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Fighting Fire with Fire


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Circa 2010

Engine 5 screamed past pulled over traffic on the freeway in Skyway City, lights and sirens. The noise in the truck is deafening, but not so much so that the mobile affixed to the dashboard was drowned out.

 

"Engine five from Dispatch"

 

Captain Norm Smith reached for the hand-held, pulling it out of its cradle as the rig bounced down the road in what could only be called a 'controlled fall towards danger'. He glanced at his operator in the driver's seat to his left as he brought the hand-piece to his mouth. A senior man on the department, Gavin Gilchrist was as solid as they came. Captain Smith noticed Firefighter Gilchrist's eyes flick to the mobile, but made no other indication he had even noticed the transmission. Norm thought to himself in that moment, and not for the first time that Gilchrist would make an excellent officer.

 

"This is Engine five, go ahead, dispatch"

 

"Engine five you are responding on a high priority to a reported working fire at 528 Washington, cross-streets of Delaware and Fourth. Multiple crews on location reporting flames visible sides 1, 3 and 4. Reports of civilians trapped. Car 20 is in command, car 40 is fire control. Please be advise that you have been assigned as RIT."

 

"Engine five copies, responding." Captain Smith replaces the hand-piece in its cradle, grimacing to himself. RIT stands for Rapid Intervention Team and is the crew assigned to assist in the event that a firefighter requires rescue within an emergent scenario. It was largely a boring job that required standing around waiting for something to happen that rarely ever did. He looks back to his crew, Howard "Duck" Marsden and Talia Swayne. Both rookies. The turn-over at PCFD has been high the past few years.

 

The inferno loomed in the distance as Gavin took the off-ramp, black smoke and open flame were the order of the day.

 

****

 

Engine five pulled up to scene, spilling out all four members. Captain Smith and Firefighters Swayne and Marsden swaggered away while Firefighter Gilchrist took his post at the Engine control panel to the rear of the cab. The radio chatter almost constant as crews reported progress to fire control. Captain Smith led his members to the accountability board, passing in their tags so that they could be counted amongst the crew assigned to various tasks.

 

The building itself was fully involved. Flames showing from multiple floors on no less than three sides. There was an urgency in the air that wasn't normal. Working fires, even in large, multi-unit residential buildings weren't uncommon, but what was uncommon was that people were trapped and in very real danger of life and limb. As horrifying as it might be to be burnt alive, not being burnt alive and having to suffer through the process of recovery from severe burns was worse. Not to mention the slow asphyxiation that comes with carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of exposure and inhalation of smoke. Captain Smith understood after 25 years on the job that his role as RIT commander at this particular fire carried a weight that it hadn't at most other fires. His brothers and sisters were at real risk because they would be inclined to take chances that they normally wouldn't in order to save people in real danger.

 

Norm gathered his crew, briefing them on what he knew at the time, the radio screaming with the voices of firefighters both within and without the building, calling for reports, asking for windows to be taken out for ventilation, asking for progress updates and so forth. As he reached for the radio on his belt to turn down the volume, the Mandown alarm came in. A keening, warbling wail that signaled that a firefighter was in distress. The radio cuts off and the channel dedicates itself to the transmission, uninterruptable and insistent as the 12 second LIPA is transmitted.

 

"Sixth Floor! Firefighter Moore! Trapped behind a collapsed ceiling, require immediate rescue! Will attempt to to self-protect and await rescue!"

 

Captain Smith was cool as ice. He glanced briefly at his crew to ensure that they had their RIT packs secure and motioned them forward at a brisk, yet unhurried pace. His pulse raced, but he wouldn't dare show it to his crew. They needed him and he needed them. What he didn't need, or so he thought was an intrusion.

 

"Beg yer pardon, mate."

 

"I don't have time, sir! Please step back behind the line!" Barks the officer as he strides past.

 

"I dinnae think ye unnerstand, I can aid ye."

 

Out of curiosity at the brazenness of his addressor, Norm spins on his feet as he continues toward the building, just out of curiosity as to who would be bothering him in this moment. It's a red haired man in a flat black suit, burnt orange pin-stripes, a fedora atop his head, a cigar in his mouth. He couldn't be more out of place. Captain Smith stops and almost gawps at the gall of the man.

"I told you to step behind the line!" The Man in Black grins and rolls the cigar between his teeth from the left side of his mouth to the right.

 

"Mate, I ken ye've a man in distress." He motions to the burning building "That's of nae danger tae yers truly. Tell me where yer man is an' I'll aid ye in rescuin' him." That grin. Again.

Norm Smith is no dummy. He knows where he lives, he knows what his reality is and he now recognizes that this is no ordinary civilian, but time is of the essence and he must affect rescue as soon as possible. He waves his crew forward towards side one entrance of the building, finding himself briefing a total stranger in a bespoke suit about fire rescue. He would later consider this the strangest day on the job in his life.

 

"Firefighter Moore is trapped on the sixth floor in an unknown unit of this building." He shouts over the sound of the radio, the roar of the two and a half inch hoses hitting the building from the outside and the almost deafening sound of the raging fire consuming the building itself. "He is behind a collapsed ceiling and he's believe to be on side 2 of the building, but we cannot confirm."

The fire crew and The Man in Black step over the coiled hoses stretching into the lobby of the building. "We have elevator control but it's being used to facilitate crew relief, so we have to take the stairs." Captain Smith looks back to find The Man standing at the threshold to the building. As he places his hand on the door to stairwell A he calls back "Are you coming, or not?"

 

The Man in Black grins that same grin, taking the cigar from his mouth, flicking it out onto the pavement. "I'll meet ye up there, mate!" and disappears. At some point in the next few days Firefighter Swayne asks her captain if he heard the clap of thunder from outside just shortly after that exchange.

 

***

 

The first flight of Stairwell A was very different than the second flight. The fire had clearly started on the second floor and was well established by the time Engine 5 had arrived. It was an old fire and it was angry and hungry and fire always burns up.

 

"RIT team from command"

 

Captain Smith reaches for the lapel mic "Command, RIT" His voice muffled over the radio from the SCBA mask.

 

"RIT what's your status?"

 

"We're just passing the fourth floor in Stairwell A. Smoke conditions are heavy, heat is high. We're making good progress." Norm glanced back at his crew, taking a moment of pride in how firefighters Marsden and Swayne were keeping up with their high-rise packs and SCBA tanks. There were no finer firefighters in the world than Station 5 of the PCFD.

 

Opening the door to the sixth floor was like opening the door to Hell. The entire hallway was fully involved, from the carpet runner on the floor to the wallpaper, to the light fixtures to the spackled ceiling.

 

The mandown sounded again on the radio, screeching its urgency. "Sixth Floor! Firefighter Moore! High heat conditions, flashover imminent, require immediate rescue!" Firefighter Moore's prophecy turned out true as a pocket of oxygen from a neighbouring apartment lit, blowing the door out of the unit, slamming itself into the opposite wall. The roaring inferno consuming all the air within the hallway and rushing towards the crew of Engine five as they stood huddled against the door to Stairwell A. Captain Smith instinctively tried to shield his crew against the blast, knowing in those deep parts of his heart that his effort would ultimately be futile before they were consumed entirely.

But it didn't come. Norm Smith opened his eyes to see The Man in Black standing between him and a roiling inferno. The Man seemed unconcerned, even smug as he somehow simply blocked the raging fire with his presence. That damn cigar still gripped between his teeth, the cherry glowing brighter than ever.

 

"Ye'd best hurry, Captain!" The Man whispered, somehow audible in the cacophony.

 

Engine five crew charged left and down the hall unencumbered while the inferno raged behind them, slowly creeping up. They checked door after door, giving the all clear every time until they reached apartment 614. The outside of the door was black, charred and warped. It took very little time to beat it down and upon entering the unit the crew of Engine five found their lost man. Huddled behind the charred remains of a frightfully inexpensive couch was Firefighter Andrew Moore. Unfortunately he was trapped behind the collapsed ceiling he had initially reported in his first mandown.

 

Now there was a new problem. Firefighter Moore was trapped behind a collapsed assemblage of drywall, wood and melted concrete all of which was entirely ablaze. Without order, the crew of Engine five unlatched their fire axes and halogen tools to dismantle the obstacle to rescue their fallen brother.

 

"Command from RIT"

 

"Go ahead RIT, this is command"

 

"We have made contact with Firefighter Moore and are affecting rescue at this time, however he is trapped behind a significant obstacle. We are attempting to breach this obstacle at this time in order to bring him to safety."

"Command copies, RIT please advise if you require additional assets as well as further updates on progress." Norm Smith inhales deeply, his exhale fogging the interior of his SCBA mask as he unlatches his own halogen.

 

"May I be o'service, Captain?" That voice again, that damned Scottish bastard who thinks he can just walk in and out of a fire scene. Annoyed to the point of distraction, Captain Smith just simply gestures to the obstacle before them. The Man in Black steps into the apartment unit, that grin still on his face.

 

How he could just simply walk about a burning building in a fancy suit and tie, that stupid hat on his head and not even have so much as a char mark on him, Norm Smith would never understand. But there he was, in fancy civvies waving Engine five crew aside. It was at that moment that Captain Smith understood who this man was. He watched as The Legendary Living Hellfire held out a hand and manifested a burnt orange blade of Celestial Fire. The temperature in the already burning building spiked. The Man dropped the blade onto the mass of twisted rebar and concrete trapping Firefighter Moore, severing it in the middle. He stepped back extinguishing the blade, allowing Engine five crew to do their work of clearing the debris.

 

***

 

Engine five crew staggers out of the elevator on the ground floor. Standby EMTs are there to catch Firefighter Moore as Firefighters Swayne and Marsden collapse in exhaustion. On their trip down the elevator from the sixth floor Captain Smith heard command declare the "under control" but couldn't understand why given the state of the sixth floor when they arrived.

 

Leaning against the command vehicle is a man in a black suit with burnt orange pinstripes. He winks behind opaque orange shades and then is gone.

Edited by Living_Hellfire

-The Legendary Living Hellfire

"The newest person in the room is always the most important person in the room"

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