First Fire: Short Story
B. A. Clark 1976
The bells rang and the lights flashed on like lightning; my ears were ringing and my eyes blurry as I sprang from bed and jumped in my fire boots. I was still half asleep as I slide the fire pole and leaped onto the back step of the engine.
I clung to the handrail for dear life as the engine raced into the night. The siren echoed off the buildings. The red and white emergency lights were dancing on the wet pavement, as we speed up the street.
I knew that every firefighter was tested in the field of battle. Eight weeks of training of training raced through my mind: helmet on, ear flaps down, coat buckled up, gloves on, breathing apparatus on and ready to go. I wanted to do everything right, this could be my test.
As we turned the corner you can see the orange glow in the sky. Mike my partner yelled over the siren “This is a Kid we got a worker.”
Moment later the engine stopped at a fire hydrant, the Lieutenant yelled, “Layout!” Mike stepped off the back step, pulling the hose, rapped the fire hydrant and yelled, “Go!” Seconds later we were in front the house; flames were blowing out second story windows like a blow torch.
I pulled the 150 foot, inch and a half attack hose line, onto my shoulder and drug it to the porch. Thick black smoke was billowing from the front door. I stopped for a moment to put my face mask on and adjust the straps, now I’m ready. A moment later my Lieutenant emerge from the blackness and said “OK – it’s upstairs on the left let’s go.”
We plunged into blackness. I walked straight ahead until I found the first step, then I started to climb the stairs one by one getting as low as possible; with every step up it got hotter and hotter. Thinking, “How far into this hell am I expected to go?” In desperation I yelled “It’s getting hot Lou.” he calmly replied “Just get to the top of the stairs and wait for the water.” Four more steps and I was on the landing. I can see the orange glow to my left. The heat pushed me down; I had to lay flat on the floor. Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more, I feel the hose come to life surging with water. Now it was my turn to attack the dragon.
I open the nozzle aiming the stream over my head; the water hit the ceiling instantly turned in the steam killing the flames. I kept moving forward inch by inch foot by foot until I was in the room; beating back the dragon with my sword until I reach the window. Finally, the fire was out, the dragon was dead.
A few minutes later the Lieutenant and I were outside taking a well-deserved break. He said “You did a good job Kid.” My ego skyrocketed with self satisfaction and adulation. I had been tested in battle. I had met the enemy and slain the dragon. I was a firefighter.
Just then, Mike walked up with a strange look on his face. “What’s up Mike?” asked the Lieutenant. Mike replied “When you were fighting the fire, I search the back bedroom. I found a little girl. I got her out and put her in the ambulance, but I don’t know if she’s goanna make it, she was in that hell an awful long time.”
My ego crashed, I was ashamed myself for my former exaltation.
An hour later we were back at the station packing hose, filling air bottles, getting ready for the next call, but no one spoke there was a aerie silence I never experienced before. We had done a good job, but we still lost.
The silence was interrupted when the phone ringing at the watch desk. We all stopped what we were doing and stared at the sound. The Lieutenant answered “Engine 33.” he listened for a while and said “Thank you.” hung up, turned to us saying “The little girl, she will to be ok.”
There was no yelling or screaming or congratulating each other. We all just kept working and silently thanking God.
My first fire taught me what it means to be a firefighter.
Note: This short story fiction was written for a Toastmasters Speech contest in 1976. BAC