It's worth a watch if one is interested in this topic.
0 - http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/dirty-jobs/about-this-show...
If you have an emergency - especially a medical one - whoever is closest is the right person to respond, be it fire department, ambulance, or police. 3 to 10 minutes in an emergency can make a huge difference. Like it or not, a drunk homeless person is generally a health and/or safety issue. Coming in trucks that they would usually drive also means that if there happens to be a fire call while they are out helping someone with possible first aid, they can leave from the scene, keeping more people safe. For auto accidents, sometimes the fire truck is one of the better things to have at the scene for visibility purposes.
I would also like to add that many - but not all - fire departments also drive ambulances.
Does it cost money? Sure. But if it helps folks, I'm for it. There are other options, but I'm not convinced they will cost less money (more ambulances of different sorts, more manpower for first responders positioned in places across cities, and so on... all have their costs).
I'd fully recommend actually looking into the reasons for some of this, and what other options are for similar outcomes.
You're not wrong, but it's more that they are in a position to help and the city doesn't seem to want to have another organization deal with the homeless. They're not exactly gunning for the role of taking care of the homeless.
Are there further details/good articles you would be able to provide?
You can see the budget at . Most of the budget goes to Supportive Housing, ie, paying for housing for people to keep them off the street.
So either: they got a ridiculous amount of homeless people, or they got a ridiculous hole in their wallet, or the city doesn't actually spend 100s of millions on the homeless.
>There's a city-specific reason why San Francisco has stuck with wood rather than swap over to metals, and the answer lies in looking up. The high-voltage cables and wires that guide the city's (oft-maligned) public transport system Muni, and trolley cars crisscross above nearly every street, mean that ladders made of conductive elements are generally just too dangerous to use.
>"I think there's a lot of fire departments that went aluminum and wish they could go back to wood but it's too expensive," Braun says. "There's only two ladders manufacturers in the states—and we're one of 'em. We only make our own ladders and can barely even keep up with what we have."
I'm guessing that the types of ladders SFFD are using aren’t going to be anywhere near power lines of that high a voltage.
But for the people running the department, specifically those in those positions in the early aughts (naughties?) who maneuvered to eliminate dedicated paramedics from the city, I've got nothing but hate. I had friends who were part of ambulance crews who were forced to either transition into being full-fledged firefighters or get let go and have to look for work in neighboring cities. None of them wanted to run into burning buildings, so they all left. It was a nonsensical decision to gain political power and ended up increasing costs and negatively impacting a lot of other highly dedicated folks who should receive similar amounts of praise. First responders of all sorts, whether they be police, fire fighters, paramedics or otherwise, are always taking risks to help the rest of us.
I'd hope that New Yorkers would have similar admiration for the folks in ambulances that also put their lives on the line to help their fellow citizens. Now imagine that some fucks at the top of the NYFD decided to fuck over the ambulance personnel in an attempt to gain more political clout while simultaneously wasting a ton of taxpayer money doing nonsensical things like needlessly sending the large 2-driver firetrucks to the scene of medical emergencies. Then how would you feel about NYFD? You'd probably feel the way I do about the SFFD and draw a clear distinction between the men and women who actually put on a uniform and serve their community and the bureaucrats at the top who are wasting our money and destroying our roads.
Fewer fires but larger departments , 6-figure trucks driving to fender benders, pension spiking, minimum staffing requirements & huge overtime pay (union-negotiated), etc.
Look, I appreciate what first responders do. I just don't think they're above reproach.
It makes sense to staff FDs with EMTs and give them responsibility for responding to all manner of emergencies (medical included), since they are already the first responders.
That being said, I live in a rural state where this makes sense. I cannot imagine the crowded streets of SF are good for this.
It's all about level of care. Overkill for a twisted ankle sure but crucial for a cardiac or other life threatening event.
In the United Kingdom they wear more simple uniforms and the engines are just a box shape with no bells any more - seems a shame.
Usually it's UK the has more ceremony in these kind of things.
In North America streets are designed to fit emergency vehicles. You're not allowed to build a street so narrow that a fire engine couldn't turn around there, for example.
I would also point out that I'd prefer narrower streets in SF.
Living in em.. these as houses don't give you a lot of privacy. People walk by, less than a meter from where you're sitting. They sometimes stop to look at your TV.
You get used to it, but it's not the kind of thing people go looking for on purpose.
You have your own cabin, you wear a headset. And you only work when making a turn.
So maybe the difference is that in the UK, they don't have to use old equipment
The helmets look exactly the same except the ones in the UK don't have brims on the back.
The helmets are practical. They're basically construction hard hats with a rain brim.
Here's the modern helmet maker for the UK fire services: http://www.rosenbauer.co.uk/equipment/helmets/
Modern materials are lighter and more stable, thus need less material, which gives more flexibility to move.
Also the tasks changed. These days there are less fires, but more kinds of "technical assistance" and when there is fire water usage is more targeted and restricted.
Iconic british firefighter helmet use to be leather than metal. There are very good reason why they have been changed. The wikipedia page explains the differences over time and culture:
In big cities, it's more of an internal camaraderie thing. They live together, cook together, shop together, etc. A lot prefer being at the station with their 'brothers' to being at home.
Having a volunteer fire department does not mean there isn't pride.
In fact, it can be argued the opposite -- Volunteer departments mean the citizens take enough pride in their brigade that they get directly involved in it, rather than farming it out as a civil service.
In the city that I live in a few miles away with a paid department, the firehouse next door does like 6,000 calls a year with a 2005 truck with 200k miles on it.
There are studies going back to the 70's by the forestry service (and others) showing there is no change in mechanical properties of pine/fir from these drying schedules.
(This is not true of a lot of hardwoods, but is true of these softwoods)
Waiting years seems like a pointless waste of time.
A 50' 3x3" board would be twisted and bowed so much that the ladder would be a spiral staircase.
It doesn't matter for 20' 2x4 destined for a construction site.
Even if the wood was kiln dried, it would still have to acclimatizate for months or years before it would be at a stable 13% humidity of San Francisco.
This is not true, depending on timeline.
It's true of the production rate kilns, and as you say, it doesn't matter for construction lumber, which is why they do it.
But assuming 3+ years to dry your 3x3" board, even doing it in a kiln at a 6 month rate (or whatever) would be a vast improvement, and would basically not bow or check. Again, there is actually a vast amount of research on drying schedules vs defects and how to optimize for whatever you want for a given wood species.
As for kiln size, again, solar kilns are quite trivial to build for basically any size or shape, and can easily be temperature controlled for something like this.
(and they could easily build a kiln in the space they have shown in that article)
To whit: I've built a solar kiln in maryland for 30+ ft boards before, and cost of materials was < $1000.
(I used to buy lumber from a guy who was responsible for handling downed trees for some cities in northern virginia, and he used to saw and sell the lumber. He did the nail removal, etc)
"Even if the wood was kiln dried, it would still have to acclimatizate for months or years before it would be at a stable 13% humidity of San Francisco."
Why? You can just stop drying it at 13% (instead of the 7-8% that is normal).
It would be a waste of time and money to kiln fire the wood for 6 months when you can just order it 1-2 years in advance and leave it in the corner to accomplish the same purpose.
Then literally this entire process is a complete waste of time, because they will never stay at any moisture content over this time period.
Wood does not react to average humidity, it reacts to current humidity.
Defects occur because of sudden changes the wood cannot "handle" (IE it's not elastic enough, etc), not because the average is too high or low.
Over decades, the likelihood of that happening seems quite high.
They have a long running stock. They are not wasting time anymore, they may be wasting storage though.
Something could be said about the stock fire risk exposure, but hey, they are the firemen after all.
I bet the expert woodmakers doing this job have very good reasons. Reasons that you haven't thought of..
Seriously, these people are experts. They probably know their job, really, really well.
This is just a random appeal to authority.
If you would like to be constructive, please be constructive.
First, there is one person doing this. Or was. It was Jerry Lee, who recently retired. He did it for 30 years.
In fact, for giggles, i reached out this morning, and Jerry Lee says he is not an expert by any means in any of this. He was just a pattern maker who thought he could be helpful. He had no particular expertise in this when he started, and he would argue he is in fact, not an expert.
When I asked, he said they just didn't need to do it faster.
So it turns out no, they aren't magical experts trained in the artisanal art of ladder making with information passed down from the ages, and no, there are no magical reasons that only the wood cognoscenti have thought of.
They just use the forestry handbook data and info like everyone else!
There is your really good reason.
It may come as a surprise, but this really is engineering.
People have been studying wood as an engineering material for a very long time, and there are a large number of published studies on pretty much anything you can think of from drying rates to density to you name it.
Take a look at https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/several_pubs...
- Cheaper than contracting out everything
- They have a better idea of the exact specifications they need for everything
- It instills a strong culture of self-reliance and trust (anyone has to be able to pack your parachute)
- It fills a lot of offseason downtime
My takeaway is that it makes a lot of sense to in-house your own tools - a lesson from outside of the software industry.
this describes quite accurately the work of many people maintaining computer systems
Nobody wanted to rip out the old problematic systems and start over. So I left. You should do the same. Plenty of jobs out there where you can grow and actually build high quality solutions.
I've had two "Please call me, it's broke" calls just this morning!
I get the same issue where I work. The client states that "everything is broken," but it often turns out that their own servers are down (or sometimes our API guys made a breaking change and I wasn't informed, but that's not common anymore). I find this stuff out when I get to work in the morning, because they certainly aren't calling me directly.
I log my interactions with my supervisor, he will occasionally check with me to follow up but I can fix 99% of what they call me about on my own. If I need help, it's usually just expert knowledge that I can ask around the office for.
But of course other devs have different roles and workflows.
when the number of officers is too low and there's too much crime, the people demand that the government hire more.
so government does that. and crime goes down.
then the public notices all these police officers "doing nothing" and complains about wasted government resources.
so, naturally, they demand a reduction in the number of officers.
and so it goes...
It doesn't perfectly apply because technically, the system does not merely have two states, but the failure state is still very reminiscent of what is described here.
As kcorbitt points out in a sibling comment, differential equations are also a very powerful mechanism for understanding these phenomena, even when they are continuously approximating a discrete function like "number of police officers". Unfortunately, the standard treatment of this incredibly practical and important topic in college is terrible, and people come out with no understanding of how important it is to understanding the real world. As a really simple example, anywhere you can find a -dx^2/dt^2 term, you are almost certain to experience oscillations; they can be drowned out but it takes a lot, to put it in intuitive terms. With so many such terms in the world, there's a lot of oscillations that you simply can't avoid. I tend to believe our economy oscillations more than it absolutely has to for various reasons, for instance, but the idea I've sometimes seen proposed that it shouldn't oscillate at all is impractical. Too many terms like that in the world.
Another common lack of understanding that is particularly prevalent within middle management is the trade-off between efficiency and resilience, the application of this to the finacial system is discussed at length in .
But in the antibiotics example, it's the other way around. The results are ignored in spite of the cause ("I feel better, therefore I'm done"). That one could also just be regular old ignorance, but that's a boring topic of discussion.
As the Red Queen said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass, "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."
But yeah utilizing their downtime is smart. And you're gonna build a damn good ladder and not cut corners if you know you're going to be standing on it.
3000 calls a year is about 8 calls a day. Assuming the 3000 calls/year is per station, and not per dwpartment, that means a station responds to a call, on average, once every three hours.
Which I think is the core issue, use other peoples tools unless you have some critical and unique requirement.
There was a time when aluminum bikes were new but before the parts likely to bend were replaceable where many a bike owner had to buy a new frame due to misadventure. You can only bend aluminum once, then you’re done. When they started making cogsets with more than six gears they went with axles about half a centimeter wider, and you had a similar conversation. You can have the longer axles but you can’t change your mind after. They have to bend the stays slightly and there is no going back after that (and let me tell you, the mechanic got really quiet when they did the bend. You want to get it just right and every bike and every frame size is different. You pull until you feel the metal just start to give and just after that is your 5mm)
Steel frames could often be rebent. But they’re heavier and they don’t like moisture. And their strength to weight ratio is only about the same as wood. Probably also bad options for firefighters.
They cost a pretty penny, such that I would be afraid of losing or damaging them.
Now, in this case I wouldn't want to use steel, because it rusts and is heavier and neither are good for fire fighting.
Wood combustion temperatures are typically about twice that. Also, incidental heat contact can char the surface of the wood and leave it mostly structurally intact.
The mentioned charring is a very important property in buildings, as solid (hard-)wood pillars have astonishing endurance in a full-scale fire, due to them smoldering slowly from the outside in, compared to e.g. steel framing that quickly softens throughout. One additional factor is evaporative cooling/associated covering with mostly inert water vapor due to the water contained in the wood and the water released from the cellulose fibers upon thermal decompositon.
Can you point me to someplace selling 50' wooden ladders appropriate for firefighting?
I wonder if there is a way to age the wood to SF humidity/climate faster than real time. Just feels like there has to be.
And 13% moisture is relatively high. Kiln-dried hardwood for furniture is sold at about 8-10% moisture. Dried construction lumber is usually sold at about 19% moisture--just below the point which inhibits mold growth. Heck, some of the construction-grade lumber at a big box store might already be at 13% just from sitting around for months inside the store. (Though they stack them poorly and this is one reason why the pieces are often so warped.)
I assume that they keep the pieces around for so long simply because they can. If your time horizon is decades, then you lose nothing by simply stacking the wood (without much stickering) and letting it sit. That doesn't take much effort, just patience. And considering how expensive and rare such long, defect-free pieces are, why risk losing pieces? I have no doubt they could dry the pieces faster, but they have better ways to spend their time. Their only immediate responsibility is to keep the years-long pipeline of wood filled.
 On the East Coast with a more humid climate, homebuilders purchase pre-dried lumber for framing. On the West Coast with a much dryer climate, builders traditionally buy wet wood for framing and the wood usually dries to <= 19% by the time they begin finishing the interior. (Wood primarily shrinks tangentially and radially, not longitudinally, so drying framing in place isn't usually an issue. See http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/dimensional-shrin...)
This takes in the order of days, not years, without damaging the structural integrity by chemical decomposition that starts at relatively low temperatures.
If you are in a hurry, you can also put something like burnt lime in the chamber as that chemically captures the evaporating water without releasing it in these conditions. That way you can keep the humidity under 5% during the process if you spread the lime enough to capture the water as fast as it is driven out of the wood. You need to be careful to not burn the wood, but you should be able to use something from FLIR with some computer vision to check that no lumber overheats. The water also increases the absorption a lot, so this provides feedback that equalizes the humidity, instead of e.g. a runaway heating that would happen if dryer wood absorbs more microwaves.
If you're feeling bored, the Wikipedia article on wood drying is very comprehensive: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_drying
Fast drying will also introduce stress and warping to the wood. It would not work when long straight and thick material is needed.
You'll probably damage the wood if you do that though. Now I want to try it in my vacuum chamber, but I'm not sure it'll hold vacuum for weeks/months at a time.
Not really, just a forgotten one. Fred Brooks described his ideal development team in The Mythical Man Month and it included a toolmaker.
They often fall in the middle of everything, and there is no set team to handle them (“everyone’s responsible”). Then as they’re critical, someone can’t just take half an hour to do a quick fix, it must be reviewed (and no one actively wants to review it, as it’s not trivial and not their job —- cf “everyone’s responsible —-). Plus anyone succesfully fixing them will be flagged as a potential maintainer when everyone else is running away.
Internal tooling in software companies is a beast in its own.
The estimate is that on average a parachute will fail one in a thousand times, mostly due to packing error, seldom due to equipment failure. Maybe 90/10 ratio.
For a reserve, the expectation is that they would fail less than one in 10,000 times they are deployed. Which means that, collectively, avoidable errors should only happen one in every million or so rides on a parachute. This is less often than the real observed rate (1 per 75k or so), but errors other than packing or equipment failure are often the root cause.
There's also a middle-ground available in the software industry: reading the code of the open-source tools you use. You can understand how your tools work without rebuilding them from scratch. Also, if you're using open-source (which most people do these days), the "cheaper" argument doesn't apply.
From what I understand every master craftsman has a small quantity of tools they either made themselves or at least modified to purpose. Tools with bits added on or ground off (eg, wrenches ground thin for tight spots, or magnetized).
I class jigs as a separate category but I have no handy parallel for software.
I could argue editors we all use for coding are tools that we 'made' by assembly. My set of plugins and settings is different from the next person.
Craftsmanship matters and you just won't become an expert building exactly the number that you need for yourself.
But a side result is that you have a chance of actually understanding how your tools work, which is beneficial when developing new tools or when the tools stop working.
In my own case it was because instrumentation was the thing that I was ultimately interested in, and the expertise that I developed in grad school got me going in my career. The stuff that I built was on top of the roughly half million dollars worth of commercial equipment that I used.
Of course some departments adopt change faster than others, and some kinds of change are adopted more readily, so it's hard to make any sweeping generalizations.
Only if you didn't read the article.
"There's a city-specific reason why San Francisco has stuck with wood rather than swap over to metals, and the answer lies in looking up. The high-voltage cables and wires that guide the city's (oft-maligned) public transport system Muni, and trolley cars crisscross above nearly every street, mean that ladders made of conductive elements are generally just too dangerous to use."
They're nonconductive fiberglass.
They're stronger than wood, lighter than wood, don't need to be oiled/varnished, don't require cutting down old-growth trees, and aren't susceptible to moisture damage.
You can buy them exhaustively tested, mass produced, in whatever quantities you require for a couple hundred dollars - probably an order of magnitude less than these artisanal wooden ladders.
They're also not being used right next to flames.
Yes, fiberglass can be made that won't buckle under both weight and heat, but not at the same price point as wood.
How about the aluminum cross braces of your fiberglass ladder, how do those hold up in the high heat of a structure fire? What does that do to service life?
"We had one ladder here that was fully involved in a fire for 25 minutes, and the whole tip of it—six feet—was crispy. It looked like a log you pull out of a campfire," Braun says. "That can't go back in service but we were curious, so we put a new halyard [rope used to hoist ladders] on it for a load test. Even in that condition, it passed."
Did you read the comment you're replying to? I said very specifically "SF does have some good reasons for sticking with their wooden ladders". And note that I said "a somewhat significant factor" NOT "the only factor" or even "the biggest factor".
In fact, I did read the article, and I see nothing that contradicts the suggestion that tradition is "a somewhat significant factor" in their continued use of wooden ladders.
> I said "a somewhat significant factor" NOT "the only factor" or even "the biggest factor".
That's true. But even "somewhat significant" isn't justified by the facts.
> SF does have some good reasons for sticking with their wooden ladders
And they have one overwhelming reason: aluminum is not an option because of the overhead muni lines.
So it's possible that tradition has a role, but there's no evidence that it is even "somewhat" significant.
If you're operating under the assumptions that A. all the relevant information is in the article and B. everything in the article can be taken at face value, then I can see how you would arrive at that conclusion. So fair enough. I didn't mention it earlier, but I'm operating from a place of applying additional knowledge and perspective that comes from over a decade as a firefighter.
Anyway, I doubt we'll ever really know for sure. In either case, SFFD do a great job, so mad props to them regardless of what kind of ladders they use.
Doesn't matter. The electric company isn't hanging on the outside of a building that's on fire.
""Pete has collected all these different donuts over the years. They're all real, and covered with lacquer so they won't go bad. Some of these are ten years old.""
I wonder how it's done in European cities with their trams (the ones which don't use APS).
Here lies a pretty cool article about a pretty cool practice demonstrating how the SFFD maintains their own equipment, to their own specifications (rather than an approximation thereof), and for less money than simply farming it out to a vendor. There might even be an applicable (to HN) lesson here on the value of employing an in-house toolmaker, whatever your profession may be.
And then there's this lot here in the comments that is completely in arms against it because le Hackernews is obviously an expert Fire Brigade, or just has an allergic reaction to civilian government agencies maintaining their own equipment versus joining the throwaway consumerist cult the rest of world has acquiesced to.
In other words, it's a social disorder.
"[wood ladders] don't conduct electricity like aluminum or wet fiberglass ladders do."
"'Aluminum or fiberglass, when it gets too hot, it gets soft; it will actually fold over without any warning,' he said. 'Wood takes hours to fail completely -- enough time for a firefighter to see it burning and get off it.'"
"Once an aluminum or fiberglass ladder cracks, it usually has to be replaced. Wooden ones can always be repaired, he said."
This is actually a great case where asbestos shines. It's nonconductive and can stand very high temperatures. If not for the whole cancer thing.
The problem is the matrix, which softens under heat unless you use exotic things like ceramic matrix composites which are brittle.
Asbestos is heavy as rock.
edit: http://tkolb.net/safety/LadderSafety/LadderSafety.html ... can't vouch for site but interesting.
Huge downside to fiberglass is they are UV sensitive - i've seen ladders just crumbling because they were left in the sun