Monday, February 18, 2013

Silent Mayday

"Mayday Mayday Mayday!" It's sounds urgent enough. Loud enough. The room is getting hotter. Surely they heard him. He tugs on his partner but exhaustion is taking over. "Mayday Mayday Mayday." The comms are all over the place. Companies talking, nobody listening. He knows he can't leave. "What the fuck is going on out there!?" His partner is getting heavier. He drags him for what feels like miles, only to move inches at a time. He grabs his radio and keys the mic, "Ladder 11 - Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! Firefighter down 3rd floor!" His voice calm and precise. He thinks to himself Come on you fuckers, answer! The comms squawks with a static hysteria. The room is darkening. This isn't a good sign, he thinks. He drags his partner a little further. Inch by inch he works his way toward where he thinks the stairs are. He needs help and he knows it. Getting to the stairs is one thing, but his partner is too heavy to be dragged out alone.

Outside on the street, Chief Marty Sullivan knows this fire is getting away from him and his men. It's only a matter of time before they will have to fully retreat from the structure. For all he knows he has guys working on the 2nd floor pulling ceilings. The 3rd floor was evacuated and the focus of this attack is now the 2nd floor. Companies inside fight to gain an upper hand on the stubborn fire. They tear through sheetrock walls and yank on ceilings. The fire is above them as it tries to extend to the 3rd floor. "Engine 4 to Ladder 11... Engine 4 to Ladder 11... Engine 4 to Ladder 11... Are you on the 3rd floor? The fire is right below you." Engine 4 is Lt. Sam Connell. He holds his radio receiver close to his ear. No answer. The comms static for a second like wind blowing through the radio. Outside the the horns are going off, interior attack is over, everyone out. The 2nd floor is getting hotter and darker. Smoke banks down to the floor. Lt. Connell turns to his firefighter, Danny Earheadt, "I think Ladder 11 is still upstairs." Just then the evacuation tone is sounded. The chief sees something he doesn't like and orders immediate evacuation of the structure. Lt. Connell is blind in the thick smoke. He crawls with his firefighter on their bellies but loses his place amongst the chaos. Another member crawls right by his face and knocks off his helmet. "Sorry, Who's that!?" Says a voice. "Sam Connell, is that you, Kev?" Lt. Kevin Saguer was following Engine 4's hose line to the exit. "Yeah it's me, I have the camera, so you go ahead of me and follow the line out. I'll watch you through the camera." The camera is heat sensing and allows Lt. Saguer to watch the other members in front of him. Suddenly a loud banging sound comes from directly in front of them, "This way boys, over here, follow the noise!" It's Danny Earheadt signaling the guys toward the stairwell. "Wait! Did you hear that!?" Shouts Lt. Connell. Saguer stays still and quiet in anticipation of some noise. "I don't hear anything." "I thought I heard a Mayday. It was faint though, like a whisper." At that point a dispatch comes over the radio and initiates a roll call to account for all companies exiting the structure.
Connell and Saguer know the conditions are getting worse and they move toward the stairwell. They slide along the slimy floor mixed with soot and water. Getting to the door way they work their way toward the stairs. Lt. Connell takes another look behind him but  visibility is zero. His flash light is devoured by the snotty smoke. He starts to slam his hand on the floor, "anyone still in here!? This way, the stairs out are here..." A few silent seconds go by. The sound of crackling is getting louder and the rooms are getting hotter. He turns to head down the stairs. The silhouette of Saguer and Earhardt are barely visible as they make it to the bottom step and out the door. Connell feels the heat begin to pick up again. It's gonna flash, he thinks to himself as he fiddles to find each step with his foot. "Command to Engine 4," busts through the radio. "G'head Chief..." The radio crackles, "What's your.." "...Mayday..." "..cation..?" The Chief's message is briefly stepped on. I definitely heard a mayday, Sam Connell says to himself. He lies across 5 or 6 steps, halfway between the 2nd floor and the relief of the outside world. "Engine 4 to command, be advised your message was stepped on by a mayday. Engine 4 to the mayday, what's your location? Identify yourself." The radio is silent and still. Everyone heard Connell's transition to the chief. They wait. Torturing silence. Chief Sullivan radios dispatch, "Did you receive a mayday?" They are adamant no such call was made. "Command to dispatch, initiate a roll call..." "Command be advised we have not made contact with Ladder 11..."


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