Two fire trucks arrived on the scene, signals blaring. The night air glowed in a flickering display of yellow and orange, as tall flames erupted from a suburban house’s second story windows.
“Please find my husband!” a frantic woman wailed from the front lawn.
A firefighter approached her. “Are you okay, miss?” he asked, while others rolled out hoses and secured hydrant connections.
“Yes. We both escaped in time, but James went back in for our dog. Max sleeps in the basement at night. Please save them!”
“Jason, we still have one person inside,” he shouted to another fireman. “There’s a dog, also. They may be in the cellar.”
“Yes, sir,” Jason replied. Already fully decked out in their heavy gear, he and another comrade dashed toward the house, axes in hand.
“My name is Carl Weatherly, Mrs.--”
“Adams. DeDe Adams.”
“Well, Mrs. Adams, as fire chief, I suggest you get checked out. Even if you didn’t suffer any burns, there’s a possibility of respiratory problems from the smoke.”
“No! I’m not moving until I know James and Max are safe,” she exclaimed, her voice ringing in defiance.
“Two of my best men are searching for them right now. Please wait near the ambulance so someone can look after you.”
“I said no, damn it!”
“Well, if you won’t get examined, then you must move across the street. Standing so close is too risky.”
“As the primary safety officer on site, I really must insist.”
Distraught, DeDe crossed the road and took up vigil on the opposite sidewalk.
Jason Durring and his longtime brother-in-arms, Christian Turk, cautiously entered through the house’s front door. Heavy smoke hung thick at eye level, so they crouched in search of better visibility and cleaner breathing air.
“This place isn’t going to stay up long,” Jason said, inspecting the dwelling’s flaming infrastructure.
“Ten minutes at best,” Christian agreed. “We’d better locate this guy in a hurry.”
“Is there anybody in here?” Jason shouted.
A dog bark sounded from below their feet.
“The chief said they were in the cellar,” Christian pointed out. “Let’s find the stairs. Fast.”
“This house is built just like my in-law’s. The door should be inside the kitchen pantry.”
“I’ll follow you, then.”
They moved through a dining room and into the kitchen. Eyes burning, Jason led the way. “There it is,” he said, pointing out an open door.
The dog bark rang out again, this time louder, more distinct.
“The owner is supposedly down there with the dog,” Jason said, raising his voice above the fire roar. A few more sharp yelps followed, but no human response. “Christian, you wait up here. I’ll check downstairs.”
“Make it quick. I heard the ceiling creak. I’m not dying for a dog.”
“Give me a shout if it looks like I’m running out of time.”
“Go!” Christian urged.
Jason shined his flashlight at the pantry. As expected, he found the open basement door inside. “Hello!” he shouted.
He moved cautiously down the wooden stairs, scanning the light back and forth in front of him. At the bottom, he spotted a Boston Terrier. It stood over a crumpled man, whimpering and licking his owner’s face.
“Good dog,” Jason said, easing slowly forward. “Let me have a look at your master.” He approached the motionless figure. Right away the man’s condition became apparent. “Christian, the guy’s dead. Looks like the poor fellow took a tumble on the stairs. Worst neck break I’ve ever seen. I’ll need your help bringing him up.”
“We haven’t got time,” Christian replied. “Get your ass out of there right now. This place is falling down around us.”
With a sorrowful heart, Jason scooped up the whimpering dog, never testing its demeanor, and raced to the ground floor.
The Terrier wiggled and whined, but displayed no aggressive behavior. He rushed up the stairs and through the pantry with smoke billowing about in drastically increased levels.
“Move it!” Christian pleaded.
Jason frowned. “We can’t just leave the guy down there.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, believe me. But a beam just fell in the other room.”
“Guys, hurry it up!” Chief Weatherly’s voice came from the front lawn.
Out of options, Jason followed his partner’s lead. A flaming rafter crashed down between them, cutting Jason off. Then the floor rumbled below their feet.
“Jump it if you can,” Christian hollered.
Jason dove across the fiery wood. He purposely landed on his back, protecting the dog at all costs. Another ceiling section collapsed, barely missing him.
“Forget the damned dog!” Christian screamed, standing near the front door, separated from his brother firefighter by a growing wall of flames.
“Catch him!” Jason tossed the Terrier ten feet or more through the air, above the inferno’s reach.
Without missing a beat, Christian caught the startled pet.
“Go!” Jason ordered. “I’m right behind you.”
Christian bolted outside and turned around just in time to see the roof cave in. He gasped. “Oh, my God! No!”
As the second story came crashing down, Jason burst through a smoke cloud and leapt off the porch. Christian released the Boston Terrier and ran to his buddy’s side. Still whimpering, the dog ran across the street to DeDe.
DeDe couldn’t fully comprehend the scene unfolding in front of her. Two firefighters had rescued Max, but her husband’s whereabouts remained a mystery. Feeling nervous, she crossed the street and approached the men who had just exited her crumbling house. They stood in conference with Chief Weatherly, hunched over and breathing hard.
“Where’s my husband?” she asked, wary of the response.
Jason hung his head. “I’m sorry, miss. He didn’t--”
“Nooo!” Her anguished cry echoed through the normally serene subdivision for all to hear.
© 2017 by Michael Infinito