. They protect me and my son. They take care of me and I will take care of them. They have no idea who I am, and frankly I only learned the names of maybe 10 of them. But as I told Chief Thompson - "I'm here to make your life easier. Tell me what you need, and it will get done." They are my guys, and serving the servant is my calling.
I met this amazing woman named June that day...she's 82, and I told her, "I want to be you when I grow up." I can't go into too many details about June at this point, because she's an integral piece in an UBER-EXCITING THING we will be doing in September, and I don't want to ruin it for you. In the literary world, we call that a "tease."
The district website, www.spokanevalleyfire.com, has some great photos of the event. (Yes, I did specifically look for myself when I went through them. Couldn't help it.)
Many of these heroes made a point of welcoming me to the Spokane Valley...and to them I say, welcome to Kat. You will be seeing me around....and thanks for a lovely day.