Meridian firefighters taking care of business
July 15, 2001
Firefighters working the C Shift from Meridian's Fire Station No. 1 and Fire Station No. 6 under the command of Battalion Chief Tim Miller were on the scene within a few minutes of an emergency call the other night.
Two pumper trucks and a command vehicle were accompanied by the unmistakable siren and klaxon warning of men going to work. The night sky was lit with brilliant flashing red lights, which reflected off nearby houses, trees and street lights.
They went immediately to the scene of the problem at a Meridian residence, a smoking air conditioning unit located outside the home, which had just spewed sour fumes before sizzling down into just another failed mechanical device. A smell of something burnt filled the immediate vicinity on a sticky night best reserved for relaxing and staying cool indoors.
Neighbors wandered over to check out the action. The family dog barked but didn't seem afraid of the animated figures in full firefighting gear moving quickly over the grounds.
The firefighters were summoned from their stations by a call to 911, a call which came shortly after they were finished with the evening meal. Some members of C Shift were settling in to watch a video, awaiting what the night would bring. Fortunately, it was a fairly routine night for these firefighters, whose work shifts revolve around 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off duty in a repeating cycle.
When they arrived at the scene, firefighters including the homeowner's cousin, Jeff could not have been more professional. One quickly asked if there was any smoke in the house. None had been detected by the homeowners, but he went to check it anyway. Another pair went straight for the problem at the air conditioning unit. Others were sent on various other duties around the house.
Two others were dispatched to check various electrical boxes and connections, some in hard to reach places the homeowner didn't know existed.
Sweating in the night heat, they used their flashlights to peer into the air conditioning unit, and found what looked to be oil residue at the bottom of it.
Diagnosis: Not good. The hissing sound that had accompanied the smoke a few minutes earlier was likely caused by escaping freon from some sort of blown seal. This air conditioning compressor was probably dead, which was confirmed by a specialist who installed a new unit the next day.
Firefighters also checked throughout the inside and underneath the house. Using a thermal imaging camera, they essentially looked through walls to determine whether any hot spots existed. There were none, but the inspection was comforting to and appreciated by the local family just the same.
Personnel with the Meridian Fire Department are well-trained, well-equipped and unwilling to take any unnecessary chances no matter the nature of the call. The thermal imaging camera gives a good look at what could never be seen with the human eye alone. It is, in effect, an extended eye for trouble.
The episode brought back thoughts of how all of their training, discipline and professionalism are wasted when firefighters are used for duties other than protecting life and property. Whether it's the heat of summer or the chill of winter, firefighters' attention to their official duties must never be diverted.
The work varies from nearly dull to very dangerous, as dictated by each individual situation.
The fact is their chosen profession is an invaluable community resource. Their training is a source of comfort for residents of this community. And, their lives are invaluable.
This city probably can't pay them what they're worth, but it really ought to try.
For the homeowner involved in this run, the work of these firefighters on a muggy night in mid-July was the work of a trained, disciplined team, working together to find and solve a problem, to protect life and property.
They'd probably say they were just taking care of business, and they'd be right, of course.
But in their business, constantly faced with such potentially serious situations, a firefighter can never let down his guard. And you can't put a value on a happy ending.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.