Blog: No such thing as 'off-duty' firefighters, police

10:14 PM, Apr 11, 2013   |    comments
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I hear it all the time -- off-duty police officer, off-duty firefighter. Let me tell you, there is no such thing.

Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, doctors, nurses...the list goes on and on. Like the lines from the movie "The January Man: and "Ladder 49,"  firefighters run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out.

That takes courage, something that you have, not something that you turn on and off. You either have it, or you don't.

How many times have you heard about the "off-duty" police officer who helped catch a criminal running from the scene of the crime?

Or about the nurse coming home from the grocery store who stopped at a car accident and helped treat the victims before paramedics arrived?

What brings this to mind is the report Thursday of a Pasadena, California Fire Captain/Paramedic named Art Hurtado, who happened to be going into a West Covina Home Depot.  

Hurtado, 51, a 21-year-veteran firefighter, had stopped by the store with his wife to pick up material to replace the trim on his daughter's house. He saw police cars and went inside, identified himself to a store employee, and saw officers standing by a man's body in a huge pool of blood.

He ended up using rope and cloths from the shelves to make a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding of the barely breathing man before West Covina paramedics arrived to take over.

"I'm not on duty, I don't have all the equipment that I normally have," Hurtado said Thursday. "I kind of MacGyver-ed it."

(I love that line. He has a sense of humor, apparently.)

It seems a man, who has not been identified yet, had walked into the store, grabbed several small saws, including one meant to cut drywall, and sawed his arms to the bone above his elbows. He's in intensive care at a local hospital now.

Now, Hurtado said it himself, that he wasn't on duty, but that was just to explain why he didn't have his equipment with him.

So what did Hurtado use? Rope and cloths from the Home Depot shelves to make a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding before West Covina paramedics arrived to take over.

"It's just things you do instinctively. I'm here to serve," he said. "Any one of my brothers and sisters in the department would have done the same thing."

Know that I am sure this is true of all the members of the safety forces, as well as many others.

This is not to say that the average civilian -- usually dubbed a "Good Samaritan" -- doesn't leap into action to help out at an accident or in precarious situations where help of some kind is needed.

But you never hear them described as, let's say, an "off-duty accountant" or an "off-duty Starbucks barista," as that would be silly.

But the one thing that binds them all together can be summed up in one word -- courage. As I said before, you either have it, or you don't.


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