I flicked my light on, and panned it slowly across the room.
"This is too smoky to just be the idiots setting off fireworks inside the building… something's on fire here."
My mentor's voice cut through the haze of smoke, and the outlines of the guys from Engine 15 were visible as we moved through the debris in the basement.
(I stopped for a moment, remembering my old Sergeant telling me to follow the smoke as you see it in the beam of light.)
"Is it over here? The smoke's going that way, so…"
As if on cue, we all moved towards a big pile of wood that was blocking a small hatch. Two of us started tossing doors and hunks of wood out of the way (one of which gave me a pretty good smack in the face), and we were able to open it up after a minute or two.
I'm not 100% on how it happened, but a mattress was smoldering under the first floor. Extinguishing the fire was pretty anticlimactic, but that's how we found ourselves running the last few feet of our 400' hose line into a four-foot-high crawl space littered with old beer cans and trash.
Was it a rockin' good fire, full of excitement and good stories? Nope. Was it a chance for me to learn something about working on a fire scene? Absolutely. I mean, I'm happy for whatever I can get to do while in the street—I'm still technically assigned to the Training Academy, so I appreciate the time I've spent crashing on E15's couch (figuratively speaking, that is).
Besides, the best "tips and tricks" seem to come from the guys when they're actually working a scene. Sure, they can sit at the watchdesk with me and tell stories, but the stuff they share while we're in the middle of doing something can be infinitely more valuable.
As we crawled out and began gathering up our sections of hose, it was impossible not to notice all the fireworks going off around us. I mean, I expected people to be setting off fireworks on the eve of the greatest pyromaniac holiday of the year, but this many?
Damn near every apartment building around us had something exploding, whistling, flaring, or shooting into the air above it at some point. Courtyards, roofs, steps, middle of the street; not to mention the Nationals Stadium was putting on their own show, so we had quite a spectacle to watch as we racked hose. (I had a slightly better view, because the new guy always climbs up into the hose bed for this process.)
It was Friday night, a little after 11pm, and we still had a long night ahead of us.
I love this city.
I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July, and I bet the crews on #4 had a good bit of fun.