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Word a Day: Day 2 – Bravery

It’s day 2 of the Word a Day challenge, and today’s word is bravery. I’ve been running this one through my head. Bravery isn’t something I have a lot of. Most of the time I’m an anxious mess.

But, in my opinion, some of the bravest men(and women!) are firefighters, particularly volunteer firefighters. They put themselves into dangerous situations, fires, responding to traffic accidents. And in the case of volunteers, they don’t get anything back for it.

I started writing my Flames series about a group of paid firefighters, and then I spun off that to another series to honor those volunteers. One of those is the younger brother of one of the paid firefighters.

Jace snorted. “I’m no hero, Nolan. I know that perfectly well. I’m just an artist. I’m nothing like you.”
Usually batting around the hero term irritated his brother. Right now, he just looked concerned, though. “Who the hell ever made you think that, little brother?”
“No one ever had to. I know it’s the truth.”
“Your truth is mistaken. You’re no less a hero than I am. Why would you think that about yourself?” He shook his head. “Seriously, little brother. You are an amazing artist, and no one can, or should even try, to take that away from you. But, it’s not all that defines you. You know I hate that hero label, especially since I’m paid to do what I do. How is it heroic to be doing my job?” Another shake of his head, as if none of it made sense to him. “But you? Dad, Tate, Jess. You don’t get paid back for what you put out there. You do it because you want to, because you feel called to it, because it’s the right thing for you to do. Those things might apply to me too, but I get compensated for it. So don’t ever deride yourself like that. Do you understand me?”

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SOCS/JusJoJan – Day 9: Title

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.

“Backdraft Conditions”

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.

Flames A-Z: Volunteer Fire Department

When I first started the Flames series with Flames of Redemption,  I created the city of Crystal Glen and its paid fire department. What I’ve always known, though, are volunteer departments.  And earlier this year,  I decided I wanted to write something that focused on them. I want sure exactly how I was going to work this in.  Then,  Nolan (I was working on his story about that time) stayed talking to me about his brothers.  And sister (sorry,  Jess,  didn’t mean to leave you out). It turns out his father, two of his brothers,  and his sister are all firefighters with the town’s volunteer department. His other brother is involved with the department as well, though not as a firefighter.

The volunteer department does show up a few times in Flames of Restoration. I may work them into some of the earlier stories as well. And I’ll be fleshing the department out some more as well. So far,  I think,  besides the Hunter Family,  we only know about the chief. Well, there is one other, too,  but can’t say much about him without spoilers to the first book in this series.

Fred Mertz used to be with Crystal Glen’s paid department. Then he started having some health issues.  It was bad enough that he couldn’t handle the long shifts and other stresses of being a full time firefighter. Instead,  he joined the volunteer department and after a couple years was voted in as fire chief. His daughter is a paramedic with the paid fire department(and her story will be coming at some point, too).

The volunteer department will have quite a variety of people making it up, although I don’t know how many of them will actually make it on the page.

Flames A-Z: Nolan Hunter

I did a post on Nolan back in April for the A-Z challenge. At the time, I was in the middle of writing his story. He’s another of those characters who was supposed to just have a walk-on part in the first book. That first book was supposed to be a standalone. HaHa. I seem incapable of writing those. He only has a small appearance in the second book, but he’s in a good bit of book 3. And we learn something new about him at the same time Mark does. In fact, I learned it only shortly before that and may have resisted just a bit.

Nolan is the third son of Carrick and Ariana Hunter(that kind of makes him sound like royalty, huh?) and grew up in Crystal Glen, Pa. His father works in construction and his mother was an art teacher. Nolan and his brothers grew up around hammers and power tools. Only his oldest brother, Tate, followed in the family business. Although, his other older brother, Kelan, at one time planned to be an architect. He also has two younger siblings, Jessica and Jace, who are about 10 years younger than Nolan. Jessica also followed in their father’s footsteps.

When Nolan graduated high school, he went to college, majoring in psychology. During his second year at college, he left and joined the Marine Corps.* While there, he met Mark Young, who became one of his best friends. He served four years, a lot of that time spent in the Middle East. He was wounded just before his enlistment term was up, and he was also growing disillusioned, so he didn’t re-enlist.*

After that, he ended up joining the Crystal Lake Fire Department. He spent a few of his teen years as an Explorer for the town’s volunteer department. And his father, two of his brothers, and his sister are all volunteers as well. He’d been there for a couple years when Mark returned home badly wounded. After he’d recovered, Nolan convinced him to move up north(same state, but they come from different parts of it) and join the department as well.

Since him and Mark were friends, Nolan had gone home with Mark a few times when they were on leave. And he met Mark’s sister, Maura. Unfortunately, the first time he met her, she was already engaged to someone else. So, he became her friend. And he waited. He stood by her even when her husband treated her poorly. And when she finally left him, he was still there to support her and waiting for her to be ready to move on.

Writing Nolan’s story did push me a bit out of my comfort zone(and no, still not revealing Nolan’s secret. haha. I’m evil like that). But, I do really like it. I’m hoping others will, too.

*these lead to stories I wrote for this year’s Story a Day challenge.

Fire Friday

Back in April when I was doing the A-Z challenge(with my fire theme), I considered starting a semi-regular feature with a similar theme. Haven’t done anything with it yet. I think mostly it will be links to fire-related articles. That might not always be the case, though. It won’t be a weekly feature, more likely monthly.

Firefighter falls through roof. – I find it amazing he was able to walk away from this. Also why walking into the fire isn’t the only danger.

Serial Arsonist Arrested – He set 30 vegetation fires since April. Wow. Certainly not helping wildfire season.

9 sources of stress – an interesting look into some of the issues firefighters might face on a daily basis that can increase their stress.

And one for fun – 20 Signs You’re a Firefighter. My husband could probably relate to a few of these.

Flames A-Z: Jace & Jessica

I talked a little about these two when I wrote about the rest of the Hunter Family. Jace and Jessica are Nolan’s younger twin siblings, born when Nolan was almost ten years old. As they grew up, though, their birthday was really the only thing they had in common.

Jessica was born first, and never really lets Jace forget it. As he told Kammi in Burning Bright:

“I imagine she’d have to be tough,” she said, “with four older brothers.”
“Three,” he corrected. “I’m technically younger. By about two minutes.” He gave a slow shake of his head. “She never lets me forget those two minutes.”

Jessica is tall and strong, with flaming red hair and bright blue eyes. The height and blue eyes she gets from their mother. The strength and red hair come from her father. Not that her mother isn’t strong, just not as obviously. Jess has always been tough, always wanted to build. Another thing she got from her father. All the kids spent time around construction sites growing up and knew how to use tools. So, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when she joined her father’s company after high school. Her oldest brother was basically her boss, and he learned pretty quick that she could handle anything the other men could. She’s also a volunteer firefighter, along with most of the rest of the family. And she fits right in there, too, not taking any crap from the other men. For the last few years, she’s hand an on-again/off- again relationship with one of the younger firefighters at the paid fire department. At this point, that’s about all the more she’s told me.

Jace is shorter, looks scrawny(which surprises people when they see how strong he actually is), has auburn hair and hazel eyes. A mixture of both parents, without really looking like either of them. He has always been on the quieter side and loved to draw and paint. Took more after his mother there. And he always looked up to Nolan, who he saw as a hero, especially when he joined the Marine Corps. He thought he’d follow in his footsteps, then accepted that wasn’t the path for him. Though he did become a volunteer firefighter after Nolan came back and joined the paid department.

Jace never exactly felt like an outcast, but he never really felt like he completely belonged either. Like he hadn’t quite found his place yet. He’s had some success as an artist, and that’s how he initially meets Kammi Yates. I could tell more about their story, but I think I’ll just make you all read Burning Bright instead.

Flames A-Z: Brooke Family

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The Brooke family show up in each of the stories so far, in one way or another. The first two were completely about them, and both Kayla and James have played roles in the others, in one way or another.

The family starts with Robert and Carol Brooke. Married for over 50 years, they had two sons, James and Zachary. Carol passed away between Flames of Redemption & Flames of Renewal.

James, the older brother, was the more serious of the two. He has dark hair and green eyes. Tall. He was constantly pulling his brother out of trouble, even after they both became firefighters. He met Sarah Rafferty shortly after he joined the fire department, and even though her parents didn’t approve of him, they were married about a year later. Their son, Kieran, was born about ten months later. A little more than a year after that, James responded to a fire, only to find it was his house burning. Neither his wife or son survived. He went through the motions, but he’d lost the heart for firefighting. The first chance he got for something else, while still in the fire service, he took it. He became a fire inspector then an investigator. And later, when his niece showed interest, trained her in fire investigation. Thirty years after his family’s deaths, his wife’s best friend moves back to town. Until then, James figured he was meant to spend the rest of his life alone. But, he found his heart waking up again with Teresa.

Unlike James, Zachary is light, in looks and attitude. He was always thinking of trouble to get into, and dragging his brother along. He met Chrissy about the same time James met Sarah. They were married shortly after his brother. Their daughter, Kayla, was born less than a year after her cousin, Kieran. Ten years later, they had a son, Jeremiah. Zachary never lost his heart for fighting fires, but due to health issues, retired when he was fifty. He’s having trouble adjusting to that retirement.

Growing up in a fire family, a career in the fire service is really all Kayla ever wanted. But her father wanted his kids to at least explore other options. So, she spent two years in college, where she met Reese Davis. They ended up engaged, until he tried to control what she did. When they lost friends of theirs in a fire, and she wouldn’t follow his ultimatum of leaving the fire department, he walked away from her. Three years later she was on the rescue squad and studying with her uncle to become a fire investigator. Then, she runs into Adrian Riley. And finds someone who will protect her while not trying to extinguish the flames that drive her.

Jeremiah was born ten years after his sister, and always trying to keep up with her. He, too, wanted to join the fire department. Unlike his sister, though, he never had any desire to try to puzzle out the how or why. He’s just about finished up with the fire academy and ready to join the department.

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