It is weird to think that when a fire happens people actually go inside to put it out. The normal human body and reactions say get out as fast as you can. Yet men and women across the world risk their lives, putting on a whole bunch of heavy turnout gear, carrying heavy tools, or pulling the hose and go into the insane environment. Going through any fire is an image that can be scary, and from the first person perspective, there are many things that still remain unseen. From beginning to end, it truly is a sensory explosion.
In the beginning, imagine sitting at home, watching television or eating dinner. All of a sudden a pager or a phone goes off, the next thing you see is yourself running to your car. Listening to the 911 dispatcher announce the call coming in over the radio band.
"Tactical Box 44-88, Attention Engine 44, Engine 88, Engine 77, Ladder 65, Ladder 8, Rescue 4, Rescue 9, Fire Reported Bensalem Boulevard and Byberry Road, in the Area; a Dwelling"
As you drive to the firehouse, all you see is cars driving past you, your heart is beating a mile a minute. Thinking, that because there is no confirmed address that it could just be something simple. You pull into the firehouse parking lot, as the other firefighters pull up at the same time. You all run inside to get your gear on. It has only been five minutes, and you hear over the radio...
"Companies responding on Tactical Box 44-88 be advised, Chief 44 is on location, Working Fire. Again companies responding on Tactical Box 44-88 be advised, Chief 44 is on location, the address is 2500 Byberry Road, the working fire has been transmitted."
Now the race is on. You climb into the fire engine and sit down. The clock has started ticking, working fire, confirmed address. Thoughts in your head keep swirling, keep thinking which seat am I in, what is my assignment, who is my crew. You see the red flashing lights of the fire truck, reflecting off of cars like a Christmas tree. Everything stops at that moment except for you and the fire truck.
Sirens scream, traffic moves to the side, the radio chatter continues in your ear. Yet all is quiet, like the calm before the storm. No one says a word to anyone in the back of the truck. You all have tunnel vision, you see and have thoughts of what is coming, but no words can truly say what is happening.
You look out the window, turning the corner to the street, the column of smoke is visible and you realize your time is now. Preparing for the battle with the fire. You know what you must do and you see what is happening. The fire engine stops and it is time to go. You hop out of the fire engine, full gear on, gloves at the ready, air pack ready, mask on. You climb around to the side of the truck and pull the first hose off the truck and run to the front door.
The first fire chief on scene is telling you what he heard when he first arrived and you say okay. You kneel down at the front door of the house masking up, turning on your air pack, that you may have the power to breathe. You feel the hose between your knees, the water rushing through it. The front door opens, right in front of your eyes what was the nice front door with the decorations saying "Welcome" now is churning.
What was once a normal scene is now black. Churning smoke with the fresh air from the inside now rushes in. You crawl in, it is hot. How hot is it? When the hottest day of the summer when it is 100+ degrees outside, seems like air conditioning compared to what you are entering. Smoke gets thicker, you now cannot see anything. What once was a clear vision is now empty. Again it becomes quiet, almost weirdly peaceful. Blackness consumes you, even with the flashlight on your helmet, it does not make a difference.
Deeper into the void, feeling around the walls, the floors, trying to find windows, couches, beds, tables. You are searching, not only for the fire but for the person that may be still inside. Yet it seems impossible, being tasked with looking for someone in complete darkness, with gloves that are thicker than a textbook it seems. Trying to hear a scream or a voice in the void of the smoke. You still cannot see what room you are in, or where objects are.
Then you hear and see the crackling, the flames licking the ceiling around the corner of the hallway. You see what appears in slow motion, the animal that is fire, living, breathing, eating its way through the house as it consumes its fuel. What was once darkness is now a display of a primal kind. Man created fire, and now man destroys fire. In slow motion you see it rolling right over your head and consuming the hallway.
In an instant the fire dies, the water coming out of the hose rips through the heart of the fire and darkness resumes again. You see it chase back into a bedroom, you run right to it. The room itself has just become your target and you now see what needs to be done. Crawling through the hallway that was just on fire, you go to the room and open the hose line and extinguish the rest of the fire. In that room you see what is left, nothing but ash. Then to make it easier to see you open the window and the smoke clears.
The vision that was once darkness and heat now turns into the red flashing lights and the night sky again. The battle was won by you, and the fire has died. Walking back outside, you can see the true devastation of the fire, a house gone, memories gone, a wedding dress gone, priceless family pictures. But the family is thankful, why? Because you saved them, you put out the fire and stopped the terror.
Now back to reality, you sit on the bumper of the fire truck, hot, exhausted, tired and dirty from the war you just fought. Your heart is still pounding and you start coming back to earth. The biggest fight of your life is over, for now. Now the cleanup begins.
Imagination over, back to the real world. Now I know that this is not something that many people really witness, except for the firefighters, but the sights and the sounds are true. The addresses used in this are not real, the streets are as well as the actual fire trucks said in the dispatch quotes.
Being a firefighter this is something that we see all the time, and many people have asked me what do you see, and it is always really hard to describe how it works. I want people to read this and just see what goes through a firefighter's mind and through what he or she sees. I hope you can now see how it all happens.