I Fought a Fire

That's a first.
I fought a house fire. Of course not alone... with a fire team.... here are my notes from an hour after the ordeal was over.

well I'm still unsure if we're allowed to say anything so... PLEASE don't broadcast this, but for your own peace of mind.

March 25, 2010

Well, where do I start.

today around 8:30 the voltage from our power supplier jumped to 300volts instead of 240v.
MOV's inside of the various electronics started popping and smoking, so we threw the main power out at the department. Then we threw it out all over the centre.

And while we (the computer techs) are running around, the thought hits me 'house fires'. I call home have my wife switch off the main breakers. A co-worker runs down to the generator room to get them to turn off mains power and get onto generator.

So I radio a buddy and say 'keep an eye on the emergency fire phone'. He says 'it just rang' so I hop on my ATV hearing there is a house fire...
I'm a big guy so I have no fire gear that fits because the donated stuff we have is all too small, which means I don't go INTO the fire, I stay with the truck, pumps and hoses. I'm a member of our volunteer fire department with no gear except mythick heavy denim coat and helmet.

I'm the 2nd or 3rd responder mostly because I raced down the road to the house which was 2 doors down from mine.

I run behind the 2 story house which is ablaze, a huge plume of smoke coming from it... I know the truck is coming soon, but

I'm still trying to disable the gas and get people out. I see the family, most of them outside, the husband, a real go getter friend of mine, is standing in his underwear... stunned.. not moving, I instantly recognize he's in shock.

I get to him, see he's got bad burns on his hand and legs and feet.. I'll spare you the gory details... from getting his family out of the house. I get a buddy to use his radio and call the clinic, get the burn victim to the side, and continue my search for the gas cannister.

I run into a fellow fire crewman... he's already disabled the gas, so we're good on that front.

The truck arrives.
Before I know what hit me, I'm at the house second man on the hose, hosing down fire. Its all in front of us, hot, above us, thick black smoke. Our training helps us recognize what is safe and what isn't and I'm very aware we are at a safe distance from the fire and from breathing in smoke. I keep my partner from doing anything unsafe. No sooner do we get the flames down in one corner, then it starts up in another. I'm facing a hot and huge fire, keeping my mind on my training, keeping my eye on my partner.

I'm being sure we're following our training and safety protocols, not letting the adrenaline go to anyone's head.... and suddenly the water runs out.

Our truck was empty, and the fire began building up again.

The truck tech (showed up in shorts and a t-shirt because his/our (we're both same size) gear was still at his house being

washed.... headed off to refill the truck from our local water tanks.

We take axes to the water tanks, poke holes, put in a pump and start pumping water, using garden hoses, but the fire starts up again.
The pump eventually dies...but here comes the truck.

It seemed like a long time but it wasn't, we got the fire out. Now comes the process of:
-putting out smoulders, checking floor integrity, crowd control, warding off looters, keeping an eye out for everyone.

The fire team did a really good job, and although in training we're told we have 5 minutes before the house is unsavable, we

salvaged the entire bottom story... even though it's soaked through and has water damage now, there is no fire damage.

A lot of property was saved...

This particular family was heading out on finish and had already shipped much of their personal affects home.

The dad was a hero, getting all the kids out. At one point I heard yelling 'my son is still in there'.... but he was safe after all.

No neighbors houses were burned down.

At one point there was such pandemonium with all the onlookers that I raised my arms and shouted 'yupela olgeta must go long ROT!!!" 'go to the road all of you NOW!!!" and 30 men moved away.

There is of course a TON of aftermath for something like this, after I felt it safe, I cleaned up in a hurry and headed back to work.

Because of the injured dad, there was a medivac, but because I had left my office, I didn't realize that 2 network switches had lost power. There was no co-worker to fill my spot, so we didnt' know until someone from our finance department came knocking .... my absence from my post at the network room, slowed down the medivac a little.
But my presence at the fire was obviously crucial.

This illustrates the delicate balance that is each and every job here. Most men have multiple jobs.

WE have never had a house fire, it was our first. Our mantra is always to keep ourselves safe first, we know we can't save houses, but we can try to save lives and limit the damage done. None of us were trying to be heroes or risk our lives or anything like that. We were sensible, trained, and reacting according to plan during a crisis.

I have NEVER fought a fire that intense before. I've fought smaller kitchen fires, but a whole house went up in smoke....

I'm still rather... surprised at how fast it all happened. I was very thankful that our fire team performed well together, a year ago we didn't have the training we have now, nor the donated gear. Still being a big guy, I don't go INTO the fires because I dont' have fighting gear that fits. WE couldn't enter the house because we had no breathing apparatus, but still, it was a small enough house we could reach most areas from the outside.

The whole community went into action, as it often does... so much so that I had to do some crowd control to let them know the fire was still going.

It was definitely a first for me.
I headed back to work and we repaired the things we needed to.
Later I found out my wife was on the phone the whole time calling people telling them to check their outlets for signs of fire.
During the firefight I had the idea that other houses may be on fire. So I hopped on my ATV and drove around looking for smoke. A bank in a nearby town burned down... they were calling us for help but we were busy. Gladly, praise God, no fires.

a Lot of people reported powerguards had caught fire or blown or appliances...

ALL of this because the local power company spiked all three phases of their power up past 300volts.

Today our emergency response was tested.
We had a centre wide electrical emergency resulting in many electronics totally frying...
and this also started a house fire.

Our worst case scenario has always been a house fire where we couldn't save the surrounding houses.
Ironically much of our fire team was doing morning devotions at the time of the break out.

-The family all survived.
-No one on the fire team was hurt, and the family's dad only suffered some burns. They looked bad, but he'll survive them.
-The fire team did well, considering our limitations.

My manager of course wishes to talk about emergency protocol, as during a crisis he lost 3 of his men. But the reality is,

when you have strong capable men, doing more than 1 thing, in a crisis situation, his other roles will suffer. We're understaffed as a missions centre... And that's what happens. The electrical knocked out only a small portion of our network, so they were able to communicate to get the medivac going.... and now I've gotten it up and running again.

I'm still processing this whole thing... if anyone snapped a photo of it, I'll send it your way.

Please keep the family in prayer who lost their house. Our community will provide for them, but it is simply a very horrible way to end a 22 year stay here.

Please keep OUR family in prayer.
It has been the toughest few months of our lives here. There have been security concerns, tensions in the valley, and now, a house fire. We're very much looking forward to furlough... days like today with multiple emergencies make me realize exactly how important our presence here is.

It affects the community on such a deep level, hoards of people turned out to respond and help... and pray and comfort and carry belongings, arrange a medivac flight, save belongings, etc. etc. etc.

Pray for their healing, for our safety...
Just cover us in prayer.

thank you

We'll be dealing with the aftermath of this for weeks.... but God has protected us this day from lasting physical harm. You

can pray for the emotional harm that has been done.

it's been several days since I wrote that.
I responded to another house fire alert on the weekend but it turned out to be a kid playing with gas.. no fire was ignited.

I have a healthy new respect (always had one) for firefighters and police men. Thank you for what you do.


The old Juices

today our phone system, an old PBX system had 2 cards die.
We could only come up with 1 replacement card.

But none of us had the training on the system, because the man who has owned it for many years, has left on furlough.

My troubleshooting experience kicked in from working at Cisco with high profile clients.

-when you don't know how to solve the problem, identify who does
-locate them, get them on the phone

well that's easier said than done with the issue is WITH THE PHONE SYSTEM and you have no idea where in the world this travelling furlougher is.

So I began making emails and calls, one thing let to another and I found the person staying at their mother in laws in Australia.

I got them on the phone, after about 15 minutes of troubleshooting with a co-worker we hit a dead point.

We tried everything, 2 lines cards were dead, we only had 1 spare line card, that's 32 phones out of order. 32 homes that can't talk to the outside world.... 32 families who may be needing to desperately talk to loved ones.

The experienced phone tech got to a point where he said 'this has never happened to me before, I'm not sure what to do next.'

So we were all quiet. The problem seemed to be moving, and following the chassis, so we were in a world of hurt, and I dunno why but using my old thinking from Cisco boards I said,

'let's take the good board and try replacing the other board we think is good.'
it was really the only logical thing left to try but it really shouldn't have worked.

Low and behold it DID work.
It worked because the replacement card was the wrong model number and 3 techs didn't notice it. It took a tech who completely had ZERO experience on the system to see the subtle change.

AGAIN, during times when things are broken, and I surprise myself by being useful... in a way I had not previously thought myself skilled... re-assures me that.

GOD has sent us here for a reason. US, chosen us to be here.

It's remarkable really these last few days God has spent some time re-confirming us here, and reminding us that while life may be getting tough, HE has put us here, specifically us.

it's a remarkable reassurance that we really needed right now.


Fire info

in a few minutes there will be a public posting about a house fire in Ukarumpa.
We're asked not to say anything publicly about this other than the below statement.
I wanted you to know that it wasn't our house, and we are fine and safe, in case your googling happened to turn up more information.

PLEASE do not start forwarding this around and asking others if they know about it.... as it'll cause a problem since we're not sure if one of the family members affected knows yet (he's away at college).

Still I wanted you to know quickly, that we're safe and sound and that it wasn't us. FULL details to follow at a later date when the ban on information has been lifted once they know their son has gotten the news.



This morning (Thursday 25 March) a fire broke out in the house of one of
the members of SIL-PNG, likely caused by an electrical fault. The fire
gutted the house, destroying many personal belongings. The limited
Fire Services that SIL has did manage to put the fire out, with the
structure still standing. However, the husband received significant
burn injuries and was medevaced (medivaced) to Cairns, Australia,
accompanied by his wife. One of the two sons has a minor burn and is
being cared for by medical staff and friends at Ukarumpa.

Please pray for physical and emotional healing for the family and
friends. Please uphold the community in prayer. A number of stressful
things (other medevacs and security incidents) have been happening


Da Bridge

Does it seem to you that I write about bridges a lot? This pic tells the story. A big rig was trying to cross a bridge that had been temporarily put back together after a big washout, and while crossing it, the bridge collapsed. No one was hurt, the driver was not associated with our organization.

This bridge is located half way between us and a major town 2 hours away, and has an airport. Until it gets repaired, we can't get there.


Satellite Interference

I thought I might share a brief story that exemplifies some of the excitement of working here.

For 3 weeks now we've been having a very odd internet connection problem, our outbound traffic has crawled to a near halt. I was convinced it was a problem with our new ISP as I didn't change anything. Our ISP representative is a man in Australia whom I communicate with over IM (skype). I mentioned the problem, he didn't see one and suggested I look at our router.

My style of network management is all about data collection. When I came here there was very little network monitoring being done. For nearly 3 years now, we've had several (5) network monitoring tools in place. They are:

Solarwinds Orion - snmp monitoring and uptime
PRTG (Paessler) - network sniffing and graphing
Firewall Analyzer (openmanage) - firewall analysis and traffic information
MRTG - firewall/router ingress and egress graphing and tracking
Big Brother - server uptime and monitoring.

Those are all outside of the other one off troubleshooting tools like netperf, iperf, perfmon, netcat, etc. that I use to identify issues.

Needless to say, WE HAVE VISIBILITY. So when an ISP tells me the problem is on my side, I tend to push back a little and say 'would you like to see my evidence I've compiled?'

Anyway, last friday we find out that our ISP guy is in the country, so we call aviation, and the guest house and we hustle him over here by chartering a plane.

YES, a new FIRST for me. I have now.. chartered a plane! Doesn't it sound so... luxurious? In execution, not very glamorous but he got here nothing short of a minor miracle.. but we did it, and he had a bed to sleep in and meals!

After sitting down with me for 3 hours, he finally said 'yes there is a problem, I can see it now.' I'm always glad when people spend time with me and walk away with the impression that I know what I'm doing. I'm usually VERY glad when they say 'hey nice tool, what is the name of that?' Both happened.

It is odd to run into professionalism and face to face time here, so I was glad we had it.

Two days later, after he's in Australia, he IM's me. 'You were right about the ISP, turns out there is satellite interference.'

Somewhere, someone is broadcasting at a frequency and strong enough, to interfere with Asiasat. So they're tracking that down now... hopefully we'll come to a resolution.

And all it started with a friday where I came to work and said 'wow this might be a quiet day! I might finish my 'to-do' list!' Then we decided to try and charter a plane very last minute and get the guy over here.

Everyone here knows, you NEVER EVER EVER EVER say 'wow looks like it might be a quiet day!'.

I have to say, this job is definitely exciting.


Interesting Day

I would like to share something very close and personal.
This weekend has been a hard weekend with different news and things going on. This morning as I spent time in the Word I was in Acts and dwelling on how the Disciples often went somewhere, preached, did their work and then were often rejected... after that they'd leave and move on.

But that wasn't all. In my work devotions the group was reading the section of Mark where Christ says to shake the dust off your sandals. In Tok Pisin it tends to convey a bit of a different emotion, but the idea was... if the people are misbehaving and rejecting God, move on.

So I stopped and prayed "Hey God, I know it was a tough week, but are you trying to tell me something in your Word today? Are you really telling me to consider moving on?"

I'm thinking to myself 'wow leaving here and tearing away would hurt a lot, what about our new friends?"

And then, within a minute or two, my wife said '"hey honey today I read Psalm 52, you should read it" Not knowing my private prayer to God.

The final verse of Psalm 52 says this: (David writes this while hiding after his hiding place has been reported to Saul)

9 I thank you always
that you went into action.
And I'll stay right here,
your good name my hope,
in company with your faithful friends.

It was almost as if God immediately gave me reassurance and strength through His Word.

It is amazing to me how the Word of God can speak to us, and how He can time things so that we get just the right portion at just the right time.

PLEASE pray for us and strength until Furlough.
Also we would like a car for furlough, pray that God arranges one.

thank you


Alice's Picks

For those unaware, Alice is our Papua New Guinean friend. She understands the idea of films and enjoys watching them. From time to time she watches one and gives me a review. Somehow we have developed this rapport where she tells me her reviews.

The funnest part for me, is to see how her eyes interpret the films. We are careful in what we show her, so we usually stick to children's movies.

See if you can guess what movie she's talking about. I always have to guess. I thought at first this one was Looney Tunes.

(translated from Tok Pisin)

This rat and cow and sheep and goat and pig all live in the same place. The mother wanted to kill the pig but her daughter said no. So the daughter took care of the pig. The cow and the sheep and all the animals talked, and then a spider came. How the cow and the sheep could talk to the pig I don't know. But.... it was a funny one!

Charlotte's Web (live action version)

The part I love the most is that she focused on the relationship between the animals and the speaking wasn't the hard part for her, it was how the animals knew each other's languages that was of concern to her. I found that very funny and interesting... being that this is the land of MANY languages.



My daughter comes home yesterday and begins shouting every word she says.

Me: 'Sydney, stop shouting'
Syd: 'I can't dad, it's my homework'
Me: 'what?'
Syd: 'You wouldn't want to tell me not to do my homework right?'
Me: 'your homework is shouting?'
Syd: 'yes.'
Me: 'explain please.'
Syd: 'Miss H.... said that to practice for chapel some of us are too quiet and we need to shout everything we say at home'
Me: 'and you're one of the quiet ones?'
Syd: 'she says so, yes. So I can't stop shouting dad'

at this point my wife is tired and I'm tired, and the day is ending and the shouting needs to stop so I say

ME: 'Did she say how long you had to shout?'
Syd: 'Nope, jsut that we had to shout, don't you believe me?'
Me: 'I believe that your teacher who doesn't have children of her own, assigned her students to shout at home, yes. But seeing as how she didn't say for how long, let me officially call this homework assignment complete. You may now stop shouting'

She instantly stopped shouting and said 'hmmn. okay dad'. And went to practice her trumpet.

For a moment there I could have easily caused a dillemma for my daughter, telling her to ignore her teacher would have been a bad mistake. Her teacher is a good one, and sadly only short term here (6 months), so I definitely didn't want to express that I wasn't happy with the shouting homework.

But... I wasn't happy with the shouting homework (-;

Syd does tend to be a bit quiet while on a stage.

Calvin, my son sad 'hey dad whatcha watchin'? I said 'mythbusters' He said, 'can I watch'

So we're watching mythbusters and I had a proud geek-dad moment....
the t.v. said 'we're going to ramp this up to 100 PSI'
and my son excitingly exclaimed '' WOAH!!!!''

yes, my son understand what PSI is. We've played a lot with using air to launch rockets here as we can't get rocket engines. So we've been using compressed air and water as a propellant... and even jsut air. (we currently have built 2 rocket launchers, and am considering a third compressed air application)

Following the Tug

Pardon me for a bit while I exposit on some personal philosophy that may or may not be 100% accurate.

I had a thought that sort of amazed me and I thought I might share it.

I had this board, about 1 foot by 1 foot square board. I had wanted to make a shelf a while ago, and I went into my shed out back and found a board, didn't even cut it, took it inside and it almost fit my desired shelf perfectly. But didn't.

So I leaned it up against the wall in my office, and there it sat.

Every time I looked at this board. Already finished with an exterior finish, I thought 'I should put that board back in the shed'. I don't know who cut it or who finished it, but it was in my shed.... probably left there by the previous owner.

Months went by and I hadn't done the simple task of bringing the board into my shed. It wasn't in the way, and therefore not in my thoughts.

This week I am performing (playing banjo for 2 minutes)a small part in a school play, as part of the side entertainment. Part of my job is to stand out back on a deck and wait until my turn to go on stage. Last night as I stood there, the deck gave way and my foot went through and broke one of the boards.

I felt bad, but not for long, the deck was in disrepair. Later that night I thought 'what if a high schooler in the play is running backstage and hits that hole and gets injured?' I felt a desire to repair the hole, but no time to do it.

This morning I was in my office at home... I had that tug... to repair the hole, but I thought 'first I have to find a board, finish it so it doesn't rot in the rain in 3 weeks, get a drill, screws...' There was no time as I had to get to work.

Then I saw the board.

The tug on my heart was to fix the hole.

The board lying there made it easy... I grabbed the board, and my tools that were sitting there in my office, and it took me all of 5 minutes to repair the hole.

Now I'm not saying God was in all of this. Although I believe He directs our paths. And I'm not saying that had I not repaired the hole that some high schooler during the play might have a nasty fall and break a limb. I'm not trying to make this a spiritual 'God told me to repair the hole' situation. I've received God's direction before and this wasn't it.

But some thoughts hit me as a parallel between that board story and why my family is here doing the work we do.

-God provided the tug to do something.
-We followed
-God provided the tools to make it possible

God knew I would one day put a hole in that deck, and there was a board there making it possible for me to follow the little nagging feeling that I should go fix that hole.

If the board wasn't there, I wouldn't have gone, because I wouldn't have had the visual reminder, nor the time.

I believe that if you spend time with God, reading His Word, listening to Him, that you need to develop the discipline to listen when He guides you. Sometimes it's a little tug that says 'hey go do this'... and you know it's the right thing to do.

-God put a pull on our heart to come here
-We said 'yes' not knowing how it might work out.
-He provided the financial means through you.

You guys are the board. A good solid place to put our feet, without falling through.

Okay so it seems sappy, but hey, sometimes life serves you up sappy moments.


Good news

well last week I was saddened by the fact that we were incapable of retrieving months of typesetting work for one of the New Testaments.

I was really depressed, if anything, isn't that what I'm hear to prevent?

BUT TODAY with some new ideas and teamwork, a co-worker of mine and I got the files back!

No thanks to windows offline folders! ...

I'm currently working on a policy to disable offline folders forever.

Still, it felt really good to be able to pool our brains and solve this issue for someone who is now very happy!


Coming Home #1

I thought I might start a little series on 'Coming Home'. This is to sort of catalog the process of furlough for missionaries.

It is a very stressful time. Not only do you have to completely move out of your house for a long duration, but you have to handle all the details equivalent of a major trip. Prepare your kids for transition, figure out schooling.... there are MANY details.

FIRST and foremost. Furlough is not a vacation. We still have to work. We still have to do our jobs. Furlough is a chance for us to go to a place where we can get caught up on our medical needs, clothing needs, visit with people who support us and tell them what we are doing, and more.

As one missionary friend put it 'you trade one set of problems for a different set'.

It is a LOT of work to go on furlough and many people find it a stressful time. You can pray for us in this, because yes, we are feeling the stress.

-Tickets and Visas.
Our flights will take us through Australia and New Zealand and thus we need to book lodging and apply for Visas.

Flights - Adult - $2956, Children $2218
That's only for the MEAT of the flight, it doesn't count the cost of getting us out of country.

To leave PNG it's another $500-$600 per.

FARE for CAIRNS, AUStralia to San Francisco, CA total for family of 4 = $12,348

EACH time we fly home I think 'there goes the kids college tuition.' This year they did away with the pre-tax savings for furlough... which meant that the government didn't get to tax that money.... this is now gone.

So, we put away a little each month... to save for this trip.

Financially as we arrive to the U.S. we will have a complete zero balance. WE won't be in debt to anyone or any branch. But we will also have no money in savings or in the bank. We have played around with the idea of not going on furlough, but in order to be long term missionaries, you really do need this mental health break, and we were advised not to skip it.

Part of this life is adapting to financial dependence on God to provide. And we do, we have depended on all of you for so long and we are SO thankful for you. I do not know how you will ever know that level of gratitude that we feel. It's truly a blessing to know you.