Monday, June 29, 2009

High court ruling on firefighter reverse discrimination suit

This is a big deal. This issue has been debated back and forth for years now amongst my firefighter and his co-workers. It amazes me how deeply politics can influence something as important as saving life and property--something that I would hope would be based solely on merit. It's one thing to let factors other than sheer ability to do the job influence a hiring decision for a job as a file clerk; it's quite another issue when the job in question is one where people's lives are literally at stake. I hope that whoever it is that comes to rescue me on my horribly bad day is the most qualified person possible, regardless of any other factors.

Now--how we go about making a qualified person--that is where there's room for political influence, as needed.

For the record, the chief of my firefighter's department is a minority--a highly qualified, brilliant person who got the job because he earned it. Most firefighters I know want to earn the job and work hard to keep it, and are not looking for favoritism.

Here's an article from USA Today about it:

High court firefighter ruling draws cheers, jeers


By Kathy Kiely and Steve Marshall, USA TODAY

Almost quicker than a fire engine rushes to its next call, special-interest groups and politicians weighed in on the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that New Haven, Conn., violated white firefighters' rights in a promotional exam.

Those with views leaning toward the right commended the court decision; those with liberal views decried the ruling.

On the conservative side, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the court made the right decision. "In the 21st century, race discrimination requires more justification than the fear of being sued," Hatch said.

Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow at the Center for Constitutional Studies and editor in chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, called the decision a blockbuster. "The court reached the correct result: The government can't make employment decisions based on race. While the city's desire to get more blacks into leadership positions at the fire department is commendable, it cannot pursue this goal by denying promotions simply because those who earned them happen to have an inconvenient skin color."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, another member of the Judiciary Committee, said, "Today's decision is a victory for evenhanded application of the law. … The Supreme Court saw the case for what it is: a 'race-based decision' that violates federal law. And while the justices divided on the outcome, all nine justices were critical of the trial court opinion that Judge Sotomayor endorsed."

The Supreme Court's decision reverses a lower court decision that had been joined by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

On the other side, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the decision interprets the 40-year-old law barring workplace discrimination in a way never intended by Congress.

"Today's narrow decision is likely to result in cutbacks on important protections for American families. It is less likely now that employers will conscientiously try to fulfill their obligations under this time-honored civil rights law. This is a cramped decision that threatens to erode these protections and to harm the efforts of state and local governments that want to build the most qualified workforces."

The liberal group People for the American Way agreed: "The court's ruling severely limits the ability of governments and private corporations to create a diverse workforce."

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the high court's ruling should not hurt Sotomayor's chances for confirmation.

Schumer noted that the majority set new standards for finding employment discrimination and did not suggest that the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, on which Sotomayor sits, was outside the mainstream. "Judge Sotomayor followed the rules that were in place at the time she heard the case," Schumer said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Firehouse Recipe - Glazed Lemon Muffins

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Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe:

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. lemon yogurt or buttermilk. (You can substitute the buttermilk with nearly 1/2 c. whole milk, brought up to the 1/2 cup mark with vinegar. This will produce the equivalent of buttermilk.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs

Glaze:
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

-Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
-In a separate bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar.
-Mix 2 eggs, the buttermilk, the zest and juice of one lemon, and 1 tsp. vanilla into the butter mixture to form a batter.
-Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the batter.

Either use liners, or butter and flour the tin (or use that fancy new baking spray that both butters and flours!) Fill each tin half way with batter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 20 minutes and let cool before glazing. I bake for approximately 14 minutes when I make these in mini muffin form.

Glaze:
Whisk together the powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and the juice of the second lemon. Use more powdered sugar to create a thicker glaze if desired. Dab the glaze on top of the muffins and cool completely to set.

The glaze will soak into the top of the muffins to form a heavenly, lemon-y crust... mmmmm...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Story time - traffic collisions

Here's a sampling of some of the traffic collisions my firefighter gets called to. It's interesting to hear the story of the participants in the accidents, and how their vehicle ended up on the side of the road.

As told by my firefighter...


Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

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Our shift change is at 8:00 in the morning. We usually try to get to work early so that if a call goes out close to shift change the oncoming crew can take it allowing the other crew to go home. So at 7:30 a.m. this morning there was a mixed crew here. The tones went off for a traffic collision (TC) on the grade. Five of us got dressed and jumped in the engine and rolled for the call. If it sounds like a fun call the crew that is ending their shift will usually decide to run it.

We pull up on scene to find a bystander parked by the guard railing and an old woman walking in the brush. On further inspection we see a pickup truck way off in the distance in the brush. We look at the guard rail but it is completely intact. Turns out that she had misjudged the turn and went off the side of the road about a quarter mile back up the highway. She then plummeted several feet and landed in the riverbed, never hitting the brakes. She and her husband (who is legally blind...what a ride that must have been) then drove for about a quarter of a mile down the dry river bed bouncing over brush and piles of dirt 4 feet high. She finally came to a rest on the far side of the river bed.

When all was said and done, he was upset at her for wrecking their truck and was letting her know that he would never ride with her again. Both of them denied any treatment and signed out against medical advice (AMA). We helped them hike back up to the roadside where we let them sit in the back of a police car awaiting a family member to come pick them up.

She drove full speed down this dry riverbed.

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That's her dark pickup truck off in the distance. We popped her hood open to disconnect the battery. The truck was in surprisingly good shape for all the off roading that it just went through.



A Knock at the Door

At about 7:00 in the evening on a Saturday we were cleaning up after a large dinner when we received an excited knock on the front door. The person at the door informed us that there was a nasty crash up the highway (I have no idea why people knock on the door at the station instead of using 911 - this wasn't the first time). As we got into our turnouts, our fire marshal (5202 on the radio) ran ahead in his vehicle to give us a scene size up. I was skeptical about how good (or bad, depends on your perspective) this call was going to be. We then heard 5202 come over the radio again, "Dispatch, 5202, we have a two vehicle TC with one occupant needing extrication. Dispatch, please start the state engine. Medic Engine 461 (that's us!) starting triage will advise." Then I knew that it was going to be a serious call. We asked dispatch for an ETA on Mercy (Mercy Air is our local helicopter transport) and got an ETA of about 25 minutes. 5202 came back on the radio, "Medic Engine 461 from 5202, we have two patients, one immediate and one delayed. Pull up to the white pick up for extrication."

As we pulled up we saw that the entire front driver's side of a Ford Ranger was destroyed and that our patient was sitting there with a deformed left arm dangling out the window. At this point we asked for Mercy to start for our location since we were anticipating a long extrication time. A rapid assessment showed that he was alert and oriented - and inebriated. His only complaint was his left arm and he swore that he could climb out of the vehicle. We convinced the driver (I'm not saying how) that it was in his best interest to sit there and to let us do our thing. He stated that he was wearing his seat belt (that and his airbag saved his life) and that he did not lose consciousness. He also stated that he had no medical problems, no allergies and takes no medications. After 10 minutes we had him out of the truck and strapped to the backboard. Once out of the vehicle a good secondary assessment showed that he had a left femur fracture. He wasn't going to be climbing anywhere. As I was sticking him with an IV, the ambulance showed up. Since we already had him ready to go we canceled the helicopter and let the ambulance take him to the trauma center. I gave them a quick report and sent them on their way.


Vehicle Rollover

At about 10:30 on a Saturday night we got a call for a single vehicle rollover. Dispatch also informed us that the driver had self extricated which usually means it's a non injury accident. We arrived on scene to find a car its side precariously balanced. The driver was a 20 year old male and he was intoxicated. We checked him out and he was alright. He had a small scratch on his head but that was all. He informed us that he did not want to go to the hospital. At this point the fire marshal told his mom (who had just arrived on scene) that if the kid didn't go to the hospital that he would be going to jail. Amazing, the kid decided to go to the hospital. That meant more paper work for me. The police showed up, had him take a breathalyzer test (blew a 0.162) and arrested him for DUI. The then released him to us. As we put him on a backboard a bottle of beer fell out of his pocket. Sure, he wasn't drinking. After sending him to the hospital we had to sit around and make sure everything was safe with the vehicle. It was dripping a little bit of fuel so we pulled a hose line and waited for the tow truck. Once he got there we watched as he unsuccessfully tried to upright the vehicle without rolling it onto its roof. It was fun to watch.

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The driver crawled out his window. He's lucky that the car didn't roll on top of him.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Marriage

This weekend my firefighter finished his 16 week academy training. I have looked forward to the moment when I would pin a badge on him for many years now (they never did a swearing in ceremony for the department he worked for last year). It felt like I was giving him away. He took a vow and officially got married to his job.

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Welcome to the family, citizens that my firefighter serves! It's an honor to give my husband away to you. All I ask is that you allow him to return home in one piece at the end of his shift.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fighting

Today my firefighter and I had a fight. I guess not really a fight, so much as frustration with a problem that we just can't seem to find the time to discuss and resolve properly. That's one thing I don't like about this job - it takes precedence over things like talking through problems.

I was driving to the store, feeling down, frustrated, and a little bit bitter toward my firefighter, when I saw the telltale sign of an accident ahead - the flashing red lights of a fire engine mixed with the blue lights of a cop car. I slowed down to give the guys working the scene as much room and safety as possible. As I approached the accident, I saw a group of young people standing on the grass. They were clearly worried, huddling together with their hands and arms drawn inward and toward their faces as if to keep their feelings from falling apart.

They were all looking at the same spot. It was hard not to look at that spot. All of the colored lights were the equivalent of a huge flashing Vegas arrow sign, pointing toward one brightly lit center of the back of an ambulance. And in the middle of this glowing square of light was a paramedic working on a patient. I looked wide-eyed at the motorcycle that had crashed. I watched the medic along with everyone else, bent and worried over the patient. I watched the muscles in his tan forearms work with precision and speed as silver glints reflected off of his badge with the movement. In that moment, that medic was a saint who had come to the rescue; one literally shining spot of hope in the midst of someone's really crappy evening.

As I continued on my way to my completely mundane task of going shopping, I kept thinking - who, in their right mind, looks at that guy and thinks "ugh - why were you such a jerk today"? How do you--how do I separate the rescuer from the completely fallible person underneath? That's one thing that Denis Leary got right - the dichotomy between hero and painfully human.

I feel like I need to apologize to society for ever harboring negative feelings toward someone who is that medic in the back of the ambulance, concerned about the outcome of his patient. I am truly sorry. But sometimes he can be so frustrating and such a... a... GUY!!

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(Not to worry, my firefighter and I will get a chance to talk in a bit and we'll be back to the complete bliss part of our life together in no time. It's just your standard married-for-ten-years-with-three-kids-and-guests-staying-in-the-house-on-top-of-a-stressful-week stuff.)

Patient Rights

When you call 911 for a medical emergency, you have a few rights when the ambulance shows up.

- You have the right to refuse treatment, if you're in your right mind and not a minor.

- You have the right to be treated on scene, but refuse transport.

- You have the right to call 911 and ask to be transported to a hospital for something as minor as, say, a mosquito bite (this actually happened). They will take you.

- You also have the right to ask to go to the hospital of your choosing. Assuming that the hospital is open to receiving patients and is reasonably close, you have the right to request a facility that is further away.

Doing so could mean the difference between life,

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and death.

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(That first one was a room-service style, order any time, chocolate shakes on demand meal I got when I gave birth to my youngest. I have fond memories of that hospital stay...)

***Listen to the medic if he is telling you that your condition is serious enough to go to the closest hospital, crappy food or not.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Firehouse Recipe - Sweet and Tangy Pork Roast

Here's a simple, tasty sauce for a pork roast. It's got a nice little kick to it. (PW style, again.)

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Ingredients:

Rub:
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp chili powder

Baste:
1/2 c. currant jelly (or a similarly tart jelly)
1/2 c. ketchup
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp more chili powder

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Begin by mincing 2 cloves of garlic and mixing it with 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Rub the mixture onto the surface of a pork roast.

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To prepare the baste, measure out 1/2 cup ketchup. Plop some jelly in there to bring the mixture up to the 1 cup mark.

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The recipe calls for currant jelly, but the day I went to the store to make this recipe, the currant jelly was $10, while the plum preserves were only $3.50. So, plum won out that day. I couldn't bring myself to spend that much money on one little tiny jar of single-use jelly! Anyway...

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Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder and the vinegar to the ketchup mixture and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently.

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Reserve 2/3 c. of the sauce to serve with the roast. With the remaining third, baste the roast liberally before and during cooking. Cook at 350°. The roast should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°, or about 25 minutes per pound.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trying to get a smile out of my littlest one...

My 2 month old has recently started smiling. At the request of my mother (and when mom asks you to do something - you do it - at least, that's what I tell my daughter), I've been attempting to capture a close-up of this momentous occasion on film. Well, at least, on memory card. But every time I get close enough with the camera, this is what I get:

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"Ooooh... shiny...."

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I've got a bunch of these shots.

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Hundreds.

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From various angles,

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on various days.

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(Because what better things do I have to do with my time than master the art of being a quick draw with the camera and the auto focus?)

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Oooh - getting closer...

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closer...

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Gotcha!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Karma

The joke goes:

What do cops and firefighters have in common?

They all wanted to be firefighters.

They rib each other, but there's often a good camaraderie between firefighters and cops, especially those who work in the same area. The guys at the fire station would invite the officers on duty over for dinner, or let them use their facilities since cops don't have a station to hang around in like firefighters do. It was a professional courtesy and a chance to swap stories.

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One morning, my firefighter had just completed his 72 hour shift. He was tired and excited to be going home. At the start of the 100 mile trip back home is a hill, with a reduced speed limit. At the base of the hill, the speed limit increases. As he approached the base of the hill, he saw the speed increase sign and sped up. Apparently he sped up a little too soon and an officer pulled him over. She was new and the two didn't know each other. Although, he was wearing his uniform, so she knew he was a firefighter in her area.

My firefighter got a ticket, which he deserved.

However, this was not just any ticket, but one that would require him to make a court appearance. Not only did she base it on the slower speed limit, but she didn't have an exact measurement of his speed and she put it down as just over the limit that requires an appearance before a judge. My firefighter just grinned and bore it.

There's another reason why cops and firefighters try to stay on good terms when they work the same area.

Guess what happened a few weeks later? As told by my firefighter...

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Officer Involved Traffic Collision

There are certain calls that make us hurry just a little bit more. We got toned out for an officer involved traffic collision. Since we know most of the CHP officers and Sheriffs deputies in the area we really hurried. As we approached the scene, traffic going our direction was backing up. That's never a good sign (at least not for the people involved). As we pulled up we could see that one CHP unit had been involved in a traffic collision and that there was another on scene. There were also several more coming down the grade.

Once on scene I spotted someone laying on the side of the road with a CHP officer attending to them. As I approached the officer I recognized her as the one who had given me the ticket. She told me that she had been driving the cruiser that had been involved in the accident. I quickly checked her out and she was OK. The man laying on the ground was complaining of severe head pain. He also had a tender abdomen and pain in his pelvis. We put him in a cervical collar and onto a backboard.

It appears that the CHP officer flipped a U-Turn to go east bound from the shoulder into the center lane and that she didn't see is that there was a minivan driving west bound in the number one lane. The two vehicles hit on the driver's side almost head on.

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She was ok, she just had some sore muscles. That's two rookie mistakes she made.

First of all, she crashed her cruiser into another vehicle.

Second, it's probably not a good idea to tick off the paramedic who is going to be treating you when you're involved in an accident!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oooh la la!

How about a little somethin' to brighten your Thursday? What's a firefighter blog without the occasional calendar guy?

Meet 2008's Mr. September, firefighter Danny Glessner of Carlsbad, CA station No. 1. Go ahead, share him with your friends - remember, we're doing this for charity!

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"Why hello there, Danny... oh, don't mind me, just keep carrying that chainsaw..."

(Never mind the fact that he's carrying his chainsaw incorrectly.)

-

Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm going to gaze at something TRULY sexy...

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

So what REALLY goes on at the fire station?

It's a world shrouded in mystery - a mystery which I'm about to unveil. What do these guys (and gals) do in their free time? The answer??

Behave like boys.

Here are some of the pictures of station life that have made their way to my computer. They:

lounge around after dinner,
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watch movies,
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play games,
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they train (and assume the training stance - hands on suspenders, feet apart),
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Thoroughly enjoy practical jokes (that's melted marshmallows in those boots),
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freeze things,
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make the probie pick up dog poop (this poor probie, he put up with a lot - he was a good sport),
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taunt each other,
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break the furniture,
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they... oh goodness... I don't want to know...
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But here, folks, are the most deeply held secrets about life at the fire station...


These guys COOK!!
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AND CLEAN!!
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(at least, the probie cleans.)

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They do these things on a regular basis - and they do it with a smile!

But when it comes down to it, they're still just a bunch of goofballs.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Over dinner

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In-n-Out, Mountain Dew, and a lesson on trench shoring and rescue. Yep, sounds about right for an evening around here. Although usually, I get lessons on heart rhythms over dinner. Or venting a roof. It's an odd job that requires one to know how to read an EKG AND how to use hand tools to tear up a roof. Brains and brawn. No wonder firefighters are so sexy!

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For those of you who are sitting at your computer, just dying to know how to shore up a trench safely, here's the visual that my firefighter drew for me during my lesson:

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For those of you who are NOT dying to know how to shore up a trench, don't worry - a trench doesn't need to be shored up if it's less than 5 feet deep. Phew.

Happy digging!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Speaking of wildfire - arsonist sentenced to death

Wow. I'm glad that the judicial system is taking arson - especially when it comes to wildfire - so seriously. That's my husband, and the husbands, wives, siblings, children, and parents of thousands more, that people like this man are putting at risk. I can't believe this guy set one of the fires so he could break his dog out of the pound!!

This picture of a burned over fire vehicle, from the LA Times, sends shivers down my spine.
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(Gina Ferazzi / LAT)

From The New York Times:

Arsonist Sentenced to Death for Killing 5 Firefighters

By REBECCA CATHCART
Published: June 5, 2009

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California man was sentenced to death on Friday for setting a hillside inferno in 2006 that killed five United States Forest Service firefighters.

The penalty had been recommended by the jury that convicted the man, Raymond Lee Oyler, 38, of murder and arson in March.

In imposing the sentence, Judge W. Charles Morgan of the Superior Court in Riverside County said that Mr. Oyler had “set on a mission — why? no one knows — to create havoc in this county by setting fires of his own design, for his own purpose.”

Judge Morgan added, “He knew young men and young women would put their lives on the line to protect property and people.”

Mr. Oyler remained silent and stared straight ahead as the judge announced the sentence.

Federal and state fire officials said they believed this was the first time the death penalty had been given in a wildfire arson case in which firefighters were killed.

A jury on March 6 convicted Mr. Oyler of 5 counts of first-degree murder, 17 counts of using an incendiary device and 20 counts of arson for setting fires in the mountains of the San Gorgonio Pass, 90 miles east of Los Angeles, over six months in 2006.

The evidence included fire-starting contraptions Mr. Oyler had made of cigarettes and matches, DNA samples on two cigarette butts, and accounts from witnesses, prosecutors said. Mr. Oyler denied setting the blaze that killed the firefighters, although he did admit to starting 11 other fires, Mark McDonald, his lawyer, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. McDonald said Mr. Oyler had told him that he started one fire as a distraction to “break his dog out of the pound,” and set the others out of anger for losing custody of one of his three daughters because of his methamphetamine use.

On Oct. 26, 2006, forest service firefighters joined Riverside County crews already battling a large blaze, known as the Esperanza fire, as Santa Ana winds spread flames over slopes and canyons. While defending an isolated hilltop home, the five victims were caught in a “burn over,” according to testimony by fire investigators. A wall of flames 70 feet high, fed by 40 mile-an-hour winds and temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees, rolled over them.

Three firefighters — Jess McLean, 27; Jason McKay, 27; and Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20 — died on the slope. Two others — Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, 43; and Pablo Cerda, 23 — died later at a hospital with scorched lungs and third-degree burns over most of their bodies.

It was the most firefighters to die in a wildfire since 14 died in Colorado in 1994, said Ken Palmrose, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho,

During the trial, prosecutors showed large photographs of the men’s charred bodies, said Gloria Ayala, Mr. Hoover-Najera’s mother.

“I had been told he died of smoke inhalation,” Ms. Ayala said in an interview, “that it took 11 seconds. But when I saw that picture, the only part left with a flesh color was the tip of his nose. I will remember that forever.”
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