Edmonton Fire Rescue – Fire Chief of the Year

Edmonton Fire Rescue Chief Ken Block was named Fire Chief of the Year for 2013  He rocks.  He’s  the big cheese, el Generalissimo, the head honcho of the Edmonton Fire Rescue service.  He was on Edmonton radio this morning and spoke about resources being stretched due to the city growing so much.  I know Ken, he fought hard to get hearing compensation for firefighters when he was the union prez.  As a result I get hearing aids until I pass on.

He also mentioned the dept. gets almost 40,000 calls a year.  That’s a lot, and every year it goes up, right along with the big increase in arson fires.  If you live in an apartment or condo, don’t trust your neighbors.  I’ve seen renters do some insane stuff putting plenty of people at risk.  Ken has done an admirable job and is Fire Chief of the Year.  He won’t get on People magazine cover but from all angles he’s a good guy.  Many people only think of fire departments when there’s a fire.

Any rescue, any time.  Mr. Ed has a bad day.

Mr. Ed has a bad day.   Any rescue, any time.

The reality is when any kind of rescue or weird incident happens to baffle people it’s the firefighters that are called.  The horse in the picture is an example of a ‘service’ call.  There’s no training manual on this. Between Hazardous Goods and water/river rescue, High Angle Rescue and Emergency Medical Responders (advanced emergency patient care) there happens to be fires: garage fires, house fires, vehicle fires, playground fires, and bush and grass fires.  The city hasn’t lost a firefighter since 1974 because of its high level  of training, competent officers, and a Command and Control system that is strictly adhered to.

What the majority of 40,000 calls are is the everyday work that goes on.  Big emergencies are the spikes.  Numbers can be deceiving. Some departments, including Edmonton’s EMS  counts individual units responding to one call.  If it’s a multi-vehicle accident and three units are sent it’s record it as three separate calls.  With Edmonton Fire Rescue, even a third alarm fire is recorded as one call, regardless of how many units respond.

Time to bask in the fame, Ken.

With luck, he’ll stay on for another year and become the Fire Chief of the Year again.


Great Juvenile / MG Novel Now In Paperback

Archie’s Gold, my great juvenile / middle grade novel is now in paper back available at Amazon,  Barnes & Noble/Borders, and Indigo BooksTundra Books wanted this story 4 or 5 years ago but dropped it from publication as they cut their fiction list.  You can read a sample there or stay on this site for it.  I believe the story is great because of several things: dialogue, reality, grit, suspense, and oddball characters.  All the characters are, or were, real people from my growing up in Welland, Ontario.

Archie is a shoeshine boy who works in front of a hotel in the 60’s when most people still wore leather shoes.  A publisher told me that kids don’t want to read about kid who does some outdated job. Shoeshiners exist at airports but they’re usually men.  Kids still shine shoes in Mexico and the Caribbean.  There’s plenty of historical fiction available with kids doing all sorts of jobs in mines, stables, street sweeping, on ships, etc.

Archie’s Gold is a suspense/mystery with universal appeal.  Archie only wants to be reunited with his estranged father. He’s a tough street kid hiding a heart of gold.

I plan on getting them all into paperback next year.


Top Three Firefighter Gift Ideas for Christmas

If you plan on getting a Christmas gift for a firefighter check out a few firefighter gift ideas.  My favorites.

First of all an Amazon gift certificate for my firefighter eBooks.  All three will be available in paperback by mid-January, too.

Leading off the top three firefighter gift ideas is one of the best things I had on the job.  A small flat container of Vicks Vaporub.  At times in my career I could have made a good buck selling dabs of this during med calls where nasty Vicks Vaporub Ointment - 100 Gmsmells are common.  When you’re the only person in the room among firefighters and EMTs with some Vicks up your nose, you are a very lucky, not to mention, popular person.  A little dab will do ya.  It saved me from upchucking many times.  I picked up the container years ago on the counter at a corner store but haven’t seen the container for some time.  You can fill any fancy container with it as long as it’s flat to sit in a chest pocket without taking up much room.  Tiger Balm does the trick, too, and it’s already in a small container.

Another great firefighter gift idea is a pair of strong, rip-proof gloves, the kind electricians use to resist tears from cut wire ends.  The palm, including fingers, should have an extra layer while the rest should be flexible;not much more than leather dress gloves, only snugger.  Some departments provide gloves but they’re usually substandard: too bulky, too thin, rip and tear too easily.  Volunteer firefighters are always looking for good equipment.  The gloves don’t have to be cold weather proof as they’re for working the Jaws and other extrication tools at vehicle wrecks, alarm panels, etc. not for firefighting.  It’s usually hit or miss whether the gloves will hold up to the tasks, but your chances are better if you lay down more coin for them.

What about a good, bright headband light?  A hands-free LED light will last long on battery life.  Ensure the head strap  is adjustable enough to fit around a helmet, a toque, or the bare head.  A firefighter needs this because departments issue hand lamps but they have to be held. Hands free is needed for working on alarm panels, writing down info and searching for registration papers at vehicle accidents, accountability sheets at scenes, etc.  Again, spend some coin.  Cheap lights can’t take getting banged around.

I really used to hate it when people said ‘Happy Holidays’.  Firefighters don’t often get the period off.  For 32 years I bet my shifts encroached 75% of the time somewhere on the three day Xmas period.  Really, who does get the entire week off, anyhow?

The Spark – another Canadian firefighter novel

Firefighters rejoice.  There are now officially two Canadian firefighters writing novels featuring a Canadian firefighter.  John Kenney has written The Spark and I just finished reading it.

The sparkI liked it and reviewed it on Amazon.  His portrayal of fire station routine is second to none.  I slipped back into station life reading this one.  It’s a suspense centered around one man’s investigation into the death of his fire captain and set in Toronto.  A decent read.



Final Response gets the nod.

My 3rd firefighter story Final Response has done well according to the reader/reviewers @ Bookkus Publishing.  They’ve decided to take it on and will market it.  My marketing is non-existing so anything they can do will be great.  They’ve also decided to expand their scope and take on Old Flames and Gerry’s War, but not with their Community Powered, Community Approved logo.  This means all three will be in paperback possibly within six months.  I’d like a press release for Final Response.   You can read samples of each on this site.

First Drafts and Lazy Writers – a Rant.

First drafts and lazy writers go hand in hand.  If you want to be a writer do the basic work!  I’ve read the first ten manuscripts sent to me by Bookkus publishing.  William is too busy to vet them so I’ve agreed to help him out, read them, and pass my comments onto him.  I suppose I’m a gatekeeper of sorts.  What am I learning?  You can have a dynamite story but if you can’t engage or intrigue readers in the first 5-10 pages no one will read on.  Lazy writers abound.  Only two out of the ten I was sent are worthy to pass onto William and then maybe he’ll post them for reader reviews.

First drafts abound and they’re always a mess.  Authors, you’ve got to get some feedback for your stories, and not from your mamas.  Look around the internet and read 10 Basic Rules of Writing and respect them.  Start here on my site.  Then go here.   I read such crap it’s unbelievable.  Spelling and grammar are easily rectified by software on your computer, so USE THEM.  Show readers you didn’t write your story on a serviette or during a Vietnamese sleeper bus ride.

Every so often I meet someone who says “Yeah, cool, I’d like to write a book, too.”  Sure, pal.   Only if you do the basic work.

A Toast To Elmore Leonard

A toast to the recently departed author, Elmore Leonard.  I read almost all his novels, with the earlier ones his best.

A toast to Elmore Leonard for snappy dialogue.

A toast to Elmore Leonard for memorable characters

A toast to Elmore Leonard for his excellent stories.  Several were made into movies, too.    I didn’t care for his later novels as they were all dialogue.   La Brava, Rum Punch, Get Shorty, Riding The Rap, Pronto–yeah, good stuff.

When you sit down with his earlier stuff you settle right into his world.

He also has his 10 Rules of Writing.   I love rule #10.  It’s the most difficult.

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