Car-crushing mechanical jaws, cameras that see through smoke, and big trucks decked out with sophisticated communication devices are just a few of the state-of-the-art tools that firefighters Scott Aguailar and Ashlan Alldredge recently showed young admirer Nikita Gruzdev when he visited Santa Barbara Fire Department headquarters. The 7-year-old interviewer, who is also my son, was burning to get to the bottom of some hot firefighting issues when he spoke with Alldredge.
What can kids do to promote fire safety? That’s a really good question! Fire safety is super important. Have you learned any?
Stop, drop, and roll. Yes! That, and calling 9-1-1, and having an emergency evacuation plan. That’s something you talk about with your parents in case there is an emergency so you’ll know where to meet and how to get out of your house the safest way possible.
Yeah, we learned that in school. That’s a big one because sometimes we’ll go to fires and I can’t even see my own hand [in front of my face], so you’ll need to know how to get out of your house safely. Also, seeing us firefighters and not being scared. Have you seen all that gear we wear? We look and sound really funny, but it’s just us underneath there.
How strong do you have to be to hold the hose when it’s on full-bore? You don’t have to be strong at all! It’s all technique. It’s how you hold it. You could do it!
Cool! How do you choose who gets to drive the truck? That’s the fire engineer. And that’s probably the best job in the entire firehouse. He has to show that he can pump water to the fire hose, raise the ladders, operate all the equipment, and drive really safe. It’s a big, long process. You also have to memorize every single street in the city, and we have a lot of tricky streets.
What can kids do to prevent fires? I know it sounds simple, but not playing with lighters or matches is a really big deal. Because here in Santa Barbara we have those mountains out there, and a lot of the fires are, unfortunately, mistakes by people not being careful.
Do drones sometimes fight the fires? It’s something that hasn’t really been figured out yet. Drones can be good because they can go up in the hills and they can see where the fire is without us having to hike all the way up, but they can be bad because some people fly their drones around and they can interfere. We have even had to stop dropping water [from aircraft] because drones are in the way.
Do you guys have a fire cat? No, but I wish! Back in the day, they used to have fire dogs. They were super cool. But we do have two fire poles! We can show you how to slide down.
“Those must be the two friendliest guys in the whole world,” Nikita said after the interview as we exited the station’s large garage doors. “I give them 10 stars!”