By Jim Preston, FF/NREMT-B
It was a cool fall evening, the tones broke the calm, and I was off to the station. "Signal 62, to the north end for a reported structure fire!" This was a place we'd been to many times before, usually for food on the stove. But as always, I was in the back gearing up and as we turned the corner entering the complex, we could see it wasn't food this time! People were running around screaming, "There's a fire in the third floor!"
We were the first Engine in and residents told us there was no one in the building. As we pulled the 1 1/2" through the door leading to the stairwell, flames were pouring out the third floor windows. By now other apparatus were arriving and we had help. A second line and a search team joined us as we made our way to up the stairs. We operate as automatic mutual aide for two Departments working this fire with us, so we have worked with most of these Firefighters before. You get to know the Brothers and Sisters you do this job with, and it was no different here.
As my team approached the fire room under heavy smoke conditions, visibility was zero. We worked our way into the room extinguishing the flames engulfing the living room as we went. We vented the windows and the visibility improved quite a bit. Now the second line was with us.
The search of the other apartment on the floor had been completed. This team was lead by a Captain with whom I had fought the creature many times. I had great respect for this person and would go anywhere with this Capt. by my side. We continued into a bedroom taking down the fire, then we began pulling the ceiling and we could see the fire had worked its way into the attic.
As we were working to get the rest of the fire I suddenly felt the floor begin to give way. I felt myself falling. It was so fast there was nothing I could do! In an instant I saw a gloved hand reaching out and grasping me by the forearm. I was stopped from falling, only making it through the hole up to my knees. As I was pulled back to my feet not a word was spoken, only a glance exchanged and back to work. We evacuated the room and got to the beast from another room.
After the call was done I went to my savior to say thanks. With the gear off I found Sue and gave her a big hug! "Thanks for the lift," I said. And we laughed about it. I didn't mention that this Firefighter was female because it shouldn't matter. I still don't know how she did it, 'cause I'm not a small guy. But she did!
When I needed it most, it was the gloved hand of a Firefighter that saved me from a fate unknown. For that I will always love her. My point is "when the gear goes on we are not Men or Women, we are Firefighters".
Stay Safe my Brothers & Sisters and Take Care of Each Other!
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Copyright 2001 by Jim Preston. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the author.