Thursday, August 19, 2010


Chaos. Everyone needs a little in their life to stave off the deadly doldrums (sorry Brian, I keep piggybacking off your last post).

My afternoon plans were set. A bite of lunch, a drive to town, a few errands (aka - spend money and stimulate the economy), meet the Fire Within photographer Charles Hope for supper, then go to Upsala Fire Department's very first calendar photo shoot (which we are sharing with two other departments).

Lunch wasn't quite ready when my pager went off. A train car was on fire. Possibly hazardous materials involved. Oh well, Kraft dinner was overrated anyway. At the fire hall, I found that only two other firefighters had responded. One was our highly valued scribe, who takes awesome notes and is a great communicator, but who doesn't fight fires. Oh well, large crews were overrated too. Who needs dozens of firefighters when you can take four times as long, wear yourself out eight times as fast, and still get the job done with two?

En route, we got a page that there were no hazardous materials involved, but a locomotive was burning. Locomotives are big. We had two firefighters. This could take a while. Then the dispatcher wanted to know if we needed MNR because the fire had spread to the bush. Bush fire? So much for going to Thunder Bay. Oh well, calendar shoots were another overrated event.

We arrived at the scene and found that the locomotive driver was a volunteer firefighter friend from Neebing fire department. He had the sense to disconnect the fuel lines to the engine, and the fire had pretty well gone out. But the bush was still burning, and unlike Moses, we had to put this one out.

Luckily, the fire was small and mostly contained between a swamp and the tracks, but it still took a couple hours to extinguish. Once I finally hit the road, I figured I still had time to do at least an errand or two in Thunder Bay before supper with Charles.

Then I hit the road construction. Lots of waiting. My empty stomach, which I had left at home with the report of a hazmat fire, had caught up with me. After several long delays, I decided that stimulating the economy was overrated as well, but I was not prepared to give up dinner. I connected with Charles in Thunder Bay, and we forged on.

We were running late, but the Chinese restaurant I had chosen was known for promptness, so I wasn't worried. Charles was also having a bad day. His bags were missing. The airline had suggested that they might be in Toronto or Timbuktu, but they definitely were not in Thunder Bay. No problem, except that his lights, tripods, and other cool accessories that make life simple for photographers were inside the bags. Add simplicity to the list of overrated items. Then I discovered that Charles didn't care for Chinese food. Oh well, impressing the photographer was overrated as well. Fortunately, chicken fingers were also on the menu.

There was plenty of daylight left when we arrived at the photo shoot site, but the chosen location was near the edge of the forest. I didn't need a photographic mind to know we would be in shadows within a half an hour. Shadows may produce cool effects in some scenes, but they were going to cause trouble in this one.

Fire Within calendar photography is only a fraction of what Charles Hope does with his cameras, and he took all of the chaos in stride. He assumed command of the 30+ firefighters with calm, quiet, composure, placing them in a precise manner to take full advantage of the light. I haven't seen the pictures yet, but I have confidence the finished product will make a show-stopper calendar cover.

Chaos. At least it helps us get rid of all the overrated stuff in life.

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