Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Playing With Fire

As I near completion of my High School years, my fascination in Fire engines had not dwindled over the years and the chance to be directly involved with them soon presented itself.

The local Fire Brigade in the town I lived in was manned completely by volunteers. Whenever there was an emergency, they would be hailed to the station by the double- barrelled air raid siren that would wail over the town. After hearing the siren and watching them turnout several times I was determined to join their ranks.

When I turned sixteen another kid from my school and I applied to join the Fire Brigade. My application was successful and I joined as a junior firefighter.

Training was on a Monday night and I was soon taught all the basic Firefighting skills. This included learning how to hoist and scale ladders, roll out and roll up hoses, how to connect the standpipe (to get water out of the underground fire hydrants)and how to handle the branches (nozzle). It was exciting and challenging and I was determined to prove myself.

Our Station had two front line fire appliances and a small rescue tender, which carried the ‘Jaws of Life’. This is a hydraulic tool used to extricate people from their mangled wrecks at motor vehicle accidents. We were also taught how to use this equipment.

The town was one of the closest stations to a major intersection on state highway one as it ran out of Auckland. The long stretch of motorway abruptly came to a series of sharp bends and then the intersection which were controlled by traffic lights.

There were many accidents on this stretch of road due to these factors. I remember one particularly bad accident I attended on a Saturday afternoon.

The siren hailed us and I managed to get onto the number two pump which that day was also carrying the Jaws of Life because the Emergency Tender was away for repairs. We were all in high spirits as we sped off to the call, laughing and joking to dispel the tension.

We soon arrived at the scene and adopted a more sombre attitude as we realised the extent of the trauma involved. A large solid sedan had collided with a much smaller vehicle head on. The small motorvehicle had four adults and two unsecured baby occupants and the larger vehicle two adults and three kids.

The smaller car was virtually destroyed by the force of the impact, which split it open like a tin can. The occupants had all been thrown clear and it became apparent that both babies and at least one of the adults were killed instantly.

We got to work and cut the remaining victim from the mangled wreck but she was unconscious with a serious head injury and was not expected to live.

There were not enough ambulances initially and I ended up looking after a teenage boy who was in the back seat of the larger sedan. He had a tender abdomen, which turned out to be internal bleeding. All I could offer was re-assurance until the medics arrived and carted him off.

The scene was eventually cleared of patients and debris and we returned to our station as a more subdued and silent crew. The bar was opened and alcohol flowed freely as we informally de-briefed each other over by discussing the details of the harrowing event.

This was to be my introduction to trauma accidents on the roadway.

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