We jumped out of the fire truck and grabbed our tools to get to work as we could see the flames rolling out the 2nd floor window. I followed Josh and Ian up to the white helmet, a.k.a. “The Chief”, to determine what our job was going to be. He shouted over the sound of the sirens and the hum of the engines that he already had an attack team fighting the fire and we needed to get into the basement from the inside of the house to find the main utility box so that we could turn it off.
I swiftly pulled my mask over my face and with the familiar click of the breathing apparatus, made my way to the front door. Peering inside the smoky abyss your mind quickly becomes fully aware of the situation and you ask yourself –“Why in earth am I about to step foot in there when I can’t even see a foot ahead of me?” The problem is that as soon as this thought pops into your head, it’s quickly forgotten when you see your team vanish into the darkness. Following the fire hose at our feet we crawled single file down the hallway keeping close to the ground to avoid the extreme heat above us noticing every once in awhile the flames dancing through the smoke like a Chinese Dragon teasing us.
We made our way into the kitchen and spotted the cellar door, which Ian slowly opened and then proceeded into. Following Josh, I started down the narrow, old and rickety staircase. Feeling each stair give a little with the added weight of my firefighter’s gear, I proceeded blindly due to the dense smoke.
In the fire academy, one of the things that the instructors do is put the fear of god into you about getting stuck in a basement during a fire because it’s one of the deadliest places to be because you’re underground in a confined space with very few ways to get in or out. With this in the back of my mind, I continued down the stairs until I felt the stair that I just stepped on crack and it was too late for me to catch myself. I found myself using my forearms to hold me as my feet are dangling and not touching anything.
“Oh Shit!” I’m stuck and I’m sucking through my limited air at a pace that’s not sustainable. I squirmed to pull myself back up through the broken stairs and began to regain my composure. I then saw the beam of a flashlight and heard Josh over his face microphone, “Ha, I was wondering where you went!” By this time I had pulled myself out of my predicament and crawled down the rest of the stairs only to find that my feet were probably only 6” from the ground when I was hanging and I could have just lowered myself to safety!!!
I got back up and by this time Ian had already made his way over the utilities and shut them down and was now back to the stairs asking what had happened. With this, we made our way back up the stairs avoiding the broken ones and then headed out the same way we came in.
As I took off my mask outside I could hear both Josh & Ian, “You put your right foot in…” – yeah, they weren’t going to let me forget about this for a long time!