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November 9th, 2009

I was about five feet into the house, kneeling in the doorway between the enclosed porch and the living room, seeing a wall of dark gray smoke and feeling pieces of ceiling fall on me. That's when the room on the other side of the doorway flashed over. Suddenly I saw really well, although all I saw was a solid wall of flames.

I'd somehow gotten it into my mind that the room ahead was a small one, so I opened up the nozzle with the expectations that the flames would quickly be knocked down. Unknown to me, I was actually throwing my steam into an L shaped room that went all the way to the back of the house, and which was now engulfed in fire. I whipped the nozzle around, throwing a couple of hundreds of gallons of water a minute into the superheated atmosphere, and the fire laughed in my face.

"There's fire over to our left!" yelled the guy who was backing me up. Unknown to us, the fire over there had already burned through the wall, so we were seeing flames in the next room. But since the fire two inches from my face was going nowhere, I had troubles of my own.

After a minute or so -- it seemed a lot longer -- the steam conversion worked, and the fire died down. But there was an instant before that -- and this has never happened to me in my 29 years of firefighting -- where I thought to myself:

"What the hell am I doing here?"

By the time my air tank ran low we'd knocked down the fire visible from our position. I crawled out, dumped my air pack, looked up to see how we were doing, and saw flames roaring out of the roof right over where we'd been working. That's when the IC and I pulled everybody out.

I played Safety Officer for the rest of the fire. By the way, propane tanks are still trying to kill me -- later that morning I found a charred tank that someone had carried out of the same doorway and left outside.

How was your weekend?



The New Era article on the fire:Collapse )

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