• Engine 13 Is Moving Up

    Engine 13 Is Moving Up

    By Ron Blehm (4 July 2008)

    We've all done it, haven't we - taken an experience from our past and tried to recreate or relive that in our flight sim? That stormy approach into Kai Tak, that old clunker you weren't sure would get airborne in Rwanda, the hot day coming into the little strip in the Andes ... our memories, our past (sometimes emotional) experiences often are part of what makes this "game" fun and attractive to otherwise normal adult human beings. And that is the basis of this story I'm sharing with you today.


    More than twenty years ago I was a Firefighter / EMT in Southern California. That's me there in the foreground sitting on the 2 1/2 inch hoseline (above, left). And here's another photo of our newer engine at a working fire (above, right). And for those who are still die-hard skeptics, a final photo of me in embarrassingly clean "rookie" turnout gear (below, left). In fact, I've written a book, a collection of short stories really, based on my years as a Firefighter. In sharing those stories it occurred to me recently that this could be another excuse to write about flight simming as well - and that is how we've ended up here.


    One blazingly hot summer's morning there was a wind-whipped, fast-moving wildland fire south of the towns of Banning and Cabazon (between civilization and Palm Springs). For those who watch the news, this happened again a couple of years back - consuming homes and killing Firefighters! This area was nowhere near our station out on the west end of the county but by the time they had called out several dozen engine companies (A Strike Team is comprised of ten Engines under the leadership of a Battalion Chief, photo above, right) there was no help for the local residence. It is common, standard procedure, to call more distant companies to come fill-in at the vacant stations which are closer to the call - this is not at all unusual but when the county has over 70 Fire Stations it can make for quite the shuffle! Thus it was on this stifling July day that dispatch called Engine 13 to move up and cover Station 36. We were awestruck, "They want us to move up and cover Palm Springs!?" That meant a 1.5 to 2-hour drive in the Fire Engine just to get there! However, with no more engines in the local area, residents outside the city limits (in North Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City) needed us to be available to respond to their emergencies. We loaded the full-compliment of crew on board our Engine and headed out: Northbound on Highway 91, then Eastbound on 60, intercepting Interstate 10 East of Redlands. We snacked, talked, looked at young female motorists passing by and drank loads of water as we bounced along the freeways.


    I can hear you all asking, "What on earth does this have to do with flightsim?" As I stated early on, we have probably all taken to the virtual skies to relive or recreate some experience from our past. To that end I loaded up an Emergency Medical liveried PC-12 from Corona's Municipal (KAJO) Airport and followed (under VFR conditions) the 91 freeway past where our station was located (Maybe the "X"?, above, left) and along the 91 through Riverside (above, center) to the 60 (above, right). This highway skirts the Moreno Valley (below, left) passing north-northeast of March AFB (below, center) which was at the time a SAC B-52 bomber base. As I neared the I-10 interchange (below, center) you can look behind me to the northwest and see where the hot, gusting Santa Ana winds will blow the smoke down along the mountains into Redlands, Loma Linda, Pomona and the whole "inland empire" (below, right). It was choking!

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