“Shit. Uh, Sarge? There’s no stairs back here.”
We were second due on a reported basement fire, and we had seen smoke as we pulled up. The wagon had come through one of the legs in an H-shaped alley, and the house was dead smack in the middle of the crossbar. We grabbed the 400′ and took off, Sgt. McAllister yelling his unique brand of high-volume inspirational messages behind me.
With a hundred feet of hose on our shoulders, we stopped dead as we turned to look towards the house. In front of us stood a seven-foot cinderblock wall, blocking the backyard. The officer reached for his radio and snapped off a quick transmission:
“Truck, we need some ground ladders back here to gain access to the rear.”
We could see Truck 11 already starting towards us with ladders from the other end of the alley; the few moments it took them to throw it felt like forever, especially when silhouetted by the smoke we could see emptying into the sky.
Still trying to keep the hose piled on my shoulder in a reasonably-organized bundle, I climbed up the ladder and side-stepped onto the top of the wall.
“There’s a bit of a drop here…”
The jump to reach the grass on the other side didn’t look like much; however, I’m not much of an Olympian in shorts and track shoes, much less with all my gear and a hoseline. I didn’t have much time to think about the whole process… better to throw myself into oblivion than have my officer pissed at me for holding up progress.
One muffled thud and a sharply-uttered curse later, I found myself on the ground. The scramble up the grass was slow going (it was steep as hell; how do you even get a lawnmower on an angle like that?) but we would have had a bear of a time gaining access to the basement regardless of our situation; every window and door was barred, and there wasn’t a saw in sight. The truck was laddering and ventilating upper-level, non-barred windows, and we heard another company getting a knock on the fire. Less than a minute later, the tillerman came around and cut the bars for us, but it was too late.
As it turned out, the building layout was such that the “basement” was just slightly lower than the two stories visible in the front, and the first-due company was able to make their way to the fire without much difficulty. We, however, simply had to pick up and go home.
(I almost took a spill going back over the wall to bring the hose back. Note to self: if a ladder is bridging a gap between elevated ground and the top of a wall, don’t step on the side of the ladder that’s past the wall—yes, I’m a dumbass. I think the officer on E22 was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to see the rookie do something hilariously stupid…)
It appears that my time in the 1st Battalion has come to an end. Last week, I was transferred to E15 in Anacostia (where I did my mentoring several months ago), and my first shift is on Sunday.
Through good times and bad, I learned a lot from the guys at Engine 26 and Truck 15; I wish you all the best and I’m certain I’ll see many of you again. Take care, and be safe.
P.S. – I still owe you all a probation dinner—you didn’t think I was just gonna skip out on that, did ya?