Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Cable Song-"Who's gonna tell our stories when the story tellers gone"

You may remember a fellow by the name of David Carroll. He was the fellow that took on United Airlines after they dammaged-check that- broke his guitar. He went public after getting the run-a-round from the folks at United and struck back with his song and video "United Break Guitars".
Well David is back and this time this Troubadour of Maritime ilk is coming out in suport of LOCAL TELEVISION. You gotta like that, well at least I do.
So for your viewing pleasure may I present David Carroll and "The Cable Song".



Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer of Fire

We returned from our Kelowna deployment late Tuesday. Now we again find ourselves preparing Chopper 9 to go into yet another fire. Yes the fire season is firmly upon us. This time we are preparing to fly to the town of Lilooet British Columbia. A small fire there has grown to a large fire and evacuations could be imminant.

Word also this morning that a fire that we had flown on earlier this week near Terrace Mountain has grown to be a monster. There are now 2200 people in a nearby town on evacuation order. We still have crews on the ground in the area but the NOTAM has been modified to 12000 ft above and 5 mile around the fire.

The mission to Lilooet will not involve us overnighting at this point.
There is lightning in the forecast, this could be the mother of all fire seasons.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We're In!

Chopper 9 waits on the flightline with other helicopters at the Kelowna Airport

The call came shortly after 2PM.

"Murman, standby to copy frequency and code information"
The sound of the two-way startled me out of a daydream of happier times. I looked over at Guiv our pilot who suddenly came to life on his easy chair in the Pilots lounge at the Shell hangar.

"This is it, we're in." I said as I fumbled for my note pad to copy down the numbers. We had been waiting for a good part of the day waiting to gain access into the restricted airspace to gather tape of the fire areas being attacked from the sky.
Guiv climbs into Chopper 9 as we prepare to fly into the Fire zone.

We soon found ourselves in the air and heading into the fire zone.
There were a number of bucketing helicopters working the fire. We watched from our position above the firefighting helos.

I am working the FLIR camera and attempting to acquire targets to put to tape.

This is what we flew to Kelowna for, access into and around the fires. Up until now we have been relegated to the outer limits. As a guy who loves to get right in there, it was kind of difficult to be waiting for a call while the fire rages just a few miles away. But no matter we are in and now we can do what we came here to do - shoot directly above the fire.

A shot out my window as fly over the Glenrosa fire scene.

Mission accomplished.

Day 2 Kelowna Fires

We are now into day two. At least the smoke has cleared somewhat. We began the day with a full crew meeting to discuss and comeup with a game plan. We have a number of people here on the ground in Kelowna to cover these fires.

We are still working our forestry contacts to gain access into the restricted airspace. But for now we recon-ed all three fires from just outside the NOTAM restrictions.
It was a productive flight. We were able to get the first shots of the Terrace Mountain Fire. This fire is located about 20 miles to the northwest of Kelowna. This fire is not threatening any structures, but has produced most of the troublesome smoke that plagued flight operations yesterday.

This is a shot the Terrace Mountain Fire some 20 miles to the North of Kelowna.

Another shot as taken from my crew window of the Terrace Mountain Fire north of Kelowna. This non interface fire is producing most of the smoke in the Kelowna area and has ground crews observing its behaviour.

We continued to fly around the backside of it and headed to the backside of both Rose Valley and Glenrosa fires. Smoke on the back side was such that it made shooting from this position unfeasible.

This is a look from the east side of Lake Okanagan looking at the Glenrosa fire. This fire is an interface fire and has more than 11,000 people displace due to evacuation orders.

The flight was not a write off. We did return with shots of each fire location that will no doubt find their way to air during the cast this evening.

Hopefully we will have been able to get clearance to enter the fire zone at a reduce altitude and deliver some killer material for the team.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Wait

We have been on the ground making calls and attempting to coordinate with the Air Ops side of the Forestry Service.
With the fire less than 24 hours old we are understandably low in the priority que at the moment.

The current flight restrictions around the area are 7000ft and below to the south of the Kelowna Control Tower due to smoke and air operations around the fire. As you get closer to the fire sites themselves the NOTAM (Notice to AirMen) calls for a 5 miles radius with a 9000 ft altitude restriction.

A look at the fire activivity as we lift off from the Kelowna airport earlier this morning

At around 11:00 we did a recon flight with these restrictions. We were able to get some shots of fire activity from a distance at an altitude of 7000. When we attempted to go to the 9000 ft level, smoke and cloud made further shooting unfeasible. We returned to our base at the Kelowna Airport to again wait.

Another medium helicopter arrives for potential hire by Forestry to support Fire operations.

I have noticed a number of medium helicopters arriving in the past two hours. They are all here with buckets awaiting to be contracted by Forestry to provide air support over the fire. They too sit and play the waiting game.


This has been a flight week that can be described in one word - FIRE.

House fire, boat fires and as I sat down to a chicken BBQ with my son, the phone rang with word of another fire. This time of the forest variety and it is serious. The call was to prepare the deployment of Chopper 9 and her FLIR broadcast camera to Kelowna.
The last time I got a call like this for Kelowna was during the hot dry summer of 2003 when a wild fire ripped through the outer parts of town destroying hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars of dammage.

As we left at dawn to the fire zone, word of 12 homes already lost and thousands of people evacuated. The situation is very fluid at this moment and now that we have arrived we are awaiting further instructions.

The smoke rises into the horizon as we transit to Kelowna. This plume is from a second fire in the Kelowna area near the Rose Valley Dam.

A look from 8000 ft as we fly past the Glenrosa fire West Kelowna. This blaze was discovered on Saturday afternoon has already forced thousands to be evacuated and reports indicate as many as 12 structures have been destroyed.

A shot of the smoke lingering in the air as we fly into Kelowna

I shall attempt to keep updating with photos and give you an idea of what it is like to cover a wild fire from a news gathering helicopter.
But for now we wait.
For the most up to date information please go to the ctv web site by following the link and click on CTV British Columbia.

For now we sit and wait at the Kelowna airport until we coordinate with Fire Flight Operations.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Death from Above

After a much needed and restful vacation, I have returned back to the News Gathering fold with a double duty in the skies over Vancouver. Kinda nice really, flying the clear skies of summer. Now if only we could get ourselves a big story- err- big visual story.
My recent tours of duty in the clouds have produced very little in the "Big Story" catorgory. Instead I seemed to be doomed to flying minimum hours during our show and providing what we call in the business "bumper and weather alminac" shots for the broadcast. It can ware on "story hunter" like myself as over time you begin to feel like you have lost the edge or are just cursed.
But coming back from 3 weeks away from the grind, where I only gathered sand and sun, I had found new energy and enthusiam for what is is I do.

That said, Monday was like most, a couple of flights to check out potential calls that could yield what I had been yearning for. They turned out to be routine, nothing to write home about.
But it was on my flight on Tuesday during the show, I was to witness something that will stay with me for a long time.

We were over the PNE grounds in east Vancouver when my Blackberry began to vibrate wildly. Nodoubt Gregg, our ears on the desk, had something he wanted us to check out. Just as the device began to gyrate around the console, the two-way radio cracked with Gregg's voice asking me to check the message and head there asap.
It seems there had been a crash on the 99 near the 91 interchange. Usually these things are nothing more that shots of twisted wreckage and a line of motorists trying to get home to thier families. But this would be different.

It took us a bit longer than usual to get into the airspace over the scene because of a number of things, not the least of it being the location was next to a very busy airport at Boundry Bay.

I was able to survey the scene from a distance and see a medivac helicopter landing on the highway. I thought if nothing else the heli evacuating a victum will make this assignment visual.
Once granted direction into the airspace we took a position over the scene. I used my lens to get in close to assess what was hapening below.

It looked like two vehicles, both with heavy damage and EMT crews working feveroushly to free a trapped person. As I zoomed closer I could see the rescuers free the individual and place them onto a stretcher. The Paramedics working hard on this person. A flurry of activity and an immage of them administering CPR.

"This is bad" I said to our pilot. "They are doing chest compressions on the victim."
This was nothing that any photog worth his time has not seen before. I too was no different, I had over the years seen many scenes like this unfold before my lens. Each one of them was personal. But somehow being at 1500ft somehow makes covering scenes like this impersonal, clinical, detached. Bomber crews from the 40's describe this same detachment from thier enemy.

"We are coming to you in 30 seconds" a voice belonging to Jimmy our man back at CTV Control.
I widen out slightly so as not to reveal a licence plate number or something that could potentially cause this person's family (if they were watching) to identify thier loved one.

The scene was very desperate below. A team of skilled people doing everything to save a life.

They came to us and I slowly zoomed into the scene. Not too close, but close enough to see the drama unfold.
Suddenly my headset rings with Jimmy's voice, "Clear!"

Now we were off the air and as we repositioned the aircraft and my lens left the scene below, an other scene revieled itself just a kilometer or so to the north. More carnage on the 99. This time it appeared as though there were 4 vehicles involved. I relayed the information to the show producer. We did not know at the time, but these two scenes were related.

I panned the the FLIR camera back to the dire site where paramedics were doing thier thing. I zoomed in close to give me any indication of what was happening. Then all at once, the body language of those on the ground, heads and shoulders down, indicated the battle to save a life was lost. Chest compressions had stopped. Urgency was now gone. Two firefighters covered the person with a sheet. All of it captured within my viewfinder.

My God, I had just witnessed someone's death at 1500 ft.

It was a quiet flight back to base, one I will not forget.
As I starred out of my window, I said a little prayer for the family of that person and for those men and women who tried so hard to save a stranger's life.

As it turned out the victim was an elderly lady who had some how ended up traveling at speed on the wrong way of the freeway. The other scene to the north was caused by someone trying to avoid her car. It has sparked a debate about testing drivers of an advanced age.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


There is an old saying that originated in Asia that states "May you live in interesting times." Some say this is a curse, others a blessing. All I know is these are indeed interesting times for Conventional Television through out North America.

It is no secret within the industry that under the status quo Canadian regulations, conventional local broadcasting is on the endangered list. The legislated obligations (local news and programing) cost money and with the current economic ciaos, the business model which the Private Canadian Television Industry is based, (advertising and sponsors) is not working. This trend of diminishing revenue though advertising and sponsors has been going on for several years, but is being accelerated because of the current recession.

If one could "snap" ones fingers and return back to more favorable economic times, the bleeding to Local Conventional Broadcasters would not stop.
So what is the answer?
Government bail outs?
No- that is not the answer.

I want to invite you all to follow this link and learn more about how to SAVE LOCAL TELEVISION.

I would also encourage each of you who read this blog, no matter where you are in Canada, to attend an Open House with your local CTV Station or your local "A" Station. The dates and times of the Open House are found on the web link that is provided.

Tell them Murman sent you.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh Hockey God, Why have you Foresaken me (Us)???

There was a tremor last evening, one felt through out Canuck Nation. Perhaps tremor is too small a word. More like a Category 10 Quake. The epicentre was in Chicago and it marked the post season exit of my beloved Vancouver Canucks at the hands of the Blackhawks.

I remained silent in the blog-o-sphere about the subject. I didn't want to bring disfavor from the Hockey Gods onto the lads. But after a meltdown in pretty much every third period of this series, I can say there is NO HOCKEY GOD.
If there is then he surely hails from Illinois.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


For the last week all that has led news from around the globe is the Mexican Swine Flu. I know I am getting a little tired of it. Assignment desks everywhere are in full panic mode.

Here at World Wide Murman headquarters, we feel that we need to do our part in spreading the hysteria. So at WWM we are raising our Swine/Avian / Day Flu alert level to Code Orange.

I repeat Code Orange.

We also feel a message that has been clearly lost in the last couple of days is the most basic one:


and If you are not feeling well,


There you go, simple yet effective. How hard was that?

Now go forth and "spread" no more.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


A week and a half ago the shooting fraternity in Vancouver lost part of its soul with the passing of former CITY TV Cameraman, Grant Wyatt.

I met Grant when I first arrived in Vancouver from the east coast. He was shooting for CKVU and I was at the new "upstart" station in Vancouver, VTV. Right away he treated me as one of the gang, never as the "new guy" at the new station. When ever I would run into him out in the field, he always made me laugh and his presence at a shoot always made it more enjoyable.

There was a gathering at a local watering hole, this past Friday night to celebrate Grant's life. The place was full and there was still a hundred people wanting to get in.

The following You Tube Video is a tribute to Grant, lovingly prepared by his friends at CKVU/CITY TV in Vancouver. It gives you a glimpse of the wonderful persona that was Grant Wyatt.

I miss him.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Gary Tapp cabling to the Magical Land of Television

It has been a very busy 6 weeks or so. With the build up to next years Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and all of the hoopla associated with it, our special events operations team has been going full bore.

Scooter running Cables

This week the Junos has brought it's circus to town. For those of you not familiar of what a "Juno" is let me explain. Think "Grammy" but Canadian. Yes it's Canada's Music Awards and the show itself is a CTV Network property.

OK - CTV property- I work for a local CTV station- oh oh , its gonna get crazy busy!

The Set on Granville

Rob, Big Dave (on the phone) and Tapper in the SAT Truck

We are now into day 3 of Juno Fest and our show has located itself in the heart of the Entertainment district on Granville Street. It has been quite a gig. Men and resources moving tons of metal and electronic gear, plugging and playing, lighting and shooting, uplinking and transmitting, hoping that when it all comes out at the other end it resembles a Television Show.

The "Mur-monitor"

Stress is high, especially for those who plan these TV field trips. These forays into the streets are not inexpensive. You can see it in the face of our Exec Producer. His over functioning brain must be near the melt down temperature. The trick is to be as far away from the blast radius if it happens.

Jimmy and Coleen on set

Scotty (Scooter) Connerton on Weather Cam

But technically things are going just fine. This is an experienced crew. We have all worked together before and for whatever reason this field adventure has been surprisingly routine and relatively easy on the cardiovascular system.

Wade on Jib

Gary (Barndtman) Barndt on Handheld/ Camera 2 Stage

But wait, it's only day three of four, oh crap when is the other shoe gonna fall?

Stay tuned, but for now, I'm taking cover.

The Junofest Remote Crew at the "Magical Land of Television"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Step One

It has been a long long while since I have had the inclination to sit down an pound out an entry into this blog. The reasons are many and personal. But I am back and although out of practice, I am going to attempt to get back on the horse and put thought to page at least once a week.

When I began this blog thing three years ago, it was a vehicle to bring my family and my colleagues at CTV British Columbia with me, so to speak, as I traveled to Turin Italy for the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games.
I tried to tell my experiences through humorous stories.
It became kinda fun and for whatever reason folks out there in the web-o-sphere seemed to enjoy my rants and adventures. Comments left only encouraged me.

But as time wore on, I discovered like anything, contributing to a Blog on a regular basis takes commitment and discipline. Most days I lacked both and in the last year I found it difficult to concentrate on my musings.

I am back now and God willing, I'll find my words again, but the first step is acknowledging the problem. And the problem was my lack of energy.

So thank you for being patient. I am now going to go and fight to get my "A" game back and continue World Wide Murman - Adventures in News Gathering.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year's Eve 2008

Well good God, will the snow never end??? Yes my friends, we here in Vancouver got walloped by winter these past weeks. You have to remember municipal authorities some years ago traded their snow removal equipment for some magic beans and a promise of tropical weather.

Let me tell you that snow of any accumulation makes for news here in these parts and these weeks weather and weather related phenomenon have been the top stories for the past 25 days.

Snowplows or lack there of, cars stuck, airports shut down, stranded travelers over Christmas, now that's THUNDERDOME!

I just wanted to survive the holidays. I only had a few days off and by the time Christmas eve rolled around I had had enough of being wet and miserable shooting the daily sausage.

But the weather would not let up. And I still had another two weeks before I would return to my beloved hangar and the skies over Vancouver.

The holidays bring out the masses to the ski hills. In those masses there is usually one or two folks that get themselves into some difficulty and they then require a search and a rescue. This year would be no different and with all of the heavy snow, the lure of the back country is just too great for some.
The heavy snow triggered avalanche warnings from one side of this great Province to the other.

The first weekend after Christmas, news of a massive slide with fatal results, dispatched many from our news room to a town near Fernie, BC. I was not on that crew and was grateful for having missed that one. A grief stricken town is not what any of us wanted over the Christmas break.

Nope I was back on the ground, filing the daily items that would fill up the show after the numerous items from Fernie.

Sending a number of staff out of town on such a story is a necessary thing. The by- product is however, fewer to look after the rest with an already holiday reduced roster. Somewhere in the system, someone has to pay the toll on the numbers game. This occasion, it was our Air Op's that would ante up.
Leaving the the flying machine without a crew is risky. It's a gamble. It can also bite you if you are not careful. That week, the weather was marginal, so the risk seemed acceptable.

My mornings would begin with a scan of the local radio news to get an idea of what was in store for me on that day. Weather, Fernie and what's this? A missing snowboarder off of Mount Seymour.
Damn, I thought, this would be a good item from the air. Search aircraft, perhaps a rescue. More like a recovery, but you gotta keep positive.
I quickly remembered it was Pete's week in the air. I later learned he had been reassigned to make up for the short fall back in Vancouver.
I really didn't give the search much more thought. The weather was kinda low anyway for flight. I went about my business and shot some VSV and some streeters and interviews for a dreaded year ender that one of the reporters were putting together. By that time it was almost 2:30 and time for a break. I just happened to be sitting by the news desk when word of "Snow Boarder Found" came to us via our scanners. The fellow had been missing for more than 3 days and in my experience after 3 days usually means a corpse off of Suicide Gully, the place where the young man went missing.

"Murray! We need you to get to the helicopter now! They are going to long line the boarder off the mountain!"
I felt bad for a brief moment, knowing that this should be Pete's gig, but he was already on his way up the side of that Mountain with a Live Truck and Gary, the other heli op, was way out east and too far away.
"He's alive!" Lisa the acting assignment editor exclaimed.
Her words added urgency to my calls to our pilot.
The next thing I knew I was in the air and headed to the side of Mount Seymour with Guiv our trusty Talon Pilot.

Guiv lands at the Harbour Helipad

He was in contact with Kelsey another Talon Pilot who was flying the rescue mission on this day.
Guiv tells me that the rescue is still about 20 minutes from happening and that Kelsy was just getting the long line attached to the helicopter at the Bone Creek works yard.
We arrived on the scene. Kelsy was just about to lift off and take a rescue tech and a spotter on the short flight to the rescue area.
I had my FLIR locked on his aircraft and tapes rolling in the machine. Wow this day sure took an interesting turn.
The weather had just cleared enough to allow a brief helicopter search. Tracks had been spotted and ground rescue techs from North Shore Search and Rescue, followed the tracks and found the young man seeking shelter under a tree. Cold and hungry, some say near the end of his endurance. If he had not been found, then surely he would not have lived to see the New Year.

Kelsy maneuvered his aircraft, and the tech attached to the long line, carefully down and into the trees and the small clearing where the ground team was located. After pin point delivery of a stretcher and the dangling rescue tech. Kelsy took an orbiting position nearby.

My FLIR watched as rescuers prepared the young man to his trip to hospital and to salvation from certain death of hypothermia.
Again Kelsy positioned the Talon Helicopter's AStar into a hover over the scene, carefully lowering the line. Then all at once, with a signal from the ground tech secured to the long line, Kelsy pulled power into the collective and put the odd looking rescue machine into a climb, above the trees and began the short flight back to the Bone Yard and to awaiting ambulance.
As I zoomed in and followed the pair dangling from Kelsy's long line, the lad in the stretcher looks right into my lens and smiles. He knows the danger is now over. He and his rescuers are delivered with precision to the awaiting medical team and transported to Vancouver General Hospital.

A shot out my window of the scene at the Bone Yard. The rescue had been so quick and busy on the FLIR, I did not have any chance to snap a few pics.

A happy ending for a week that had already claimed several young men near Fernie.
And that is how I spent my last flight of 2008, in the skies watching a rescue unfold. I wouldn't have it any other way.