The quints are coming!

Rick Ryckeley's picture

What’s big, red and white and has a bunch of hoses, more equipment than your granddaddy’s toolbox, and a 75-foot mechanical ladder on top?

Give up? Why, it’s a Quint, of course. A brand new state of the art fire apparatus! This county’s getting not one, but two of them. They could be here just in time for my birthday, and guess who is gonna be the driver of one? That’s right – little old me.

The testing for the new positions — fire apparatus operator — started over six months ago. After a rigorous process, nine firefighters were selected to go to the Alabama Fire Academy for two weeks of instruction. Once there, we were to attend classes, learn all about the new trucks, their capabilities and limitations. But my education started earlier than all the others. I rode over with the boss.

I rode in the back seat, a fellow firefighter rode in the front, and we listened intently as he spoke. He talked about how we were able to afford the new trucks – they would become replacements for two older trucks which were going into reserve status. He explained budgetary constraints, aerial truck NFPA specifications, the bid process, and new response territory.

After an hour and a half, he finished just as we were passing through Talladega, Ala. He asked if we had any questions. I looked out the side window and said, “I just have one. What’s the name of the Talladega football team? That’s the biggest football stadium I’ve ever seen.”

The boss just smiled and shook his head. The other FAO candidate in the front seat said, “There’s a big game on Sunday. Over 500,000 people are coming to watch. See all that open land? Come Thursday, it’ll all be full of cars, pickup trucks, RVs and people camping out just having a good old time.”

“Thursday? The game is not till Sunday,” I said, “Talladega must really have one heck of a team. I bet they can even beat Vanderbilt.”

We got to the hotel around 5, had dinner, and then studied until 10. Class started at 8 the next day — except for those firefighters from Albertan. They never made it to class until after 9. The entire week they seemed to always get behind a slow-moving school bus, truck, or RV. All those RVs were probably going to that big football game in Talladega.

Our instructor at the fire academy was a battalion chief of Birmingham Fire Department’s West Division, Timothy Love. Yep, I kid you not, Dr. Love taught our class.

He’s been a firefighter for 27 years, with only three years to go before he retires. His department has ten Quints and something called a Bronco. I never heard of a fire department having a horse as a mascot, but then again we were in Alabama.

For three days Chief Love lectured about Quints and their limitations. He relived many of the fires he had fought and showed us a video of ladder trucks “tumping” over. Each night after class, we ate a quick dinner and then it was back to our rooms for study groups until 10.

On Wednesday and Thursday we started right at 8 outside with the trucks. Except those two guys from Albertan — they showed up sometime ‘bout 9:30. Said they got stuck behind another slow-moving school bus. Guess a bunch of kids were trying to tail-gate that big football game a little early.

Everyone spent time setting up the Quint and a 105-foot platform ladder truck. For two days we raised the ladder and platform, placing them in windows for rescues and on rooftops for ventilation. At the end of Thursday, I asked Chief Love if he could bring the Bronco on Friday. I’ve never rode on a horse before. He shook his head, smiled, and then walked away.

On Friday we reviewed all the material in the morning and took the test at 1 that afternoon. Luckily, the two firefighters from Albertan were on time. After the test, we loaded up and left the Alabama Fire Academy, our first of two classes was complete.

At 6 that night we passed that giant football stadium in Talladega again. The grassy fields around it were indeed packed with people camping out. Seems they were there for a car race on Sunday. At least that’s what the guys tried to tell me when we got back to the fire station. But, I didn’t believe them. What a silly idea. Who’d camp out for five days just to see a bunch of cars go around in a circle?

Four weeks later we went back to the Fire Academy for our second class, also taught by Chief Love. This time he said we could go to downtown Birmingham on Wednesday, and he’d show us Fire Station Number One. He said the Bronco would be there.

After class Wednesday night, we all drove to Birmingham in the pouring rain. I asked Chief Love if the Bronco would mind being out in the rain. He smiled and said, “No, the guys will towel it off if it gets wet.”

When we arrived at the station, to my surprise, there was no horse to be found. Instead, the firefighters gave us a tour and showed us their new truck. They pulled out into the middle of the street and set up their $1.3 million elevating, articulating, telescoping, and rotational 105-foot ladder truck. They called it a Bronto (with a “t”) — funny name for a ladder truck.

Friday finally came, and we took one last test, and then drove back four hours to our loved ones. After a week being gone, The Wife was happy to see me. But I must admit I was a little depressed. I never got to see Birmingham’s Bronco. A horse at the fire department – that would really be something to see. Maybe I’d ask the chief if he’d let me have a mascot?

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