Along with reading, landscaping and getting along with "Bart," writing is just another one of my hobbies and I just can't thank the Hesperia Star enough for allowing me to share my personal thoughts, with so many readers, on a vast array of issues that are important to me. While I love to write and my interests vary, my heart will always rest upon the fire service and my thirty years of service within it, before retiring in 1992. During those thirty years, I had the opportunity to fight many campaign fires and on many occasions, I would literally have to fight the same fires all over again after the brush and other types of fuels had grown back.

Since leaving the fire service, I've gone through a lot of changes that aging naturally brings about. Physically, I'm certainly not in the same shape that I used to be in, but emotionally, I still feel the need to "meet the call" and to chip in whenever the alarm sounds. I believe that such an inclination is a natural one and I also believe that most retired fire fighters feel the same way that I do. Like many other career fireman, at an early age I grew accustomed to learning from every situation that I'd get into. This learning process became an ongoing process and it was all part of a "size up" mentality that became so engrained within me, that I still practice it today. For example, there isn't a morning that goes by, that I don't notice the wind (its velocity and direction), the humidity and the outside temperature. During the summer months I still continue to mentally process and compute all of this weather related information, to instinctively reach a conclusion as to what the fire danger for the day is going to be and by the time I exit my home and reach the end of the porch, I'm psychologically ready to fight a fire. No matter how old I get, this mental process continues to take place on a daily basis and its pervasiveness strongly manifested itself during the "Grass Fire" in Lake Arrowhead.

During the final years of my career, I was a fire captain, with San Bernardino County Fire Department and was stationed near the west shore of Lake Arrowhead. There's little doubt, that had I been on duty at the time of the initial start of the fire now burning in the Grass Valley area, I probably would have been with the first responding unit as the fire captain and initially assumed the position of incident commander. Now retired, I still find myself challenged, to somehow provide my skills, but find myself limited in that capability, because I've become forever linked to standards that are now only measurable by emotional and memorable equivalents. It can at times, become a very frustrating and difficult position to be in, as I often feel like an "old race horse, with no place to run, or race to win." My situation is not unusual. Like many firemen who long to remain in the fight, but no longer can, I've been asked by many people, "Even when you know you can't fight fires any more, why are you still drawn to it?" The answer to this question doesn't come easily, but to most, it's not so easily understood. "Because I gave all I could give when I did it and I loved doing it." I realize that this answer doesn't fully explain the "why," and it may come across as being far too simplistic, but then again, being a fireman isn't like your average nine to five job. Because of what a fireman does, if its job description were to be more realistically written, it would probably also include some standards such as: (1) Must control emotions at all times (2) Must recognize and meet the needs of everyone (3) Must never judge any thing or any one (4) Must act calmly, think clearly and act decisively, under all circumstance. Almost everyone recognizes the fact that being a fire fighter is a unique occupation and at times can be extremely demanding and even consuming. Consuming, because for as long as a fire fighter serves, all that his or her senses can muster up, are encapsulated and stored into individual memory banks that forever remain as an integral part of his or her personal identity. An identity that for the most part, has been forged by adversities that can only be understood and accepted by fellow fire fighters. Hence, the term "Brotherhood."

Like most retired fire fighters, whenever one of these large fires breaks out, I'll almost always look up at the rising column of smoke and reminisce about sights and sounds of fire engines rushing about with sirens wailing, radio traffic blaring and the excitement of running from house to house trying to save whatever we could. As a retired fire captain, I suppose there will always be memories of the adrenalin rush that always came with the responsibility of making important decisions and doing whatever it took to win the fight.

To be honest with you, I wish there were times when I could just forget some of those things that continue to cling to me and seem to hold me captive. Things that remind me of the fact, that no matter how much you love to do something, there's always a price to pay, in order to keep doing it. In some ways, the job I did really took its toll on me, but as I look back and ask myself would I do it all over again, the answers always comes back as yes. (But, preferably with a few changes.)

In some ways, this article was difficult to write and I'm sure that there are other retired fire fighters out there, who can contently look back at their careers, push most of it all aside and not feel the way that I do. But, as for me, tomorrow morning I'll wake up, look outside to see which way the wind is blowing, step outside to feel the sun against my skin and sense the amount of humidity that fills the air. Why, because it's what I am and will always be, a fireman.

Bob Chandler