Welcome back to Day 9 of Just Jot It January and also my second Stream of Consciousness(why can I never spell this right the first time?) Saturday. I’ve actually been doing pretty good. I missed the first day and last Wednesday because I was posting my RoW80 update & WiPPet Wednesday snippet. I probably could have linked back on that one since I jotted stuff down, but…I didn’t.
Anyway, maybe it’s because yesterday’s post was about one of my firefighter characters, this is the title that popped into my head when I read the prompt for this week’s SOCS. So a probably quick story starring my two former Marines/firefighters.
Mark pulled the mask down over his face before settling his helmet over his head. Beside him, Nolan performed the same actions, almost as if they were in sync with each other. The building in front of them was already fully involved, and he could see the aerial truck putting the ladder to one of the higher windows.
He headed forward, with Nolan still right beside him and through the door that had already been forced open. The heat blasted over him, even through his protective gear. If it wasn’t for that, there’d be no way he’d be able to walk in here.
“Hallway to the left,” Nolan said.
Mark wasn’t even sure how he could see that. The smoke was so thick, it was difficult to see more than the vague outline of walls and furniture. But, he moved to the left anyway. He’d learned a long time ago that Nolan very rarely steered him wrong. Sure enough, there was a hallway leading to more doors.
The smoke cleared a bit down here, so he could even make out some of the numbers on the doors. “How many of these are occupied?”
“Manager said most of them. They’re almost to full capacity this weekend. Some conference or something.”
“How many got out?”
“No idea,” Nolan replied, the tone in his voice sending prickles of worry down Mark’s spine.
The small hotel had twenty rooms, ten on each floor. It looked like almost all ten were down this hallway. The other wing must have the dining room and bar. They’d need to clear all the rooms. The fire had started late in the night, but he’d think the shrieking of the fire alarm would have woken everyone up. But, he’d known people who could sleep through even that.
They each took one side of the hallway, opening doors and calling out to anyone who might still be inside. It seemed everyone had cleared out from the first floor at least. His feet stilled as he came to the third door in the hallway, though.
Dark yellow smoke puffed out from under the door then seemed to be drawn back into the room. The signs of a potential backdraft situation had been drilled into him in the fire academy, but this was the first time he’d actually seen it for himself.
“Nolan,” he called across the hallway without taking his eyes from the door. Someone could be in that room. But, if he opened the door, it would introduce oxygen into the room and likely ignite. It could be enough to take out both him and his partner.
“What-?” Nolan started to ask was finished with a quick, “Oh shit.” Then, he must have gotten on the radio because he said, “We need venting on the first floor, left wing on the back side. Third room in from the lobby.” He felt Nolan move up beside him then. “Don’t open the door until they get it vented.”
Nolan had been with the fire department about two years longer than he had, so he trusted what the other man said. Still, he asked, “What if there’s someone in there?” If they could have got a victim out but were too late because they waited, he wasn’t sure if could carry that burden. Let alone the others that weighed him down so often.
“You open that door, and we could all be goners.” Nolan didn’t move from his side, though. He never had.
Then a voice, their lieutenant’s voice, came back over the radio. “It’s done, Hunter. Get in there.”
Nolan helped Mark force the door open, and they both stepped through. He scanned the room quickly, noticed smoke coming from behind the wall, seeping in alone the ceiling and floor. Then, his gaze caught on the lump on the floor. It looked like the occupant had tried to get out but had lost consciousness. Mark hurried over to him and saw the slight rise and fall of his chest. “Still alive.”
“Get him out,” Nolan said. “I’ll finish checking the rooms.”
Mark glanced at him. They were supposed to stay together. Two in, two out. But, sometimes that wasn’t the way it happened. “I better not have to come back in to rescue your ass.”
He couldn’t see much more than Nolan’s eyes through the mask, but he could imagine his friend grinning at that crack. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d used a sort of morbid humor to cover fears. They’d served in the Corps together for four years. There’d been a lot of that.
Mark slung the victim over his shoulder, the easiest and quickest way to get him out and headed back down the hallway. Once he’d been transferred to an ambulance and the care of a paramedic, Mark turned back toward the building. Nolan hadn’t come out yet. His PASS device hadn’t activated, though, which meant he was still moving in there somewhere. Had he found another victim? Did he need help?
He would have called for assistance if that was the case. Still, he was ready to head back into the building to find him when his best friend’s voice came through the lieutenant’s radio. “Left wing’s clear. Coming out.”
Mark let out a breath and took his helmet then mask off. For a moment, he’d feared he’d have to stand on the Hunter’s doorstep and tell them it was his fault one of their sons was gone. It wouldn’t have been the first loss of life he’d felt the weight of. But, he wasn’t sure he’d survive this one.
It didn’t matter now. They’d gotten the job done and were both heading home. There wasn’t much more he could ask for.