Areas of Ignorance

How many of you have a know-it-all within your circle of acquaintances? Sad to say, you probably all can answer yes to this question.


How many of you have a know-it-all within your circle of acquaintances? Sad to say, you probably all can answer yes to this question. Rare indeed is the person among you who is unfamiliar with at least one person whose belief in their individual supremacy is legendary (at least in their own minds). These people can be a real pain in the butt.

Let me share one of life's great truths with you. The longer I live these less I believe that I really know. While it might be that I am just starting to forget things, in reality it seems that there is so much more to know in the world today than any one amongst can ever comprehend. Let me share a story to make my point.

I can recall a relative making an important point with me about this many years. She was a cousin by marriage and a native of Scotland. This event happened during my senior year in high school. We were at a family gathering and for some reason the conversation turned to school work. At some point I began to bemoan all of the things about U.S. History that I was having trouble committing to memory.

My cousin's wife chuckled a bit and said that I really should not complain so much. She noted that I only had less than 200 years of history with which to contend. She went on to point out that during her school days she had to deal with more than 900 years of Scottish and British history. What was my problem with handling a mere 190, or so, years of history? I can still recall her words more than 40 years later.

Let me stress that ignorance of history merely means that you do not know something about the past. There are other areas of ignorance where the consequences of that missing knowledge can be quite negative. It is my contention that in the fire service, ignorance can become the first step in a deadly scenario: one where at the very least pain and suffering can be a by-product. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago at a seemingly innocuous call for assistance during a thunderstorm.

Let me start this discussion by owning up to the fact that, like far too many firefighters, my knowledge of electricity is not all that great. Electricity is good when controlled and bad when uncontrolled. Just to let you know, I have attended many indoctrination sessions over the years that were provided by the Public Service Company up in Newark and the Jersey Central Power and Light company here at home in Monmouth County.

They spoke of amps, volts, and watts. They spoke of current and explained the different voltages, as well as the placement of different strengths of wires on the poles. I have also read about operations involving electricity in the fire service texts and media. As many times as I have attended these lessons and read the texts, and magazine, I must say that I am still a little concerned about what electricity can do to my associates and I if we screw up. I am also concerned about what I am able to recall when I need to.

Perhaps I am more sensitive than most, owing to the fact that a dear friend of mine was killed in the line of duty back in 1994. Firefighter Mike Delane of Rescue Company One in Newark was electrocuted while helping a young, rookie firefighter down from the roof of a burning building. However, I guess that there are some things which just do not click within my brain.

My personal defense against this area of weakness in my knowledge base is caution. Anyway, during a recent series of storms, our fire company here in Adelphia was dispatched to the scene of an incident where wires were reported as burning in a tree near the far end of our district. Owing to the great number of calls that evening, I ended up as the incident commander for this one.

As we approached the scene, I parked at what I thought was a safe distance, established command, and sent one of the guys up to capture the pole number, so that we could report it to the power company. Once the fellow got the number he came back to the rig. We noted the number, pulled back from the pole and reported it to the township police dispatch center.

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