Friday, November 27, 2009
Big Red Fire Truck
Some of you might know from reading KYLIE'S WORLD on my website that I'm a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service. It's far removed from plunking your butt in a chair and typing at the keyboard, and that's part of the reason why I joined up - it gets me out from behind the desk and doing something physical. I'm helping out my friends and others in my community/wider community and I'm challenging myself with new skills (not to mention feeding the imagination with a wider range of experiences!!!).
We train two Sunday mornings a month. My Captain has introduced me to the driver's seat of the big red fire truck. Why? We're a small unit - only 6 active members all up and usually there's only one licensed driver on the crew when we get called out. If anything happens to him out on the fire-front (he sprains an ankle or is injured) the crew will have a back-up driver who can get them out of there if need be.
During one particular training session, we headed out to a section of bush that had recently been burnt out by a major fire and where the fire trails were "easy" to drive. Think Fire Truck Orientation 101, not Advanced All-Terrain Course assessment course. I've driven a manual car, a farm ute, a forklift, a tractor, a farm-bike and quad-runner, but getting behind the wheel of a bloody big truck was something I've never done.
I learn several things pretty quickly...
a) the truck is wide, heavy and has 7 gears
b) there's no center mirror in a fire truck - you drive (or reverse) using the side mirrors only (I now have sooo much respect for heavy vehicle drivers)
c) the steering wheel is almost horizontal as opposed to vertical
d) you need a wide turning circle or you run into things or cut corners when you shouldn't (lucky I only snapped a few branches off a tree rather than a building)
e) it takes a lot to get use to the angles and capabilities a vehicle that size can negotiate without tipping or rolling over (no, I didn't manage that, thank goodness)
f) the pneumatic seat is sooo cool (I want one in my car!)
g) being the short-legged person I am, always move the seat back after you finish driving (or risk injuring your licensed driver as he tries to get back in the command seat and you find yourself having to use your new learned skills sooner than expected).
Apparently I passed my first driving lesson (and no, my Captain wasn't injured at the end of it, I remembered to adjust the seat just before I swapped sides :-P).
I conquered my first challenge, gained some confidence, and am looking forward to the next stint behind the wheel of the big red fire truck!
Photo: Our big red fire truck - practising the laying down of foam to protect the truck.