Sunday, December 29, 2013

the things you find when you're sort of looking

Inventory.  It's a word that can strike fear into the heart of any firefighter.  Inventory is a necessary, but mind numbing, evil.  We inventory everything: equipment on vehicles, tools, all our gear.  In fact, you can't call yourself a firefighter until you've spent tedious hours counting bandaids in first aid kits and separating fire pants in piles of small, medium, large and extra large.  We inventory at the beginning of the season, before preparedness reviews, at the end of the season, and whenever I start to hear statements like "I can't find..," "I thought we had 5 blivets on here...," and, "We're out of ...!" Nobody really likes to do inventory, but occasionally we find something....interesting.

One day Logan, an EMT, rummaged through the search and rescue cabinet on a rainy day. "What's this?" he mumbled, emerging with a small carton.  It was an emergency survival kit from the 1970s.  "This chocolate is older than me," Logan declared, fearlessly trying it.  There was something else in there I recognized:

I'm not sure about the "balanced nutrition" part.
"Space food sticks!" I yelled, remembering them from  childhood camping trips..  A precursor to energy bars, they were eaten by astronauts on space missions and then marketed to the public.  The crew looked at me blankly, too young to remember.  "Those are really weird," one muttered.

Another crew sorted through a pile of tents, deciding to set them up to see which ones were missing poles or had broken zippers.  One tent looked strange, tall and skinny.  We circled it.  Then it dawned on me.
You can find it here if you want to buy it. Only $12.50!
"It's a TOILET TENT," I exclaimed.  Why did we have this item in the fire cache, when the woods all around you on fires works great for that purpose?  It remains a mystery, unless it was from one of those wilderness fires we all dread...not because of the fire, but because you are not allowed to use the woods, resulting in your friendly helitack crew dealing with the results as they are flown out by helicopter in buckets.

Then there's these orange flight suits and coveralls we found:

This picture looks stretched on this computer. We are really not this large.
This pícture looks stretched on this computer.  We are not really this large.

But by far the most disturbing item I ever found while doing inventory (even worse than the nest of baby mice) lurked innocently in a pile of sleeping bags.  Opening the fire cache in the spring, I sighed, seeing that the last crew to return from an assignment the previous fall had just thrown their dirty bags into the cache, expecting someone else to wash them.  Being that someone else, I started going through them. Something was stuffed into the toe of one of them.  I fished it out, and discovered I was holding a 6 month old, fossilized roast beef sandwich.

WHO DOES THIS?  "Oh, I'm not hungry right now, I think I'll save this sandwich for later.  My sleeping bag, I think that's a good place to put it."

What about you? Have you ever found anything strange at work?


  1. UGH!!! That sounds like excavating in a teenager's room! :) I work in my studio, so every now and then I'll find supplies I didn't know I had and had meant to do something cool with, but never did... I have a bag full of bismuth that I haven't figured out what to do with yet. My intentions for a painting never fully developed into something I could act on.

  2. Oh my gosh! How rude that someone would stuff a sandwich in a sleeping bag and just leave it. Yuck! Funny, I grew up in the 70s but I don't remember space food sticks. Maybe they didn't sell them in S. Dakota where I grew up! :)

  3. Sounds like an awesome part of your job!!!! Funny, I don't think it's so glamorous anymore:)

  4. I am still wondering why someone would stuff a sandwich into their sleeping bag! How odd. I have a boring job and only find things like really old files that should have been tossed decades ago.

  5. I found a viking helmet that was once clearly part of a costume... so I nabbed it and used it for my next costumed event!


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