By Stuart J. Pearlman, TSB Staff
I have an eccentric confession. More than 20 years ago, I spent a lot of money on a very nice tuxedo. I was living in New York City at the time and shopped at a very exclusive men’s store called Louis of Boston. The tuxedo was double-breasted and made from the finest wool. I also purchased a rather expensive tuxedo shirt and a brand new pair of those fancy patent leather shoes. All totaled, my ensemble probably weighed less than fivepounds and cost about $1,400.
I must admit I looked pretty darn good in that tuxedo!
In those days, I attended quite a few black tie events including weddings, award shows and New Year’s Eve galas. I even wore my tux to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction banquet at NYC’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2001. (You can check the list of inductees that year but let’s just say I “had dinner” with Michael Jackson, Aerosmith and Queen!)
While I had several occasions every year to wear it, at no time did I put on that expensive tuxedo, go into a smoke-filled and potentially burning structure and crawl on my knees with my eyes blinded.
Nope…. I saved that adventure for the 2013 McKinney Citizens Fire Academy.
Here’s a look at another expensive suit. It is referred to in Fire Service as PPE, Personal Protective Equipment. The biggest difference from my tux, aside from the “style,” is that these 75pounds of pants, jacket, suspenders, gloves, mask, helmet, boots SCBA air tank, and a variety of other accessories is worn every day when firefighters simply do their job. And it hopefully keeps them safe. This is particularly true when it comes to search and rescue.
“Search and rescue is one of the most important things we do,” said Battalion Chief Chris Lowry, speaking to the Citizens Fire Academy class of 2013. Lowry isin charge of training for MFD. “It’s all about saving lives. Lives cannot be replaced. Including our own.”
It may have only been our third week at CFA, but I expect this will go down as one of the highlights. At no time will we feel more like firefighters than when they dressed us out in full PPE and put us through the search and rescue drill.
In fact, we did go into a structure built to simulate the unexpected dangers McKinney’s Bravest anticipate daily. We were at the MFD/Collin College shared training facility adjacent to Fire Station #2. Captain Michael Stiltz and his crew held our hands along the way.
Knees bruised and my breathing short, what I took away most from this experience was an even greater respect for the McKinney Fire Department and the physicality and risk-taking involved in their jobs.
Our entire CFA class participated in this drill. Take a look at the video. I think we all looked pretty impressive!
One brief post-script: I was the first of our class to enter the simulation room. I learned several days later, however, that I was the only one to have their mask blacked-out! Hmmm?
Station #2 Ride-Out
A few days later I rejoined Captain Stiltz and the B shift at Station #2 for a ride-out. (For the record, I knew better than to show up empty-handed and brought Blue Bell ice cream plus a very large apple pie from Sam’s Club!)
The highlight of my 5-hour visit was when we “squirted some water,” part of the regular maintenance of the engine. It always looks so easy until you are the one holding the hose. It’s a good thing I had some backup!
As luck would have it, there we zero calls while I was with the shift. As irony would have it though, they got their first call of the day seven minutes after I left!
My thanks to Stiltz, Driver Peter Wasserman, and Firefighters Quincy Blount, Bryce Purdom and Mike Solorzano for welcoming me and advancing my CFA education.
By the way, I still have the tuxedo but it no longer fits the way it used to!
The adventure continues.
My Life at the Citizens Fire Academy Series
About the Author
Stuart J. Pearlman is a Marketing and Communications Consultant living in McKinney. His video column, Stuart J’s Lens can be seen weekly on TownSquareBuzz.com. Follow Stuart on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.