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Paul Nicholson: A real-life firefighting experience

The League of Women Voters has endorsed Measure F. Before I comment about that, I want to tell you about my experience as a firefighter for 30 minutes, about 18 years ago. 

On Sept. 20, 2003 I was hunting in Colorado and staying in a poor mining town called Red Cliff. We came back early that day and found a massive fire. There was only one main street in the town. A paid firefighter and a volunteer were pumping water on two buildings while waiting for the Eagle Fire Department to arrive 25 minutes later. Since there were only two of them, they could not see what was happening behind the building. 

I ran up to the firefighters and said, “You have to forget about these buildings. There is a three-story wooden shake building that was up against the hill. It is about to ignite because the wooden deck is already on fire. If it catches fire, the fire will go up the hill and start a wildfire.” 

Fortunately, they believed me, ran around the buildings and immediately pulled a new line to the back of the building. We placed the firehose in position to fight the fire and the fireman yelled to his partner, “Light It UP”! Immediately the hose filled with water and the firefighter decided he wanted to move the hose a few feet to the left for a better angle. He and I grabbed the hose and I was amazed at the weight. On our first attempt, we did not move the hose because I was not prepared for the weight. 

I asked him, how do you move the hose with just two people? He said it is possible but exceedingly difficult. Within seconds, my partners ran around the building and helped us. My point here is that with just two firefighters at the scene, they could not accurately assess the situation and they are also very ineffective at fighting the fire. 

The firefighter asked me to kneel so he could use my shoulder as a rest for the hose. I hid behind him as tight as possible due to the intense heat. I was amazed at the roar. I could barely holler loud enough for him to hear me. I said to him, “I don’t know what you get paid but it is not enough!” He laughed while spraying water on the fire and yelled, “These conditions are ideal. It is 11 a.m., 70 degrees and I have daylight. Try fighting a fire at 2 a.m. when it is dark and 20 degrees. If you do not keep moving, your feet freeze to the ground.” 

As he sprayed water on the upper and lower deck and the three-story wood shake building, a hanging bicycle was stopping him from being effective with the water. I told him to turn off the hose and I would knock the bike down. He agreed, I ran in, knocked the bicycle off the hook from the upper deck and returned to hide behind him. 

We stayed at the back of the building, keeping the fire from spreading up the hill and starting a wildfire while waiting for Eagle Fire Department to arrive. It seemed like an eternity!

EFD arrived about 25 minutes later and the Fire Chief asked me if I was a firefighter. I said, “I was for 25 minutes.” She said “Thank You but you are done. I need your name and number in case you are hurt!” She directed the Sheriff to get my information. Watching everything unfold, I called it organized chaos. I could not understand a lot of what I was seeing. Working for an insurance company, I was almost always at the scene after the event. After things calmed down, I asked to talk to the Chief because I had many questions. 

She already knew that I was responsible for directing the firefighters to the back of the building and stopping the fire from going up the hill causing a wildfire. She thanked me and said she would answer any of my questions. My main question was why a group of four firefighters were just standing around doing nothing. She said they were the rescue crew and had to be ready to rescue the firefighters who were inside the building. They had less than one minute to get all their gear on and go help them if needed. 

There were about 25 firefighters at the scene and her job was to know where every one of her firefighters were and what they were doing. The best analogy I can think of is sports. If you have ever played sports or watched a sporting event, you know how quickly things can change. The difference is that with a firefighter, that change could cost them their life. 

League of Women Voters

Now back to the League of Women’s Voters. After their thorough investigation, they are in favor of Measure F and endorsed it. 

If you go to their website, you will see they list all boardmembers, their address, email and phone number. They have a vast variety of people from many backgrounds that have knowledge and understanding of almost every aspect of business and politics. Their endorsement in favor of Measure F is huge. 

I urge you to go to the Arcata Fire Departments website at arcatafire.org and get the facts. $6 for a mobile home and $8 for a single-family residence is a small price to pay to have proper fire/EMS (lifesaving) protection. Thank you!

Paul Nicholson is a Bayside resident and retired insurance agent with over 39 years of experience.



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