Today’s prompt was to take a story from the headlines. Well, this actually happened just the other day right down the road from us. We were sitting outside and could hear the propane tank blow and saw the smoke from across the field.
Jace moved into the structure, holding onto the interior line. I was right behind him, and I didn’t like the way those flames looked ahead of us. The propane tank behind the house had already blown. I’d been able to hear the explosion from my house. The tones sounded barely minutes later. I was already headed to the station, though. I knew we’d be needed.
“Doesn’t look good, sis,” Jace said from in front of me.
I didn’t bother responding. We both knew it didn’t look good. But, the neighbors had said the man who lived here wasn’t home. That he was at work at the time. So, that was at least one good point. But, when he got home, there might not be much of it left.
“Just get it put out, so we can get out of here,” I told him.
But, even as we put water on it, the flames seemed to spread even more. They’d already been climbing the walls of the kitchen when we entered the house. Now, they were spreading across the ceiling. The structure was only one story, but just because a second floor couldn’t come crashing down, didn’t mean this couldn’t mean trouble.
We moved farther into the kitchen, into the heat, and visibility lessened. Even through the mask, I could smell the noxious smoke. It was different than the usual smell of a structure fire. This had burnt propane woven through it. We shifted the hose, trying to knock down the flames.
Above us I could hear a creaking and groaning. Adrenaline shot through me, spiking my heart rate. “Jace, we need to pull out.”
He didn’t answer, just kept spraying the flames, trying to get to the seat of the fire with a direct attack. “Damn it, Jace,” I said, pulling on the back of his jacket. “The roof’s going to give soon.” Granted, I wasn’t sure exactly what soon might be. It could be two minutes or closer to twenty. I didn’t want my twin brother to be caught in here when it did, though.
“I know him, Jess. Not just letting his house burn to the ground.”
We all knew Joseph McKown. He helped fix all our cars, sometimes even at a discount. Hell, our father had helped build this house. I didn’t want to see it gone either. “Well, I’d rather that than have to bury my twin after he’s crushed by a ceiling collapse.”
That had Jace’s head jerking up. I shouldn’t be surprised that he hadn’t noticed the signs of danger sooner. Jace had the tendency to narrow his focus to one object or task at a time. That focus made him a wonderful, and intense, artist. But, it wasn’t so good when he put that coat and helmet on.
“We still have time,” he said.
I knew it was too late, though. Even if we got the fire out, the kitchen at least would be a complete loss. The rest of the house might be salvageable, but I didn’t think the kitchen could be saved. Then, the groaning above us grew louder. Even Jace heard it this time, and he cut off a quick curse.
Even as we started to retreat, plaster was falling down on us. I felt him shove my shoulder and started to move fast. Then, I heard the crash. A quick glance back told me a large chunk of the ceiling had fallen. In fact, the ceiling fan that had been visible on the ceiling was now gone. Shit. “Jace, come on.”
That’s when I heard it. A soft beeping at first. “No. No, no, no.” I turned and saw my brother on the floor, a piece of that ceiling fan not far from his head. “No,” I said it again.
I fumbled with my radio as I knelt beside him. “Down,” I managed to get out. “Jace is down.”
Then, I put my hands under his armpits and started to pull him from the kitchen. I didn’t know how bad he was hurt and didn’t want to make it worse. But, getting him out was more important right now. I grunted though as I moved slowly. “Damn, brother, you’re heavy for being so damn scrawny.”
If he’d been conscious, he’d have laughed at that.
Then, there were two more people at her side. “We got him, Jess,” she heard her older brother, Nolan say. The other man was probably Mark then. Other than when Mark had been recovering from a broken leg, those two usually worked together. She stepped back and let Nolan take Jace’s shoulders in his arms while Mark grabbed his legs. As they carried him from the house, she helped the others that had come in drag the hose back out.
The chief was already calling for them to switch to defensive maneuvers, too dangerous for anyone to go back in. Then, he was waving me over, and I saw Robert Bleck, our volunteer department’s chief safety officer, standing with him. “We were about to pull you all out,” Chief Mertz told me. “I wish we would have made the call minutes sooner.”
I took off my helmet and removed the air mask. “Not your fault, Chief. We were in there and didn’t even know how soon it would collapse. He’ll be okay, I’m sure.” But I couldn’t quite stop a glance in the direction of the ambulance that was already pulling away from the scene.
“Jaya’s working,” the chief told me. “She’ll take care of your brother.”
I knew his daughter was a good paramedic, but it still didn’t wipe away all my worry. Nothing would until I knew he was all right. “Where do you want me now, Chief?”
“Rehab tent. Get some water, air if you need it. Rest. Then, go check on your brother. I know that’s where you want to be.”
I shook my head. “I should stay until it’s mopped up.”
Chief Mertz shook his head. “I’ll make it an order, Hunter. We’ve got enough help here.”
Then, Nolan was beside her, too. “Listen to him, Jess. Let Mom and Dad know. I’ll meet you guys at the hospital when my shift is over.”
That was the difference between us. Nolan did this for his job, and I was a volunteer. I didn’t have to stick around. I leaned against him for a moment, knowing he’d take comfort in just that. “Hopefully he’ll be out by that time. I’ll let you know what they say when I can.”
Then, I headed to the rehab tent for that drink. I could use it after all. And I’d have to wait for one of the trucks to head back to the station anyway. I’d left my car there.