The night before I started my shift my phone rang. It was one of the guys from work calling to ask if I'd be willing to leave my regular station/crew and move to a neighboring station. The next station over needed a medic and they would have to force someone to work there unless I was willing to move (my engineer is a medic as well). I decided that it was worth the hassle of moving stations for a day if it meant that someone didn't get mandoed. Besides, it was with another great crew.
The day was moving along at a leisurely pace. We had a call in the morning for an odor investigation which turned out to be nothing. Later on we went to the new discount store in town and did a walk through just to see how it was laid out.
That afternoon we were discussing the most important thing of the day (dinner) and my engineer let us know that he had a feeling we were going to get a fire that night. We chuckled and thought that would be nice. We were over due for a good fire but it usually happens on some other shift or station. But I had done something nice for someone else, maybe karma would be nice to me.
That evening we had take out from our favorite local Mexican dive. It was great. We were sitting at the table having just finished the meal when the tones went off. The dispatcher chimed in and started down the list of responding units, "Engine 51, engine 53, engine 62, truck 52, rescue 3, battalion 15....residential structure fire."
As we left the station the dispatcher informed us that we were responding for the smell of smoke coming from a house. That usually means someone is having a bbq and the neighbors are upset that they weren't invited.
As we pulled up to the house we could smell it. The unmistakable smell of a structure fire. It was faint, but it was there. There was no smoke at all showing from the house. I knocked on the door and checked the delta side of the house (if you're looking at the front of the house that's the alpha side....then go in a clockwise direction naming the sides of the house, alpha, bravo....). My captain, over on the bravo side said that he could see a little bit of smoke coming from an attic vent.
That was all I needed. I went back to the engine and grabbed the #2 cross lay and headed for the door. My engineer had already thought ahead and placed my irons at the door just in case I needed them.
Just before the front porch I stopped and masked up. Then I checked the door again to make sure it wasn't unlocked (try before you pry) and then I turned around and gave the door a good donkey kick ("Check that door for heat, Tim?"). I immediately noticed that the entire house was charged with smoke and it was already banking all the way to the floor.
As my captain and I entered the house we were blind. The house was warm but not hot. The Thermal Imager was unable to see anything because the smoke was all one uniform temperature. We tried ducking low to see better but the home owners were pack rats and there were piles of junk every where. We stumbled down two steps into the family room only to find that our way was impassable. We back tracked and worked our way to the kitchen.
There we found the smoldering fire. It had burned through some of the cabinetry and some of the trash on the counter but it had snuffed itself out. All that was left were some red hot coals that looked like what's left after a campfire. The "blaze" was doused with a couple of gallons of water.
The truck company had gone up on the roof and busted out the skylights for ventilation. Now they went around and opened up all the windows and set up a blower to evacuate the smoke.
Soon, everyone else had been cleared from the scene and we waited for the fire investigator. Finally, we were cleared to head home. Once there we cleaned up the rig and then took showers. By the time we got to bed it was well after midnight.
And the night was just getting started....