It’s been a weekend of firsts here at Notes from Mosquito Hill. My first submission to The Handover was published, and I’ve started to see my first readers and comments from outside my own personal circle. Today brings my first guest post.
I’d like you all to welcome my sister, Rescu82, to the Blogosphere. She says she’s not ready for her own blog, but she has a few stories for mine. 82 is a nurse in a major metropolitan trauma center. She lives out in the foothills and volunteers as a paramedic in Ancestral Hometown. She also works as a per-diem paramedic in Laketown, a neighboring tourist area. Recently she’s been dragged over to the Dark Side by the firefighters with whom she serves. Although her response areas are very rural, every summer we tourists bring the big city to them. What they lack in quantity, they surely make up in quality. I’d love to work there myself.
So without further ado:
Impressions: A Rookieʼs First Fire
I am doomed to wear sweaty, gross shorts.
I had just returned from a jog when one of the guys yelled across the station. “Neighboring Town was just toned for a ﬁre in a garage!” I head for my gear anticipating the soon to drop Laketown tones. They drop before I reach my gear. “Respond mutual aid to Neighboring Town for a garage ﬁre. Reported as person trapped in the building.” I barrel across the apparatus ﬂoor and jump up into Engine 9.
Looking around the truck I realize that I am with a young but good crew, all with more experience than me. As we cross the Causeway headed for Neighboring Town, we can see a cloud of thick black smoke roiling into the sky. When I see that, my stomach drops out from under me. “Oh my dear God….Iʼm about to be baptized!” Next, the adrenaline shakes hit…. followed by the paramedic instinct to take slow deep breaths and get the shakes under control. Fear is good, it makes you think. I remind myself panic is the enemy as I continue to gear up while we rumble down State Road toward the cloud of smoke.
As the truck pulls up to the scene all I can focus on are the ﬂames shooting into the sky from the destroyed garage. It is gone, the cars are smoking hulks, and the ﬂames are eating the house. Snapping out of it I try to get out of my seat and canʼt move. I try again and still canʼt move. “Great” I think, “what stupid thing have I done before I even got out of the truck?” I call one of my company members to help me. Grinning he reaches in and pulls the release for my SCBA. I had failed to pull it before I packed up. Determined not to make a bigger mistake, I hop out of the truck and grab my weapon of choice, a Halligan tool. My company and I report to Incident Command for our assignment.
“Attack line” is the answer we receive. Turning around and looking at the ﬂaming house, the shakes threaten to return as I snap on my regulator. The mask sighs as I trigger the regulator with my breathing. I follow my company to the attack line. I focus on taking measured breaths. We take up our position and with a senior ﬁreﬁghter guiding our nozzle man off we go. “Wow look at the ﬁre rolling out the front door,” is all I can think as we make entry into the house with a charged 2 1/2″ line. Doing my best to duck walk through the white hot ash at my feet, hang onto the Halligan, sound the ﬂoor, and drag the line, my next thoughts are “itʼs sort of pretty” and “Dang, I donʼt have enough hands for this!” Suddenly the hose goes limp in our hands and the ﬁre which we have been successfully pushing back comes blasting at us like a blow torch, rolling over our heads. Rear over elbows the four of us bail out the front door.
“Holy Cow! What just happened?” The answer comes back to me, “water supply issue”. Regrouping on the front lawn with my company, I watch the ﬁre blast out the front door again. The line ﬁlls with water and command gives us the go ahead to again make entry. We resume our positions on the line. Iʼm directly behind the nozzle man and I have a linebacker behind me. Again, we enter the house and push the ﬁre back into the kitchen. This time we make it a good 10 feet into the house before the hose goes limp. Again we bail out the door, this time blasting through a Loo who is blocking our escape while watching our progress. He is not impressed; neither are we.
This time the question as to what happened isn’t phrased as politely as it was the ﬁrst time. The Pump Operator is ﬁred and replaced with an old timer who can get water out of a stone. The line is charged for a third time. We make entry for the third time.
Weʼre doing great, pushing the ﬁre back into the kitchen and following it toward the back corner of the house. The back-up line makes entry behind us.
The senior ﬁreﬁghter at the head of the line with the nozzle man turns to check our progress. He yells something, grabs the nozzle man, and slams him into the ﬂoor following him down. I canʼt hear what he yells over the crackle of the ﬂames and the muffle of his mask. “What the?” I think followed a split second later by “better follow him!” I dive to the ﬂoor. I am face down in the white hot ash. All I can think is, “My knees are hot, my knees are hot.” I am waiting to be hit by the ceiling. I am waiting for the ﬂoor to drop away. I am waiting.
It happens fast. A scalding steam bath. The back-up line opened their nozzle over our heads on the ﬁre in front of us. One molecule of water expands to 1700 molecules of steam. I am baking in my own skin. My knees are roasting. I am face to face with the inside of a giant wood stove. I am a log in that wood stove. I am thankful for my hood protecting my ears and neck. Just as quickly as it happened, it is over. I am back on my feet duck walking again.
Command pulls us out. The roof is getting soft and we are switching to an exterior attack. My company exits the building. I walk to the rehab area and pop myself off my air. I peel off my turnout. Underneath, I am sopping wringing wet. The 80 degree air feels as cool on my skin as opening a freezer door does on your face. It feels good. I sit down and drink water.
In a while we take up and go home. Ancestral Hometown is covering back at the station. As we back into the bays, the guys from Ancestral Hometown rowdily congratulate me on catching my ﬁrst real ﬁre. I get high ﬁves all around. The senior ﬁreﬁghter who was on the hose with me pulls me aside. He tells me that he was impressed that I didn’t panic under pressure and he will take me with him into a burning building anytime. High praise from that person. I smile and laugh. I know how hard my heart was beating while I was waiting.
I stow my gear, stop to admire my pink knees, and hop into the Jeep to go home. I put down the windows and crank the CD player blasting Avril Levine’s “Girlfriend”. I sing at the top of my lungs. I am riding my adrenaline rush. I am dirty. I stink. I am still insweaty gross shorts and I donʼt care.
I swear I never told her about the topic for the upcoming August Handover.