Archive for January, 2009
This is a while coming (been busy at work) but I was privileged to have fought the very serious Olde Stage Fire in Boulder for BMFPD a few weeks ago. This fire burned over 3000 acres, and was started when wind blew down a power line. I was on the fire from around 3 PM to getting home around 6:30 AM the next day. Needless to say, the wind conditions were less than amenable to firefighting. Here’s my account of some of the more interesting work (one of the three assignments I was on) I did that night:
Looking back at Right Ranch
With the flames mostly out
I was paged and at the station late afternoon. Two other guys and I met up with another couple of crews and fought a fire at Right Ranch. Conditions were horrible! The wind tore the tarp off the top of the firetruck before we ever got to flames, and we had to rope the hoses onto the top of the truck. I looked like an idiot chasing down the tarp right in front of the news vans. I’m glad they didn’t catch this part on film, or at least didn’t air it. Going into the fire, the flames were large, in grass, and fanned by winds (100 MPH was measured near where we were fighting). Almost immediately, we were forced to do a strategic retreat when fire threatened to cut off our one road out. We looked at flames licking at the sides of three houses on the way out, and our collective wisdom said “they’re gone”. Getting out of the firetruck was interesting with the high winds, trying to make sure the doors didn’t get blown off. Once in safety, we looked again at the houses, and decided to go back and fight the fire. We went back and hit the fire hard. I was on one of the two hoses, and even with the engineer supplying more than adequate water pressure, I couldn’t hit the fire 10 feet away, as the wind threw all the water right back on me (I was soaked!). We eventually worked our way around the most threatened two houses, and put out all the flames. We left a sprinkler running on the front porch to prevent that wooden structure from going up less the unburned bushes underneath light the whole portion on fire. This also helped me get identified later!
So on Saturday, the 17th, the residents held a party to thank the firefighters. I ran into person after person, who immediately put me in touch with the residents in two of the three houses we were actively protecting. One lady commented that she was impressed with the backburning we had done (black right up to the house). When I told her that “no, that was no backburning operation, the fires did come right up to her house,” she gave me a big hug, and wouldn’t stop. All in all, it felt great to have actually saved some folks houses. Normally, you don’t get to meet the people you help, but I did.
It was timely that I stumbled upon this post. A couple of weeks ago, an old classmate of mine chatted with me on Facebook. He said he had been “trapped in London”, and needed money to get home because he and his family had been “robbed at gunpoint”. Needless to say, this didn’t seem right at the time, although I was more than willing in the chat to offer local help (i.e., have friends in England contact him) and local aid (not money). There was a number of problems with the chat :
- This guy and I hadn’t talked in years. There were many other people this guy would have contacted before me.
- Robbed at gunpoint? In London? I don’t think so.
The person then changed his Facebook status to say he needed help urgently (to which his closer friends immediately replied “how can we help?”, etc.). I promptly commented on his status to say I thought the account may have been compromised (“Would the real first name lastname please stand up?”). I was promptly un-“friended” to remove the comment. I chatted with another classmate, who said he’d gotten the same chat from the same individual. I then tracked down the real guy, and indeed, he was desperately trying to get Facebook to shut down the account.
Well, there seem to be a number of ways of creating gigapixel panoramas. Possibly the easiest to use is the GigaPan robotic mount ($379), which was used to create the tremendous image of the Barack Obama inauguration, along with a Canon G10 (it doesn’t fit larger cameras).
Another way is to hack up a Orion TeleTrack Altazimuth ($249) astronomic mount with a serial port ($15), bluetooth ($35) and use Papywizard software (free) running on a Nokia N800 ($135). You’ll still need Autopano or similar stiching software to put the whole thing together.
I’m tempted to try both!