I have always felt that it is important for me as a dispatcher to meet people out in the field, go to training exercises and on ride alongs. It gives me a good understanding of what they go through on a daily basis.
Yesterday some of the South County stations were having an I-Zone drill. It focuses on structure protection during a wildland fire. They pick out 5-7 homes in their area and "respond" to them (with the homeowners consent). The engines pulled up to a home, pull hose, charge it with water and scout out good and bad points about the homes brush clearance and access routes. I had the honor of riding on E3363. I have been on man ride outs but they have always been on a Type 1 engine (like what you would see in Ramona, Valley Center and Deer Springs). This particular engine is a 4 wheel drive brush engine.
First of all the engine is gigantic and I was sure I would need a ladder just to get into the back. I was with 3 fire fighters and an Engineer. We went down roads with pot holes big enough to eat my car, brush 5-10 high on both sides of the road (imagine driving down that when its on fire!) uneven, large drop offs on either side...Yikes! You definitely feel every bump. We all had our seatbelts on but we were still getting bounced around quite a bit.
On one particular road we hit a part of the road that was uneven and we all got tossed to the right. What happens when you start flying to one side? Naturally you try to grab onto something. Unfortunately for the firefighter sitting next to me.. it was him. The engine lurched and my hand grabbed his knee. We stabilize and I patted his knee as a "sorry". In which he replies "How YOU doin?"... oh dear.. Now he's done it. I turned bright red. I know I matched the color of the engine we were riding in.