Tools of the Trade, Customer Service, & the Coliseum

Day 18 started with daily clean up duties, and a discussion of 4 department SOPs: drug testing and pre-employment drug testing, vacations, and duty trades. Each day following “house duties” (clean ups) we start with a quick discussion of pertinent...

Then we went outside and started 2 of the main power tools carried by the Saint Paul Fire Department: the Homelite Super XL chainsaw and the Stihl rotating saw.
We spent the afternoon working with our instructors and the exceptional crew of Saint Paul Ladder 18 – C Shift on salvage operations (how to protect and save undamaged property at a fire scene). We constructed water chutes and catch basins, and practiced tarp folding and balloon tosses (a specific way to spread a tarp to efficiently cover personal belongings of a citizen, protecting them from water damage at a fire). We also cleaned a lubricated a number of extrication tools and equipment recently used by Saint Paul Fire crews at automobile extrictation class. The equipment will be used by our class briefly before being distributed to front line Fire Department companies.
The physical training session today was something I personally, was looking forward to. We had been told that we might use the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum for some “indoor” workouts during the cold winter months. The Coliseum is located on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, just a few blocks north of the Saint Paul Fire Training Facility. The Coliseum (many of us still call it the “Hippodrome”) is a center for hockey and livestock shows, and features indoor seating for over 5,000 people. It is the seating – specifically the 28 sections of seating, 45 rows of seats/stairs in each section – that I had heard would provide us unending agony as we ran up and down the rows of seating for our physical training. Interspersed with all that running would be sit ups, push ups, weight lifing, and other exercises – again designed to boost our elevated heart rates for short periods of more intense work. Really, I was looking forward to the experience….really!
I was not disappointed. The stairs, the exercises, and the running (part of the hour was involved running laps around the concourse surrounding the areana), provided a superb workout! It was warm and dry inside, and I was glad that we would not be slipping and sliding around in the snow outside (not a factor today, but this week they are calling for 4-6 inches of snow, and I guess I was looking forward to the Coliseum to help prevent some injuries to me and my classmates). The workout was very challenging, and my legs felt pretty good during the workout.….I look forward to doing more of that in the future…..really!
Day 18 finished off as many of the previous days had….I was tired, coughing and breathing deeply from pushing myself physically and mentally. More importantly, I was pushing into that interior place where I faced my fears of failing….where I knew I was building proficiency and self confidence….where I was surprised to find that – when I thought I was burning all the energy I had available – I actually had some “left in the tank.” I wanted to keep going to see how deep that reserve was…yet I knew that Captain Deno was likely to help me answer that question very, very soon! (Captain Deno runs every workout right along with us – he is an exceptional coach and in incredible shape!). 
As I drove home after class, I found myself reflecting on Chief Morehead’s encouraging words, and started thinking that I CAN do this…in fact, I was really enjoying “doing this!” But somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard evil laughter and saw a comical fluorescent orange smiley face lurking….I knew that Captain Deno would be there tomorrow and the next day ensuring that any self-confidence I might have today would evaporate all too quickly in the future challenges that lay ahead. He had warned us just today: “Last Friday’s First Quarter Practical Exam was the easiest one we’ll be doing.” YIKES!