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06-28-05

BACKS STEPS!
Is it just me, or does anyone else fall off the truck trying to pack hose these days ?

     I go back to the days when we still actually rode the back step of fire trucks.  I can tell you from my own personal experience that riding the back step was FUN.  First of all, we got there after driving like crazy through town with our red lights on in our cars, screeching into the firehouse parking lot, and running to the gear rack to grab our 3/4 boots, canvas coats, and plastic fire helmets.  Sometimes we even got dressed on the back step while moving down the road, because we were in a hurry to get to the scene to do our job, whatever it happened to be that time.  Holding on with one hand and trying to buckle our coats and pull up our boots without falling off was a challenge you had to overcome.  Usually three or four other guys were there doing the same thing, holding onto each other, so we didn't fall off the truck.  It was always interesting when you hit frost heaves or pot holes and became air borne.  You learned quickly where the bumps were and how to brace for them. I started at age 16 (30 years ago) as did many others in that era.  There would usually be a couple young kids (like me) and a couple older guys on the truck watching out for us..  It was the way it was.  Sometimes you would climb up on top of the engine while it was driving down the road at 50 mph to get dressed.  It was safer up on top, except on the side where the big whip antenna would hit tree branches and slap down on top of your helmet if you weren't watching out.  Riding the back step wasn't always pleasant.  It sucked in the rain.  It sucked in the cold.  And it really sucked when you were wet and cold, coming back to the firehouse on the back step at night in a blizzard. It wasn't too fun going down hot, dusty roads in the summer either.  But at the time, at least for me, it was GREAT, it was what I wanted to do, and I was glad I could do it.  It was always better to make the truck and be on the back step, than it was to miss the truck and watch the other guys going down the road while you walked into the office to wait for them to come back. It sounds kinda scary now looking back, but at the time, it was FUN and I loved it!  I never got hurt and fortunately no one else on my department did either...at least not seriously (they fell off at low speed). So anyway, maybe all is well that ends well....

    Unfortunately, some firefighters in other communities did fall off the truck now and then.  It is bad to fall off of a moving fire truck, no matter how old or young you are, how fit or unfit you are, or how you spell you last name.  It is just plain bad to fall off of a fire truck.  You can get 'real dead' if you fall off of a fire truck moving down the road at 50 mph. You can get run over by another truck or a car.  You can even fall off a truck and get run over by that same truck.  Not good.  Not for anyone.  Soooo... someone sued someone else and it got too costly to loose a firefighter off the back of a truck.  The solution, "let's put them inside the truck!"  Brilliant!  What a concept.  We could even put them inside a cab with a roof over it!  Wow!  We can even heat the cab in the winter.  All righty!  And, we can have air conditioning in the summer. Cool!  And we can have seat belts so you don't go through the windshield if we hit something. Nice!.  We can now make the cab half the size of the truck.  And we can make the trucks bigger and higher and longer.  And we can carry more and more stuff.  And we can dress our guys in protective clothing in a safe place so they can step off the truck all dressed, with an air pack already on and tools in hand, ready to go.  Awesome!  What progress we have made.  People don't have to fall off trucks any more.  Life is good.....

    So now we have reached the point where only a couple dinosaurs remember what the back steps used to be for... riding on, climbing on, sitting on, working from, etc...  Afraid that new firefighters might hear how fun it was and somehow want to relive those great old days by leaving the safety of their air conditioned, fully enclosed, comfortable cabs to ride the back step, manufacturers or somebody else out there have decided to make back steps too small to ride on.  If fact, they have made steps on many trucks too small to do anything on.  Can't even stand on them without falling off!  I guess the best way to keep someone from falling off a back step is to make them fall off the back step before the truck even moves!?  Fall off before you fall off !  A lawyer must have come up with that one...  Anyway, my bitch is that we have these bigger, taller trucks with hose beds that are six or eight feet off the ground now (they used to be at shoulder level while standing on the ground), and we have to step on these steps that are designed to fall off of,  to reach up over our head to pull a couple hundred feet of hose out onto our shoulder (alone since we don't have all those other guys on the truck any more) and then step (safely?) back onto the ground to go do our thing.  Its real easy to fall off that back step now.  It also now harder to do our job safely because of all this added safety!?   Grrrrr...

    I am not suggesting we ride on the back steps to fires anymore.  It was fun, but it was stupid.  We all know that now. (only the guys on the back of the trash truck get to have fun anymore). We have very educated firefighters, who are taught to be safety conscious and not get hurt if they can help it.  All I ask is that we not forget that a back step, that you can stand on if you need to, helps to keep you from falling off the truck and getting hurt when you are doing your job, pulling hose off the truck, packing hose back on the truck, climbing on the truck for tools, etc... It's a Freaking fire truck!  It goes to fires once in a while and we need to use the hose to put the fires out!  If we can't safely climb on and off the truck without falling, what the hell have we gained here ?  A BIG BACK STEP IS A SAFETY DEVICE!   A NARROW BACK STEP IS A SAFETY HAZARD

    It will probably take someone falling off the back step and getting killed or hurt bad when the truck is not in motion to get someone to say "Hey, if the step was a little bigger, the guys wouldn't fall off it!"   DUH...   Is it just me, or does anyone else fall off the truck trying to pack hose these days ?  If I can't get my back step back, at least bring the hose loads and things we need to work with down to ground level again...Before someone gets hurt!  

    

    BWC