Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wheel has come Full Circle - Joel Connable

Its incredible how life works. Almost 20 years ago, I was hanging out in firehouses and working as a New York paramedic. I left the business for a while and wen ton to learn to fly planes and anchor the news on television stations in Los Angeles and Miami. Now I am back where it all started.

"Where's the Fire," a television show I have thought about for several years and a show that only came to life because of a close friend named Steve Greene is about to be put on tape as we shoot the first pilot in San Francisco.

It actually isn't going on tape. Most production companies don't use tape anymore. We use something called a P2 card which stores all our footage on a hard drive. After 8 years working as a paramedic and another 13 years working as a television news anchor and reporter in Los Angeles and Miami, I am surprised, but very excited to be back where it all started.

I can still smell the firehouse. I can still hear the sirens as I drove ambulances to emergency calls and wore my bunker gear that smelled of burning wood. I still remember the excitement as I watched someone come back from cardiac arrest after I arrived on scene. I remember all the sad and happy times so well from the days and nights when I was the guy who answered those emergency calls. It really was the best life and death experience I ever had.

Now, I get to ride again, but this time I will be showing the world that every fire department isn't the same. They don't just respond to emergencies in fire trucks. Some fire departments, like San Francisco respond in very interesting ways. When ever a fire call comes in, San Francisco firefighters hit it hard. In a city like San Francisco and fire can burn down an entire block in minutes, since most houses have wood-frame construction and they are built on steep hills.

In San Francisco, an earthquake can hit at any time, so special confined space rescue units and heavy rescue units are trained to deal with anything from the smallest quake to the "Big One." In San Francisco, firetrucks have to navigate some of the steepest and tightest streets in the world. Even so, they still use the tiller truck, a truck that has a driver int he back to steer around corners. I will be learning to drive this truck when I get there... pedestrians and small dogs, look out. I don't think I will be very good.

There are rumors that I may be assisting firefighters with a rescue drill on the Golden Gate Bridge or some other high angle rescue that will make me pee my pants. I used to fly small planes as a private pilot, but I don't like heights.

As this show progresses and become a series, you will see all the strange and unique things different fire departments face around the world. From Tokyo, where they use robots to rescue people, to Hong Kong where they use some the highest tower ladder in the world - 171 feet. We will also be riding with the Venice Fire Department where they respond to most emergency calls in fire boats. I look forward to the Alaskan fire departments, where I have always wondered, how do you fight s fire in -45 degree weather? I also look forward to Israel, where we will see how firefighters, both of Jewish and Arab descent help people no matter who they are. i think it may be the only profession where peace really exists in the Middle East. Finally,

San Francisco is also my favorite city in the United States, so how lucky am I to shoot the pilot there? I love everything about the City. If you ever go, make sure you drive or hire a cab to take you across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands. Once up there, you will see the World War II bunkers where guns were aimed at the Pacific to ward off Japanese fighters and you will see the entire San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge from about one thousand feet above it all.

We will be staying at my favorite hotel in San Francisco, the Mark Hopkins, Intercontinental on Nob Hill. If you haven't been to San Francisco, make sure you go before you die. Here's another travel tip. If you want to see the best sights without walking everywhere and paying for taxis, hop on the double-decker bus run by San Francisco Tours. I think it's only $25 per person for three days ad you can ride it all around the city and across the Golden Gate and hop on and off whenever you want and then get on the next bus every 15 minutes.

I am excited to put on the uniform again. This time it will be the uniform of a San Francisco firefighter. I an honored that the Department is permitting me to ride with them and wear their colors. I feel like a little kid. Well, I guess I never really grew out of being a little kid.

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