Category Archives: Fireproof

Fireproof: Real-Life Firefighting

Before we jump into the horror relief that is The Europa Conspiracy, we have our third and final installment of Inquisitive Raven’s expert additional critique of the firefighting in Fireproof.  (I forgot to post it sooner because between a Wintermas cold and Kirk’s obsession with hot chocolate, I guess I banished him from my thoughts!)

If you’d like a refresher on Fireproof, here is the completed critique.  The scenes that Inquisitive Raven will be focusing on can be found here.

So without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Inquisitive Raven!

Now for the third and final installment of my Fireproof critique. Today we’re going to cover the fire call, and let me tell you that it is a textbook example of how not to run a fire scene. Now while our hostess’ criticisms of the protagonist’s actions are spot on for his actions inside the building, in the context of the entire incident, he comes off much worse. How can this be? Well, before I get into that, let me introduce you to the Incident Command System.

In short, the ICS is a system for determining who’s in charge of what in an emergency response, especially one involving multiple agencies. Using the fire call in the movie as an example, the responding agencies would be the fire department (two companies), EMS, and one hopes, the police department. Now each of the fire companies is presumably headed up by a captain, and in the absence of a battalion chief, one of them would be the Incident Commander. Protocol dictates that the one who arrives on scene first is in charge until someone with higher seniority, e.g. the battalion chief, arrives or the IC explicitly transfers command to someone else. Caleb is the captain of his company. I’m sure most of you can see where this is going.

I’ll follow up on that later, but for now, let’s start the play-by-play. The filmmakers don’t set this call up the way they did the vehicle rescue. Instead, they go directly from horsing around in the bunkroom to reacting to the dispatch:

“Engine 2, Engine 1, Aerial(?)1, Battalion 1, Respond to [incident location], structure fire, residence. Time out XXXX.”

Apparatus Identifiers.png

Note that I’m not sure if the dispatcher is saying “Area One” or “Aerial One,” but in context, I think “Aerial One” makes more sense. It could easily refer to the ladder, and calling the ladder “Aerial One” makes more sense than calling it “Battalion One,” especially since the ladders are listed as “[x] feet aerial” on Albany’s Apparatus Page. Now, if the dispatch is being sensible instead of internally consistent, then “Battalion One” might actually be referring to the battalion chief this time. With two companies being dispatched, they’ll need a unified command and that’s the battalion chief’s job.

Our hostess makes a point of mentioning how all the firefighters in the company are men, but in fairness to the filmmakers, I feel I should point out that firefighting is still a male dominated occupation. Case in point, a complete roster of full time firefighters in my sister’s town is available on the department website, and out of forty-five firefighters, at most three are women. I say “at most,” because one of them has a given name that could go either way. That means that out of four shifts, at least one has no female personnel on it. Similarly, when I joined Manoa, there was exactly one woman with firefighter qualifications, and that was the case when I checked Manoa’s website to research these articles. By the time I left, a few more women had qualified as firefighters,but the male firefighters and EMS only women still outnumbered them.

At any rate, the apparatus rolls, and when our hero (I think I’ll call him Dolt) notifies dispatch that they’re responding, dispatch tells him “Please be aware we have received numerous calls regarding this structure fire.” Yep, another useless transmission from the dispatcher. A better message would have been something along the lines of “Please be aware that we have received several reports of flames visible,” which at least gives some idea  of the seriousness of the situation. A report of smoke visible would also provide some information, although, unlike flames, it’s no guarantee that there’s actually a fire (If people want to find out how I know that, ask in the comments).

When they get to the scene, Dolt calls the dispatcher to notify them that he’s arrived and takes command as first on scene. This is important. Again, I note a distinct absence of cops. They should be doing crowd control.

While talking to the residents and their next door neighbors, they find out that the residents’ daughter is still inside. Dad freaks out and attempts to run back inside only to be stopped by Lt. Christian. This only works because distraught dad runs right past the guy; otherwise, I have no doubt he’d be able to outrun the fittest person in firefighter turnout and wearing an air pack. Having put one on, I can assure you that they are not lightweight objects. A couple of cops would be better suited to the job.

Now we get to the part that our hostess covered in detail. She writes:

For all his talk (even in the truck on the way to this very fire) about sticking with your partner, Caleb…crawls into the house on his own, looking for the kid.  Everyone else sticks at the front of the house and are separated from Caleb when some of the roof caves.

So, Caleb is trapped in a back bedroom with the kid, but without his partner.  Because he left his partner.

Oh, and for reasons best known to himself, Caleb deliberately set down his walkie-talkie before heading into the house.  So he has no way of letting anyone know exactly where her is.

Now I wanna know why he goes in to rescue the girl. Doylisticly, it’s to show him being a hero, but IRL terms, he’s just abandoned his post. Keep in mind that unless he hands the job off to someone else, he’s the Incident Commander. As such, his job is directing the other firefighters, not going into burning buildings to rescue little girls. Lt. Christian is busy restraining Worried Dad and the rookie is operating the pumper, but there’s two more firefighters in his company and however many from the second company that he can send in. That’s their job. His job is to give the orders because someone needs to be in charge of the scene. I would add that as people are scrambling to prep for entering the building, no one seems to be. That also makes his leaving his walkie-talkie behind even more reprehensible. Later on we see a different officer giving orders. Since he has a red helmet, I’m assuming that he’s the captain of the second company, but whether he’s the second captain or the battalion chief, he’s doing the job Dolt was supposed to be doing, but isn’t and didn’t formally hand off. At least there was no sign of him doing so onscreen. Note: Rank and file firefighters wear yellow helmets; the known officers wear red helmets. Based on my experience, I’d expect the battalion chief to wear a white helmet, but I don’t know for sure that zie does, and we never see any helmet colors except red and yellow.

Okay, rant over. Does everyone understand why I consider this guy’s antics much worse than our hostess did, when her opinion was quite bad enough?

Now, I am about as far from being an expert on firefighting as it is possible to be, but is it really advisable for Caleb to take off his oxygen mask and his firefighting jacket, and put them on the unconscious kid?  Doesn’t Caleb need them more at this moment?  I mean, I keep thinking about being on an airplane—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  Because if Caleb is injured or collapses from smoke inhalation, they’re both screwed.  Isn’t it better, instead of wasting time fumbling with the gear, to get them both out as quickly as possible so the kid can get medical attention?

There’s not much I can actually add to that, but we’ll see what I can do. One correction first, those tanks contain compressed air which is only about 20% oxygen. That’s because you don’t want pure oxygen anywhere near open flames.

As for taking off the mask and the turnout putting it on the kid… Remember Rule One, “Don’t add to the number of people needing to be rescued”? Yeah, this is a violation. You look to your own safety first, because if something happens to you, it’s not just that you’re both screwed. It’s that now people need to expend effort on your behalf that could’ve been used to help the original victim. Like I said in my previous post, the entire first day of EMT class was spent on this.

Also, the reason I have experience wearing an air pack is that one of the firefighter drills I participated in was the proper use of same. The training officer rather pointedly told us not give the mask to any anyone we found inside a burning building. So, yeah, Dolt shouldn’t have done that.

In conclusion, that fire scene is a fine example of how not to handle incident command and how not to rescue an entrapped fire victim. It would have been entirely appropriate for Dolt to called in front of a review board regarding his conduct at that fire.

 

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First Critique of 2015: Poll Time!

Happy Almost-2015, everyone!

As promised, here is the poll for our first critique of the new year.  Since at the last poll, it was decided that I do some movies, I figure it’s time for a book.

So, we have some options!

1.  Back to Paul Stepola with Shadowed, the final piece of the Underground Zealot trilogy.

2.  Back to Michael Murphy with The Europa Conspiracy, the third part of the Babylon Rising quartet.

3.  Something new from Jerry Jenkins: I, Saul.

4.  Something on which Fireproof, one of our most recent movies, was based: The Love Dare.

So, whaddaya all think?

Christian Entertainment in the Wild

Spotted in a “Christian Living” display at Barnes and Noble today…

As seen on Fireproof

The Love Dare

AND

The Love Dare for Parents

What the…?

Why for parents?  I envision a struggling couple buying The Love Dare, their marriage still crappy 30 days later, then they go—

“Damn!  It must be because we have kids, and we were doing the WRONG dare!  We must buy this book, too!”

It really makes me want to critique the book here…though I feel I might be hamstrung, inasmuch as I am a single chick, and can’t bring firsthand knowledge of marriage to the critique.  Still, should I put it in the poll for which book I shall critique first in 2015?  Thoughts?

TV Alert: Fireproof

For anyone who wants to see the full saga of Caleb and Catherine (and follow along with my critique and Inquisitive Raven’s insights into the realism of the firefighting), TBN will be showing Fireproof twice over the next eight days!

If nothing else, their description shows how different people can interpret a movie oh-so-very differently.  It calls both Caleb and Catherine “decent, caring,” and “disrespectful and selfish.”

Now, me, I would have called Catherine, but not Caleb, decent and caring.  And I would have called Caleb, but not Catherine, disrespectful and selfish.  But that’s just heathen me.

 

Fireproof: Completed Critique

Seems I’m a hero with everybody in the world except my wife.

Critique:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

 

Firefighting:

Part 1

Vehicle Rescue

 

Fireproof: Vehicle Rescue

Inquisitive Raven is back with more insight into how Fireproof fails in its depiction of firefighters!

***

So, in my last post, I discussed some general matters regarding this movie and how actual fire services work. This time I’m going to tackle the vehicle rescue incident with the train.

Okay, on to the first incident. Our hostess sets the scene:

The next day, two cars of teens (two boys in one car, two girls in the other) flirtatiously drag race to the local pizza joint…with predictably disastrous results. The girls (of course it’s the girls; don’t be silly) get their car stuck on the train tracks, and both are too injured to move.

I should note here that what seems to have happened is that the two cars collided taking a turn. I’m also going to attempt to be charitable and assume that the reason the girls are the ones stuck on the tracks with the serious injuries is not so much an assumption of female incompetence as a need to make Caleb look more impressive reassuring the victims.

Back at the station, the call comes in. “Public Safety to Engine One, Battalion One. Respond to [incident location], 10-50 I Rescue, Time Out XXXX.” There are some things that seemed a bit off to me about that dispatch. Unless Albany uses numeric codes for types of incident, that’s the most unhelpful dispatch I’ve ever heard, and our dispatcher came up with doozies, like “sick person” which doesn’t really narrow things down beyond “not trauma.” Seriously, if that was Haverford Township, the dispatcher would have given a quick thumbnail description of what we were being dispatched to, e.g. “accident with possible injuries” or maybe “MVA with possible injuries.”

Another thing that struck me as odd is that they apparently refer to the ladder as “Battalion One.”  Um, really? Battalion chief is apparently an actual title in the Albany Fire Department, although oddly it shows up on the history page, not the organization page. Given that, I would assume that Battalion One would be the battalion chief’s command vehicle (probably an SUV if chief’s vehicles I’m familiar with are any indication). At any rate, calling a ladder “Battalion [number]” seems weird, and most places I’m familiar with would dispatch such a vehicle as “Ladder [number].”

Inside the fire house, Caleb comments “That’s close by” (No, really?) then starts handing out vehicle assignments. Two comments here: 1) the only people who really need to know where the incident location is are the apparatus drivers, one of whom is Caleb, and assuming that both of them are reasonably experienced, he shouldn’t need to point out how close it is. Since presumably everyone is local, I’d expect even the non-drivers to have a pretty good idea where the incident location is. If it’s not obvious to the drivers where the incident location is, well, at Manoa, the ambulances (and I assume the fire apparatus) carries maps, and there’s a map of the township (with hydrants marked) on the wall of an alcove at the back of the engine house. I’d be shocked if this place didn’t have a similar arrangement.    2) This is a professional outfit; I’d kinda expect everyone to have fixed vehicle assignments anyway, unless one of them is covering someone else for the shift which doesn’t appear to be the case, so there’s no need to tell anyone which vehicle to get in.

Remember in the last post, I mentioned weirdness with the turnout gear? Here it comes.  Either the boots and trousers are set up on the engine house floor, or someone pulls them off the apparatus and sets them up while the camera is focused on the protag, so when the camera shifts to the people gearing up, they’re already on the floor next to the apparatus. Turnout coats are visible on the apparatus itself. What the audience is seeing only makes sense with fixed vehicle assignments, and then they’d have to swap the turnout around at shift change because the crew members aren’t all the same height, build, and presumably shoe size. At the extremes, my sister, who is about five feet tall can’t wear turnout sized for a six foot tall dude and vice versa.

As they’re on their way to the scene, they spot the crowd. This would be a good time for the cops to already be on the scene, buuut I don’t see any sign of them. Our intrepid crew spots the car on the tracks. Our hero (ha!) calls it in, and asks them to contact the railroad dispatcher to stop all trains. Good move on his part, but given this movie is firmly ensconced in the “everybody has a cell phone” era, I find it difficult to believe that this is the first time 911 Dispatch has heard about the car on the tracks, and they should either have already gotten the railroad dispatcher on the line (or given later developments, be in the process of doing so). In fact, I’d have expected the dispatcher to notify the fire company of the car on the tracks, not the other way around.

They pull up to the scene, and Caleb assigns couple of people to handle triage, while he checks the driver of the car on the tracks, after shooing away the crowd, which is, y’know, the cops’  job. It’s probably important that she’s conscious so he gets to be all manly and reassuring for her.

This gets me wondering, do any of these guys have any kind of EMS training? Philadelphia requires every vehicle to have at least one EMT on its crew. All the full timers in my sister’s town are required to have at least EMT qualifications; most of them are paramedics. A lot of members of my old company have both EMS and firefighter training.  One thing all these outfits have in common is that the fire services also run ambulances. Which, based on the city government’s webpage, does not seem to be the case with Albany, so I suppose I shouldn’t count on them having anything more than first aid.

He also assigns someone to run a line of hose. This is actually reasonable although it leaves one guy to get the extrication tools. Having fire suppression standing by at an MVA is accepted practice.  I am a little bit concerned that all they have for fire suppression is water, but Albany doesn’t seem to have any foam pumpers which is what I’d really want on hand when the main fire hazard is gasoline. But hey, you use what you’ve got.

Round about the time they’re getting out the extrication tools, someone hears a train whistle. Caleb gets back on the radio to yell at 911 Dispatch about the fact that they can hear a train coming and repeats his earlier instruction to contact the railroad dispatcher at which point he finds out that 911 Dispatch can’t reach the railroad dispatcher. Um, dude, you’re wasting time here. If you can hear the frakking train, it’s too late for it to stop. Worry about getting the car off the tracks.

Somewhere in here, the cops do show up. I didn’t hear them arrive, but they do appear in some shots doing crowd control. The firefighters’ first attempt to get the car off the tracks involves simply shoving it. When that doesn’t work, they attempt to hook up a chain to haul the car off the track, presumably using the ladder as a tow. Good idea, too bad a) Idjit there wasted time with 911 Dispatch,  and b) it’s the second thing they try, or they might have managed to pull it off. So with no time for anything else, they attempt to lift the car off the tracks. And here again, we see where a larger crew would be useful. If they’d had two four person crews like I think they should instead of five guys, they might not have needed bystander assistance. If they had needed it, they would have needed less. But hey, this gives the filmmakers a chance to show a military dude being all heroic and stuff. Seriously, they make a point of getting a nicely framed shot of military dude stepping up to help. After he runs up to help, a guy in a suit, a random black dude, and a cop join in, but they don’t get such nicely framed shots.

soldier

Now, I’m going to point something out here. Remember in Part 4 where our hostess says this about Caleb taking off his mask and coat:

Now, I am about as far from being an expert on firefighting as it is possible to be, but is it really advisable for Caleb to take off his oxygen mask and his firefighting jacket, and put them on the unconscious kid?  Doesn’t Caleb need them more at this moment?  I mean, I keep thinking about being on an airplane—secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  Because if Caleb is injured or collapses from smoke inhalation, they’re both screwed.  Isn’t it better, instead of wasting time fumbling with the gear, to get them both out as quickly as possible so the kid can get medical attention?

She’s right, and more on that in the next installment when I go over the fire call, but here’s the important point: to borrow a line from Jim MacDonald at Making Light, “Your first job is not to add to the number of people needing to be rescued.” They are not paying attention to that rule.

That is an official rule, btw, although it’s not usually phrased that succinctly. A large chunk of the first day of my EMT class was spent hammering it into our heads. There comes a point with the train bearing down on you where you drop the car and run. The rescuers overstayed that point big time. Fortunately, they succeeded in getting the car and themselves clear of the tracks because if they’d failed, they’d be dead; the occupants of the car would be dead; and the train operator would at the very least be injured since I think a car on the tracks would be enough to derail the train.  Running in such a circumstance may not be heroic, but it reduces the probable casualty count by the number of would be rescuers.

train

Okay, passengers saved and derailment averted. We get a couple of quick shots of the extrication, but the important thing is our hero (Ha!) talks to Christian dude after everything is over. Makes sense given what the movie is about, but I’m gonna go over the what’s shown of the extrication. Before I do though, a correction to my last post. I said there was a guy at each scene who wasn’t wearing turnout. That’s not quite accurate. He’s shed the coat, but at this scene at least, he’s wearing everything else. At the fire scene, the coatless guy has also shed his helmet.

box

Military Dude is assisting Christian Dude who was too close to the train for comfort as two EMS responders come up to the car and one climbs through an open window into the back seat.

car

Okay, remember in the last installment, I mentioned that Manoa’s ambulances carry helmets and heavy jackets as protective gear? This is why; MVA rescue scenes tend to have a lot of broken glass and shredded twisted metal, especially after the vehicle rescue techs get done with the cutting tools. The firefighters at this scene break out the cutting tools and take the roof off the car. Two EMS responders are visible in the back holding spinal stabilization on the patients necks (the reason they’re in the back seat), while a third has just finished covering the patients with a blanket, presumably to protect them from debris. The EMS responders are in short sleeved uniforms, and none of them have donned additional protective gear. This isn’t a problem for the guy next to the car. He can back away from the danger zone. The two guys in the car can’t go anywhere, and they should have at least put on coats. The Manoa ambulance jumpsuits are a) long sleeved, b) worn over our street clothes, and c) heavier than the uniform shirt seen here, and I still have probably put on a coat before getting into the back seat. They tend to make the shortest people on the crew get in the back to take spinal stabilization. One look at the state of the roof should show why.

There are some other things that seem to have been neglected. Before climbing around (and into) the vehicle and cutting it apart, they should have braced it so it can’t shift position while they work on it. Suspensions are springy, y’know?  And the state of the tires is iffy. I don’t expect them to show the process; it would take too long, but they could’ve had a chunk of wood or a jack sticking out from under the car to show that it was done, and I saw no sign of anything like that.

collarThere’s a long spine board, and what could be a bag of cervical collars or a bag of basic EMS gear (commonly referred to as “first-in” or “jump” bag). I don’t see anything to stabilize the spine below the neck before removing them from the car, which should be laid out with the long board. Also, honestly, I don’t think that bag is long enough to contain flattened collars.  When the firefighters take the roof off the car, the patients don’t seem to have been collared. I will note for the record that there is a push to reduce the frequency with which EMS providers immobilize the spine, but given the driver’s report of neck pain, and the passenger’s lack of responsiveness, this seems like one of those occasions where spinal immobilization is indicated.

I can’t think of anything else to say about this, but if people have questions, I’ll try to answer them.

Next up the fire call, and, boy howdy, is it a train wreck. Our hostess did a pretty good job of eviscerating it, but it’s worse than she thought.

Fireproof: Part 8

So, the Big Kiss (with the actress who is not Catherine) is not the end of the movie!  Nope, because just like all good little almost-RTCs, Catherine wants “what happened to you to happen to me.”

Yeah, never mind that Catherine was fine the way she was.  She wants to be like Caleb.

Because Caleb is just that awesome.

So, to a musical montage-y song, Caleb takes Catherine to that old church camp where his own father converted him.  In fact, he tugs at her hand when she hesitates, literally leading her to the cross!

Wow!

Montage continues: Caleb’s dad is informed of the bad good news, and even calls his wife over so she can vicariously celebrate the marital victory of the son who loathes the sight of her.

Caleb and Catherine head out to church, waving at the awesome older couple.  I still want the movie to be about them.

Finally, Caleb and his dad take yet another walk outside, just two manly men being manly men together.  And John drops the big secret: he didn’t do the Love Dare on Cheryl.

CHERYL DID THE LOVE DARE ON JOHN.

That sounds kinda dirty when I put it that way.

This completely blows Caleb’s tiny mind.  I guess from the RTC perspective, I can see why: a woman took charge of things and tried to institute changes in the household, and we know that’s not how a Good Christian Wife should behave.

Though, honestly, I think the bigger deal here is…honesty.  John’s been making out like he was the one doing the Dare.  He’s been bearing just a bit of false witness, methinks.

But it’s all okay, as John had correctly determined that Caleb would never accept advice from a mere woman.

Caleb:  Dad, I have treated her so wrong.

Gee, no shit, Sherlock.

John:  Caleb, she deserves your respect.

GEE, NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.

John is just so mild about all this, too.  I tell you, my atheist father would not be nearly so mild blasé about it if I treated my atheist mother with half the scorn and derision with which Caleb treats his.

So Caleb jogs back to the house and hugs his mommy.

Caleb:  Mom, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t know…I didn’t know…

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES KNOWING MAKE???  No matter which one of his parents did the Love Dare, Cheryl has always loved Caleb and been nothing but good to him.  This had nothing to do with Cheryl doing the Love Dare and everything to do with Caleb being a misogynistic prick.

Jerk.

And finally, the real last scene: the “reaffirmation of vows” of the Holts.

Because it’s a covenant marriage now, you see!

Covenant marriages are pretty gross: the only grounds for divorce are physical abuse, adultery, or a felony that results in jail time.  So the kind of emotional abuse that involved Caleb screaming into Catherine’s face, and wagging fingers in her face but never actually smacking her?  Probably not an out for Catherine.  She just needs to forgive him and love him, like the Bible tells her to.

And I’m totally sure that a person desperate to leave his or her marriage would never engage in the forbidden activities (like, say, adultery) as a way to get out.

The one bright spot in all this is that Georgia doesn’t even have covenant marriage laws.  So this is all through the church, and presumably means nothing in a legal sense.  There is nothing about this ceremony that would prevent Catherine getting out if she still wanted to.

Just the pressure from her newfound church, where she is a baby Christian.  And from her smug father-in-law.  And from her abusive husband, who has managed to make it several weeks without yelling at her.

And from the super-glued salt and pepper shakers, now sitting atop the wedding cake.

It’s really just compounding the tragedy: now nobody will be able to properly season their food.

wedding

Do all these wedding guests have to get Catherine and Caleb another wedding present?  If so, it’s a pretty good scam: they should renew their vows every year!

Oh yeah.  This marriage has been saved by the love of Jesus.  Fer sure.

 

 

Fireproof: Firefighting, Part 1

Today we have a special treat, everyone!  Inquisitive Raven has volunteered to tell us everything that is wrong with the firefighting aspects of Fireproof.  So, without further ado…

***

Hi, Inquisitive Raven here. After Part 4 of our Hostess’ deconstruction of Fireproof, I offered to do a critique of the fire/rescue incidents in the movie.  As a result of it kind of exploding out of control, this looks like it’s going to be a three part critique.

First, a little about me, and why I think I’m qualified to offer such a critique. From 1994 to 2005, I was a volunteer EMT at the Manoa Fire Company in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania. Although I was never a firefighter, I did participate in some firefighter drills, and I have some idea of how a fire company operates.

editpli=1

I also have a sister who is a professional firefighter in a small town (population approximately twenty thousand). If I need information on how pros do things differently from vollies, I can ask her.  Actually, I did ask her one thing. I sent Isis-sama’s question about how fire chiefs are chosen to her because I didn’t think it was likely that professional companies elect chiefs the way the volly company I was a member of did.  Her response was as follows:

We’re civil service so follow their laws:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2457&ChapterID=11

Every 2 yrs a promotional exam is offered. You have to pass to be eligible for promotion, then they look at actual scores, yrs experience, degrees, certifications, vet status, oral interview… But traditionally civil service puts the most emphasis on exams.

So yes, you have to display some degree of knowledge if not actual competence though hopefully, years of experience point to that.  I’d kinda figured out  most of it, but I hadn’t thought about fire service as civil service ergo exams. It seems obvious once that detail is brought up.

One other point: Caleb is not a fire chief. The chief is in charge of Albany’s entire fire department; Caleb is in charge of one shift at one company out of eleven. The characters in the movie are pretty consistent about addressing him as “Captain.” I think the Haverford Township volly companies each having their own chief is a historical artifact from a time when they were completely independent fire associations. Even with unified dispatch and township controlled equipment purchasing, they’re still more autonomous than professional fire services which are municipal departments. My sister’s town has a chief in charge of the whole shebang, and a deputy chief in charge of each shift. Philadelphia’s organization is more complex, but then Philadelphia has a population a couple of orders of magnitude larger than any of the other communities mentioned in this post (1.5 million vs. 20 thousand, 48.5 thousand, and 77 thousand).

On to the main critique: Fireproof is available on Netflix, so I watched the scenes that involved actual fire/rescue activity, fast forwarding through most of the rest of it. I’ll start with some general comments before going on to the specific incidents. I’ll also be linking to websites of some of the five companies in the township I used to run in, and the Philadelphia Fire Department when I think it might be helpful. I currently live in Philly, so it seemed like the obvious professional fire service to refer to. I also looked up Albany, Georgia’s real life fire department, so I could put things seen in the movie in context.

I’ll start out with some general observations. One has to do with cops. Cops show up at incident locations for various reasons. Even if there’s no actual law enforcement required, they can direct traffic and handle crowd control. EMS isn’t supposed to enter an incident location until it’s declared safe by the cops. I didn’t see any cops at all at the fire scene, and they show up late to the accident scene. In fact, the protagonist ends up doing the initial crowd control. In all my time as an EMT, I think I remember at most two occasions when we beat the cops to a scene. They usually got there first. Admittedly, the movie is about firefighters, well, one firefighter, but the occasional shot of a cop at the scene helps paint a picture of a richer world. I can think of three factors affecting who gets to the scene when and why the cops would tend to get there first. One factor only applies to vollies while the other two are applicable to everyone.

The factor that’s only applicable to vollies is the fact that vollies aren’t required to be at the station at all times, so you have factor them getting there into the response time. The firefighters don’t have specific shifts, and while the EMTs do have specific shifts, it’s not always possible to get a minimal crew (EMT and  driver) to sign up for them, nor are they required to be at the station as long as they can get there in under five minutes. In fact, the difficulty of getting people to cover day shifts during the work week is the reason that Manoa started having the day shifts covered by paid paramedics. The issue here is that vollies have jobs outside the fire service. They’re doing this in their free time. For pros, the fire service is their job and they’re expected to be in the station or with their vehicle whenever they’re on duty and not doing something on a call that requires them to leave the vehicle.

The factors that apply to pros as well as vollies are a) the fact that firefighters need to gear up before responding and cops don’t, and b) unless a call comes in before the firefighters get back to base after a previous call, they’re starting from their HQ while the cops are likely to be on patrol somewhere and often have a shorter distance to cover to get to the scene. In fact, in Philadelphia, the cops are first on scene so often that they’re authorized to transport patients under certain circumstances, although it should be noted that the circumstances in question tend to involve gunshot and stab wounds. Basically situations where the patient is in danger of bleeding out, and you know you don’t need to protect the patient’s spine.

Another thing I noticed is that the company in the movie, or at least the protagonist’s shift seems to consist of five people: Caleb, the rookie,  the two black guys our hostess mentions, and one more white guy. In Philadelphia, that’s a ladder crew.  An engine crew is four people. Note, that’s in Philly.  The town my sister works in puts three people on a crew, maybe four for their single solitary ladder. Haverford Township’s apparatus* is capable of carrying anywhere from five to eight crew members. I’m not sure what the minimum crews for any of the vehicles are, but Manoa routinely puts more than the minimums into the field. The company in the movie has two engines and a ladder. One engine and the ladder get dispatched for both calls, with five people total. Sorry folks, that doesn’t work. The Albany Fire Department runs eleven companies with 166 firefighters. That’s not counting administrative, fire prevention, or training personnel. They also have twelve engines and two ladders. By my calculations, assuming the shift structure described in the movie is accurate, they can put three person crews on the two 500 GPM pumpers, and four person crews on the rest of the apparatus for three shifts and have a battalion chief for each shift plus one extra person who I imagine either fills in gaps when people are out or works at the busiest company in the department. With two engines, there should be eleven or twelve people on a shift at any given time at the company in the movie. Even if there’s no crew for the second engine, I’d expect there to be eight people in the company, so why do we never see more than five?  Okay, there seems to be more than five firefighters at the end of the big house fire, but there also seems to be another company present, so I’m assuming any firefighters other than the five known guys are from the other company.

If anyone is wondering why a ladder is being dispatched to an MVA and a fire in a one story building, AFAICT, it’s being dispatched as a rescue. At least one of Haverford Township’s ladders seems to carry a lot of rescue related equipment although it doesn’t seem to function as a full on rescue unit. In fact, it seems to be optimized for high angle rescue, hence things like the Stokes Basket. Makes sense for a ladder, right? And real life Albany doesn’t seem to have a specialized rescue unit. Well, the ladder in the movie seems to be doing the job of a light rescue.

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During the opening credits, the camera pans around the fire house finally tracking down the gear rack to show us the protagonist’s helmet with name and rank, then drops down toward the floor. The first oddity I notice is that the toes of the boots are pointing away from the wall. At Manoa, the boots are placed with toes pointing toward the wall. That’s so firefighters can come into the engine house**, stick their feet in their boots, and start pulling on the rest of their turnout (aka bunker) gear in the shortest possible time. There’s more weirdness with the disposition of the turnout gear later.

For example, at each of the calls, there’s one firefighter who isn’t wearing turnout gear. At the fire scene, he’s at least in uniform, but at the accident scene he’s wearing a blue fire company T-shirt, which tells us who he’s with and all, but probably doesn’t count as in uniform. I didn’t spot him as crew, the first few times I watched the MVA rescue scene. At Manoa, the actual uniforms are saved for special occasions, that volly thing again, but if you’re on a call, you’re in turnout or you’re in an EMS jumpsuit which you don when the call comes in. The only exception is if you respond directly to a scene and are waiting for the apparatus to arrive with turnout gear. In which case, the turnout goes on as soon as it arrives. Fire scenes and extrication scenes aren’t always safe, so it’s a good idea to wear protective clothing… like firefighter turnout. The ambulance also carries helmets and protective coats even if the coats aren’t quite as heavy as turnout, specifically for scenes where our jumpsuits might not be enough protection. So, vollies need to wear turnout at the scene, both for protection and identification. At a scene with pro firefighters, I’d expect everyone to be in turnout except maaaybe the highest ranking officer who would be there purely as an incident commander. Since the IC is staying back and giving order, zie can get away with it. The guys in the movie can’t.

Next post, I discuss the  car on the train tracks.

 

*”Apparatus” is the official term for vehicles used by fire services. I use “vehicles” in these posts a lot, because “piece(s) of apparatus” is more of a mouthful than I want to deal with.

** The engine house is the part of the fire station that actually houses the apparatus.

Fireproof: Part 7

We all seem to be on the same page re: the weirdness of Caleb confronting Flirty Doctor, not, yanno, Catherine, about the workplace flirtation.  It’s yet another example of Caleb treating his Marriage as a machine that needs to be fixed, not a relationship between two sentient humans.

All of which made me wonder something, so I went back and counted: it has been twenty full minutes of movie time between instances of Caleb and Catherine talking to each other.  The last time was their terse exchange at the hospital after Caleb was injured.  The next time is happening right now.

Following the montage, Caleb wakes up to see Catherine’s purse on the couch, instead of at the hospital with her, where it belongs.  Catherine isn’t feeling well and is taking a sniffly day in bed.

Caleb asks if he can get her anything, and she answers (firmly, but not unkindly) that she is fine.

Caleb nonetheless heads out to get her the two things everyone needs when they have a cold: medication and Chik-fil-A (Caleb no doubt started to like it the moment he converted).

Chik

Oh.  Yum.  Good thing Catherine didn’t get sick on a Sunday.

Catherine asks him the obvious question: why is he doing all this?  You would think the obvious answer would be, “Because I love you,” or “Because I care about you,” and/or, “Because I can’t stand to see you in pain.”  But oh no…

Caleb:  I have learned that you never leave your partner.  Especially in a fire.

Gosh, that’s…sweet?  Is it supposed to be sweet?

And so personal, too!  Nothing here about Caleb rediscovering his love for Catherine, loyal, big-hearted, funny Catherine.  Who has terrible taste in furniture upholstery, but that only makes Caleb love her more.

Nope.  Don’t leave your partner.  It makes Jesus cry.  Marriage is an institution, don’tcha know.

Caleb actually fesses up about The Love Dare (granted, I suppose he couldn’t keep it a secret forever), but Catherine…found the book yesterday!  And read it today, while sick in bed!

So, now Catherine knows that Caleb has been secretly manipulating her all these weeks.  Making nice not because he wants to, but because he was dared to by his old man.

She must feel so flattered.

Catherine:  What day are you on?

Caleb:  Forty-three.

Catherine:  There’s only forty.

Caleb:  Who says I have to stop?

I’m sure you’ll all be shocked, but there’s an undercurrent of smarmy in Caleb’s tone here.  I mean, he really wants a cookie for being almost-bearable to live with for three extra days.

Catherine:  Caleb, I don’t know how to process this.  This is not normal for you.

Caleb:  Welcome to the new normal.

Smug prick.

Catherine also calls Caleb out on the fact that he was faking it till he made it for awhile, and Caleb owns up to that, because he “didn’t know what love was.”

Which also must make Catherine feel so flattered.  They both got married for a reason, yanno?  And now Caleb is telling her to her face that when he said he loved her and when he proposed to her and when he married her, he didn’t know what love was.

In other words, their whole life together has been a sham from the start.

What an unbelievably smug prick he is.

[SPOILER ALERT FOR BREAKING BAD]

(Actually, this scene reminds me quite a bit of the last scene between Walter and Skyler, when he tells her that his meth empire was the only thing that ever made him feel alive.  Except that we were meant to see Walter as a sociopath who was incapable of loving another human being.)

[/SPOILER ALERT]

Anyway, Catherine takes this disgusting admission pretty well, all things considered, though she does tell Caleb that she is not ready to trust him yet.

And THEN the movie actually does one thing right.  One of the things we have been hoping for from the start.

No, Catherine doesn’t throw the bum out.  No, Caleb doesn’t get repeatedly smacked in the face.

What Caleb does do is get down on his knees and beg Catherine’s forgiveness.  I’m going to give you the whole thing, because never say I don’t give credit where it’s due:

Caleb:  I am sorry.  I have been so selfish.  For the past seven years, I have trampled on you with my words and my actions.  I have loved other things when I should have loved you.  In the last few weeks, God has given me a love for you that I had never had before.  And I have asked him to forgive me.  And I am hoping, I am praying that somehow you would be able to forgive me, too.  Catherine, I do not want to live the rest of my life without you.

Damn.  That is a pretty good apology.  Not best ever, but pretty good.

It is also too little, too late.  Not just for the Holt marriage, but for this movie.  Up until now, Caleb has treated this relationship like an object to be fixed.  It isn’t even Caleb and Catherine’s marriage, it is The Marriage.  Do the right things, follow the instructions in the book, and Generic Spouse will respond in the proper way because God wills it.  Caleb has changed his ways: where before he abused and talked over Catherine, now he simply works around her, maintaining the Marriage as he would a car, but never focusing on Catherine, the person.

If this speech had been the culmination of Caleb realizing that he has never really communicated with Catherine, it might have more power.  As it is, I suspect that the Day 40 Dare, which Caleb is a few days late on, is “Give Spouse Passionately Sincere Apology.”

(Speaking of, what have the Dares been for the past two weeks?  Isn’t Caleb supposed to be doing something new every day?  We haven’t seen any new stuff in the long time.  Unless “Sweep the Floor” and “Wash a Few Dishes” were on two separate days.  Guess we have to buy the book to find out.)

Catherine needs time to think.  As you would.

Recovered from her convenient cold, Catherine heads back to her favorite hangout, the hospital supply store, where she buys some sheets for her mom’s new bed.  This gives an opportunity for the receptionist to mention the Big Revelation: though Flirty Doctor contributed $300 to the Mom’s New Bed and Wheelchair Fund, Caleb paid the other $24,000.  And he did so two weeks ago.

Gotta say, it is still nice of Flirty Doctor to donate any money at all towards this cause.  And hey, why didn’t anybody ever think to organize a fundraising effort at the hospital to get Catherine’s mom the stuff?

Catherine once again walks out of the store in a daze, and dashes home to find her wedding ring.  Then she fixes herself up all pretty for Caleb.  Because once you spend money on your lady, she will reward you with the putting on of makeup and the fixing of hair.

Catherine shows up at the fire station, and tells Caleb she loves him and has forgiven him.  (Happily for us, if any happiness can come out of this trainwreck of a relationship, she does not use the word “respect.”)

But damn, it is such a quid pro quo view of marriage.  I’d reproduce the entire reconcicliation conversation, but it makes me ill.  I mean, he just paid for his marriage to continue.  They had $23,000 in savings, he spent it on his mother-in-law, she takes him back.  And isn’t this their money, not just Caleb’s?  Why has the thought of spending their savings on her mom never occurred to Catherine?

Biggest plothole in the movie.

Oh, and there is one more bit of grossness in this movie, but I’ll save it for next time, as I have a lot to say about it.

So we’ll close on this: Kirk Cameron infamously won’t kiss any woman but his wife.  Even though he’s, yanno, an actor.  So for the firehouse scene (the only time Caleb and Catherine kiss in the whole movie), they flew in Cameron’s wife (Chelsea Noble, who played Hattie Durham in the Left Behind movies), and shot the kiss part of the scene so that you can’t really see the actress’s face.

kiss

Not actually Catherine.

What more disgustingness could there possibly be?  Stay tuned–same atheist time, same atheist channel!

Fireproof: Part 6

Sorry, all, that I’ve been lingering on with this dumb movie—this summer has been incredibly busy for me.

Following Caleb’s triumph of conquering his alleged porn addiction by destroying the computer, and the delivery of the divorce papers, Catherine heads off to the medical supply store.  (Conveniently located in the same mini-mall as Bobby Lee Duke’s Lollipop Shop and the Biscuit Barn.  I wish I was making that up.)

I’m honestly not sure why Catherine goes to the medical supply shop—I guess she just hangs out there for kicks.  As we discussed in Part 1, Catherine’s mom needs a new hospital bed and wheelchair, but insurance won’t cover them.  Catherine and Caleb have the exact needed amount in their savings, but it never crosses either of their minds to use it for the equipment.  Caleb because he covets a boat, Catherine because…I don’t know why.

I also don’t know why Catherine is even there, except that it gives the receptionist the opportunity to tell her that all the equipment has been paid for and delivered that morning.  Catherine wanders out in a daze.

Yanno, we discussed how weird it is that Catherine never even thought about using their family savings on her parents, but it actually becomes even more pertinent now that they are actually divorcing (or so she thinks…sigh).  I mean, Caleb and Catherine’s assets would be divided, their nice big house would probably be sold.  Or Catherine’s parents could move into the house with her…or she with them.  Just sayin’, there are more options here than seem to appear in her mind.

Catherine, of course, thinks Flirty Doctor paid for all the equipment.  She thanks him for “giving money” and they hold hands.

Let’s get one thing clear, here: the movie wants us to think that Catherine is blinded by this shameful lust, and not seeing the Changed Man that is her husband.  But if memory serves, Caleb is the guy who never discussed Catherine’s parents with her and accused her of being selfish.  Flirty Doctor is the guy who listened to her problems and complimented her devotion and love.

So it’s not like Catherine is drawing unreasonable conclusions here or anything.

***

Meanwhile, Caleb is actually doing a chore around the house—collecting the trash.  (Well, it has been a few days since he last whalloped that poor, innocent trash can.  He’s probably just looking for an excuse.)

And he finds an excuse when he stumbles upon opens up an envelope and reads a card from Flirty Doctor to Catherine.  The envelope is in Catherine’s room, on her dresser, so I’m not sure what business it is of her separated husband who happens to live in the same house until the divorce goes through.  Anyway, it’s all quite sweet—Flirty Doctor just writes how much he enjoys talking with Catherine and seeing her at work every day.

Proving that he is, indeed, a totally Changed Man, Caleb sits down with Catherine when she gets home, and they discuss the matter.

HA!  Almost had you there, didn’t I?  Of course Caleb doesn’t talk to Catherine about this—that would involve…talking, and we know Caleb doesn’t do that with the wimmin-folk.  Nope, instead he calls the hospital like a stalker, inquiring after a “Gavin…I only have a first name.”

Caleb stalks over to the hospital and confronts Flirty Doctor in his office, sticking a finger in his face, just like he always does when another human behaves in a manner of which Caleb disapproves.

Caleb:  I know what you’re doing!  And I have no intention of stepping aside as you try to steal my wife’s heart.

Caleb ends his little challenge (for “going after” Catherine) with a lovely little threat: he makes a fist and thanks Flirty Doctor for helping him with his hand.

fist

Changed Man!

What a horrible person he is.  Seriously.  Violence is still how he wants to solve all his problems.  Let’s just see how long it is until he bullies his wife again, too.

But don’t worry—the movie knows who the real villain is.  It’s Flirty Doctor…who was married all along, and takes off his ring every day when he comes to work.

Color me doubtful that a doctor could keep his marital status a secret in the workplace, especially in this pretty small city.  Ooo, but hey, it’s dramatic, right?

Frightened by Buck Williams’ fist of doom, Flirty Doctor blows off his lunch date with Catherine.  Catherine ends up eating lunch with a terrible actress random volunteer or possibly nurse that we have never met before.

The woman prays over her cafeteria lunch then dispenses this amazing wisdom.

Terrible Actress:  Catherine, you’re so young.  I would encourage you to make your choices carefully.

Hell, the woman is making Catherine’s case for her.  I mean, Catherine is young, her marriage sucks, and she has every chance to find someone who isn’t an abusive asshole!

Terrible Actress is apparently quite the busybody, noticing that “a certain young doctor” is trying to “woo you while you’re still married.”

Hey, lady, she really couldn’t be much more separated.  The papers have been served and they’re sleeping in separate rooms and have for weeks.

Catherine tells Terrible Actress to fuck off in the nicest possible Christian Film way, and we head into another Christian Song Musical Montage!

Caleb sits on the fire engine and contemplates his wedding ring!  Catherine sits on a bench and contemplates the middle distance!  Caleb sweeps the floor!  (Changed Man Alert!)  Caleb fights a fire!  Caleb trains his men!  Caleb takes a jog!  Caleb gazes at the door to Catherine’s bedroom!  Caleb prays!  Caleb sits in a tree and contemplates the middle distance!  Caleb lifts weights!  Caleb contemplates the abandoned church camp cross!  Caleb trains his men some more!  Caleb reads the Bible!  Caleb washes a couple of dishes!  Catherine notices that Caleb has done a few dishes!  Caleb fights a fire!  Caleb takes a walk!

There’s lots of Caleb and not much Catherine in this montage, is what I’m saying.  And man, but that montage took forever.

Did Flirty Doctor pay for all that stuff?  Will Catherine do the right thing and stay with her violent husband?  Stay tuned!  (More this week, I promise!)