I opened this chapter on my computer and stared at it for an hour. I wrote it almost 9 months ago and still don’t think its right.  The scene portrayed in the chapter has very little to do with the book that follows.  I was looking to try and instill some excitement and sense of action and urgency in the reader to set them up for the remaining chapters.  Rather than start the book by steadfastly setting up each portion and character, I wanted something different.  I would love to hear what you have to say about this.  I apologize for any obvious errors in tense and grammar.

Chapter 1

Heavy eyelids closing over tired eyes, the watch commander tries to sleep, the adrenaline still pumping through his veins from the last call.  All of Station 7 of the Coral Gables Fire Department is quiet for now; the metalic ticking of the cooling engines is the only sound in the station.  Thinking, shifting on the cot, knowing the men are tired, six calls so far in their shift that started just sixteen hours ago.  Now rest, the Commander tosses around again, would he ever get used to sleeping in half of his uniform.  In the dorm area next door the rest of the men are trying to get the same elusive sleep, turning and trying to nod off as the Station slowly goes off to sleep.

Suddenly the horn blares, the Commanders eyes opened quickly, what had it been an hour, 30 minutes.  Swinging his legs off of the cot, taking just a brief second to get his bearings; the horn blaring insistent and loud as the speakers fill with the voice, the voice they always heard when the alarm sounds “2192 Rivera Drive, Station 12 standing by for second alarm” running towards the bays, grabbing the remainder of his gear as he jogs the short distance to the truck, a boot up on the running board as he slides into the passenger seat.  Turning the computer consol on as the driver assumes his position.  The back doors of the cab open and close quickly as the remaining two firefighters complete the crew. The driver runs his fingers over an array of switches as the truck comes to life, lights glaring off the inside of the fire station.  The Commander looked out the right window and sees the ladder crew in position in their cab, the Paramedics rig just behind.  Nodding to the driver Pumper 7 and Ladder 7 roll out of the Coral Gables Fire Station 7 into the hot sticky southern Florida night.

Punching numbers and addresses into the computer on the dash, the Commander is amazed at just how close the call is to the station, yelling to the driver over the scream of the engine and the sirens “Less than half a mile, right up here on Rivera then run down about 4 blocks, address should be on the right” the driver, hands gripping the wheel as he maneuvers through the quiet narrow streets nods in acknowledgement.

On the radio, the Commander barks orders to the other trucks behind him “Ladder, I want you set up behind us, the hydrant at Suarez, hook up to it and roll forward, you will be about 4, that’s 4 houses down from the fire.  Paramedics, roll past Ladder and follow us through to the fire, we will set up on the street and tackle it from there.  On my call be ready with all your equipment”

Checking his watch, 2 minutes since the alarm had been sounded.  Looking out the window of the truck he could see it in the distance, big tall flames flickering through the darkness just above the tree line.  Taking a moment, thinking how bad this looked before barking into the radio “Paramedics get your gear out as soon as you get there, this looks like it could be ugly” squawking on the radio as the paramedics acknowledged.

Passing Suarez the commander gets a glimpse of the stubby hydrant “Ladder, there on your left” the pumper slowed as it neared the fire, people running frantically around with no apparent purpose.  A man using a garden hose from the neighboring home, trying desperately to douse the inferno.

The pumper grinds to a halt and all four men jumped into action, pulling on SCBA’s the Commander runs to the back of the truck, watching one of the firemen hooking up the big four inch line to directly to the tank.  Silently thinking how this should be enough to get started until the ladder brings up the supply hose.  The driver stands on the other side of the pumper flicking switches and turning valves as the pump roars to life, water surging through the line as the two firefighters take the end of the hose and run towards the building.

Rushing past the small crowd of neighbors, the Commander moves to the front door with the men, his second in command right behind him, this was their job, going into the home with full gear on knowing that this intense a fire was deadly for anyone in the house, praying that it was empty, but in far too many fires that was not the case.  The two men on the hose begin spraying an arc of high pressure water over the doorway, the sizzle of heated water, the acrid smell of burning insulation and plastic siding flares their nostrils as they watch the commander push open the door.

The ladder truck quickly pulls up behind the first truck, hooking up the feeder hose from the hydrant to the truck, water, the lifeblood of the pumper was about to flow from the hydrant.  A radio call to the firefighter at the hydrant and the hose quickly filled and precious water flowed quickly into the tanks.  Moving like a well choreographed ballet, the crew of the Ladder truck hook up their hoses, extended outriggers and two firefighters climb into the small basket at the end of the ladder, hydraulics whine and extend the ladder as the firefighters stared to hose down the roof of the structure providing cover to the firemen at the door.

Dense smoke loomed in front of his mask as the Commander enters the home, flames dance all around him as the two firefighters continue spraying a pattern across the front room, the smoke spiraling into itself as the air currents are disrupted by the spray of cold water.  The steady opening and closing of the valve on his air tank almost as loud as his pounding heart as he moves, ten feet in now, he can feel the hand of his second on his shoulder, always keeping in touch this way, making sure that neither of them is left behind in a fireman’s biggest fear; a floor collapse; or worse a ceiling and roof collapse.  Suddenly through the darkness he spots a socked foot then the leg and soon the entire body of an elderly person lying still on the floor.  Reaching down, picking the frail person up and over his shoulder he shouts at his number two to back up and get them out of the house.

Moving past the hose as the firefighters advance in further, the fire intense and hotter than when they first arrived, they were losing this one, they all knew it.  “Back out, everyone out” the Commander yells as he carts the limp body over his shoulder.  Finally exiting out the front door again and into the cleaner air, water cascading on them from the ladder truck as they move further from the inferno until they reach the sidewalk where the paramedics had set up to triage any victims.

The death throes of the building groan loudly in the hot night air, brought on as the wooden trusses finally begin to collapse, their support undermined by the fire and the weight of the water cascading from above.  Louder still as the whole roof collapses into the building.  Debris flies out towards the street as the ground crew continues to spray water on the now burning pile of wood and shingles.  The ladder crew, satisfied that all firefighters were out concentrated their spray on the adjoining home, attempting to keep the fire from spreading.

Neighbors mull around on the street, watching in shock as the scene unfolds before them.  One of them runs up to the paramedics, seeing them feverishly performing CPR on the limp body of an elderly woman “that’s Maureen Braddock”.  The Commander asks if she lives alone and the neighbor nods his head.  Looking back at the now completely collapsed structure, thankful he had got the only occupant out.

Eight minutes since the call, five minutes on the scene and the fire began to die down, starving for fuel and saturated by thousands of gallons of water.   Fortunate the fire had not spread, the pair of hoses continued to flood the remnants of the single family home.  The paramedics continued to perform CPR as they loaded the stretcher onto their ambulance; the lead paramedic looked over at the Commander and shook his head before climbing into the back.  Pulling away from the curb they left, lights flashing, as the crowd of neighbors looked helplessly on.

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