It was 03-something in the morning when the Minitor chirped.
Engine, Engine, Engine, Tanker, Tanker, etc.... chimney fire being upgraded straight to a full structure response. This could be interesting, but where is it?
Awww snap. Seven blocks away from ol' Grumpy's house, with Station 51 smack in between.
Not too many first due-fires for this run-down volunteer, let's hope we don't screw this up.
Arriving aboard E51 about four minutes later, there's fire showing from the roof of this double-wide mobile home all around the chimney in the center of the roof.
Let's not screw this up.
Dispatchers said everyone is out, but as I pull past the place and park it, all the lights are on but no one is in sight. Walking up to the place, I sure hope they aren't inside trying to get the cat or something. Visibility is actually nearly clear, the haze about like when you start up the fireplace and forget to open the damper. Walking in and calling out, the residents answer from through the open back door where they are in fact dealing with pets - thankfully already outside.
Rescue mitigated, I scope the wood stove in the center of the home on my way out. The ceiling around the pipe has burned away several inches, leaving a clear view into the freely burning attic void. Conveniently, with oxygen drawn from the living area and smoke venting through the roof, it is staying pretty clear inside. I should get out, pull a line, pack up and wait for help.
But we'll lose everything if we wait another ten minutes for next-due Engine 54.
When you choose to break the rules, be darn sure you can articulate why you did it and are positive that it will work.
I stretched a line from 51 and brought it to the door without grabbing a pack, had the guy living there help hump it in behind me from the front door, and put two quick bursts of straight stream into the attic. Knocked that fire right down, but stirred up the crap, so I dropped the tip and bailed out again before it got untenable. Outside, there were no longer flames visible from the roof. Nice.
54 made the scene, and now that we had four guys we went back to work.
We saved the place, still had 3/4 tank on Engine 51 and never used water from any other pieces. Pretty cool, saving a mobile home and all its furnishings on the fringes of civilization, when the normal configuration for a burning rural mobile home at night is to serve as a navigational aid for aircraft.
Thank you God for helping me not screw that up and sending me excellent help.
Got lightly grilled about it later, but being able to articulate my reasoning and having a saved mobile home to our credit, the end result was our notoriously crusty Deputy Chief of few words simply saying "Super good job, Grumpy". Whew.
Everything was all fine and dandy after that until the Chief put out a press release with my name in it. Damn. Ice cream for three staffed stations is expensive.
Stay safe out there. And for heaven's sake do as I say, not as I do!