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 Father and Son
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          Page Nine

Then they saw it. The involved truck, it was upright,
almost intact. But beneath it lay a sportscar and one
woman, fouled and trapped behind her crumpled
steering column. Truck 127's men were already on
scene with bottles and masks advancing on her
with mist fanning hoses into the air to dissolve away
any lingering swirls of ammonia from over her location.

Roy screeched to a halt two hundred yards from the truck.
"Gotta stop here. If that gas cloud doubles back, it'll
corrode the vehicles."

"Not to mention us, too." Gage said grimly. "She must
be alive. They're spraying a defensive pattern over her.."

DeSoto and Gage rushed out of the squad cab and met
up with Cap and the gang in a hurried group as they
all grabbed SCBA and pulled out high volume water hoses.
Roy and John had their air bottles and masks on in
less than a minute. "Cap...?" Roy asked, ready for
instant instructions.

Hank Stanley stood, his helmet off in hand, holding his
mask to his face and he motioned them all nearer.
"I want you all to take a look at where the liquid
puddles are now. Remember where they are when
you start laying down water. That is where the ammonia
lies. It's subliming into gas and it's -28 F. Watch your
step or your clothes and shoes will freeze burn to
your skin faster than dry ice! If you get any liquid on you,
start stripping off all clothing immediately and get
under a firm wash.. and don't stop hosing down.
Only way to thaw those kinds of burns. Any fumes
will dessicate your eyes and mucous membranes
on contact. And the only thing that will help it is
water. Tons of it.  Oh, and I don't think I have
to tell any of you guys to avoid other engine
companies hose runoff. Anhydrous is caustic
ammonium hydroxide when diluted with water
until its through absorbing water to satiation.
Don't worry about sparks from extrication equipment.
This stuff's not flammable out in the open.
The gas cloud will turn transparent as it spreads but
you'll be able to smell it long before you reach a
dangerous area. Remember, your safety comes first.
If I tell you to retreat, do it sooner than yesterday.
Ok, move out.."

The gang circled the truck widely, avoiding the deadly
cold shiny spill stain spreading from under the dripping misting
valve of the shattered semi and moved onto a narrow strip
of dry concrete that Batallion 14 and the other crews were
utilizing near the trapped woman's sportscar.

Cap lifted his handy talkie to his mouth. He now had a better
idea of what they were dealing with. "Foam Truck 127. Move in.
The only leaking areas I see are immediately beneath the
semi.. Lay a full covering spread. Confirmed pressurized
anhydrous ammonia leak. The tank's got the proper labels all
over it."

Gage watched Roy sprint over to the other car, crumpled
and on the side of the road.

"Chief?" Johnny yelled through his mask. "How's she doing?"
he said to the older white helmeted man directing the water
curtain misting team holding fast between the woman and
the semi. He could hear the dark skinned woman moaning
from where she sat pinned in her seat.

"She was talking a while ago, but she's starting to
have some trouble breathing. Just get her out before
you treat anything beyond the basics. This wind may
shift on us with that thunderstorm approaching."
the Battalion chief replied. "Careful in there.. And do
not use any O2 at all. The moisture from it will only
burn your victim's lungs and her eyes if she takes in any
concentrated ammonia gas to her face using it while still
being this close to the leak. Wait until you're evacuated."  

Johnny saw a pair of legs lying under the semi where
the truck driver had fallen after escaping his cab and he
started forward.. The chief grabbed his arm,
shaking his head. "He's dead.. we found his face
frozen solid to the ground. Looks like a direct
stream hit him when he tried to shut off the valve
to protect the woman."

Johnny swallowed dryly and he nodded,
firmly making himself not looking at the man's upper
torso after hearing that.

Roy and Johnny gingerly made their way over to her, wincing
as hose mist dampened their coats and hissed as minute
traces of ammonia gas sizzled on the rubber they contained.
Their breathing sounded hollow behind their masks, whistling
in their ears. Terror made them begin to sweat immediately.

Johnny shouted to the woman putting own his best
calming smile and soothing voice.. "Hey, how are ya doing?
Just relax, we're gonna get you outta here.." He said,
moving a quickly ungloved hand to her carotid for an
assessment. "You hurt anywhere besides your legs?" he
asked. "Anything in your neck or back?"

The dashboard hid most of them from him below
her knees, but he saw no visible blood anywhere on
her pants legs.

"No, I'm fine..agh. Get me out of here.. Can't...can't..
b- breathe." and she gasped and her eyes rolled into
her head.

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"Cap!! Step up that misting! The fumes are doubling
back!!" Gage shouted, holding the woman's throat
and chin tipped up as far as he could. He could feel
her chest heave as she began to choke a bit. Gage
lifted her larynx up with his fingers and her stridor
eased off. "Hey.. You're fine.. Just keep breathing.
Nice and slow and very shallowly. Now we're gonna get
you out of here real fast. Just relax... You hear
me?" he shouted, muffled through his mask.

The woman was beyond talking, but her
eyes never left Johnny's and her hands tightly
gripped his wrist where he was managing her
airway for her. Her struggling eased off as
blissful clear air returned around them from
the displacing water fan's effect.

The fireteam near them added another hose to
the water curtain swiftly, and found the best
angle to utilize the clearing winds until they
pushed the wispy edges of the gas cloud away
from the paramedics and their victim.

Chet and Marco sprinted up with a K-12 and jaws
and Roy was right behind them with news about
the other car. "The other driver's ok. Just bumps
and bruises. The CHP got him out just fine, he's
waiting for us. Just has a simple fracture of the
right ulna. What do you got here?"

"Dyspnea. Moderate laryngeal spasming. And her legs
are pinned. She says they don't hurt at all. I didn't
see any bleeding. Her C-Spine's clear. Can you tell
anything down there? I haven't checked her out
very well yet because of this.." he said angling his
head to mean the lifting airway hold he was
maintaining on her with both hands over her throat
at the angle of her jaw.

Roy said, "Hang on." And he moved to the other
side of the car, crawling in as well as he could
over the woman's lap to check. "Just a panel
of the dashboard over her left knee. The jaws
should be able to handle that well enough..
Nothing seems to be broken.." he said, moving
careful hands over her lower limbs.
He straightened up, "Kelly there's a good bar
right down there to put the chain. String it
up would ya?" he said calmly.

"Right.." Chet said. Then his eyes fell on the woman's
name tag, still on her shoulder. "Daphne, now we're
gonna pull this car off your legs, won't hurt at all
but it's gonna be real loud for a while. Just some
sounds of twisting, popping metal all right?"

"O-Ok.. ugh.." her voice rasped hoarsely.
Johnny hastily readjusted her head's placement
when her eyes suddenly closed.

"Hey hey, now Daphne.. Stay with us.." said
Johnny.  His forearm never left her diaphragm
nor lifted away from the breaths he could feel
moving there. "She needs O2. Fast. Daphne,
don' out. We need you to- ah, h*ll..."
and he shifted position, taking the full dead
weight of her head into his shoulder as
Daphne lapsed into limp unconsciousness.

There was a loud thudding of hollow liquid and metal
from above and they all hunched down, anticipating

All the firemen looked up to the nurse tank truck's
roof when a man from Hazmat suddenly appeared above
the leaking valve in a full chemical suit to deal with
the source of the spreading cloud.  They heard his
satisfied grunt when all it took was a flip of the
tank's sealing cap and a twist of its pressurized
valve to stop all the bad fumes.

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Everyone sighed in relief. But the Batallion chief said,
"We're not out of the woods yet. That cloud will hang
around for hours before it dissipates. Only water
will carry it into the soil where it will be absorbed.
Stay away from it.. And we'd better hope it doesn't
start to rain. That will flatten the cloud like a pancake
and we'll all be enveloped before we even have a
chance to run. Get her free and move her out
to the half mile perimeter at the minimum.."

"Yes sir.." Roy replied.

The Jaws and K-12 came to life under the assisting
Truck 127 firemen's gloves, working to free Daphne.

The sportscar was foreign made but soon, brute
mechanical strength made the front end uncrumple
and fall away.

Kelly piped up from the front tire spot. "We got it! We
got it. Gage, DeSoto, you can pull her out anytime,
but hang on just a sec, and let me get a wooden longboard
for her. It won't melt down in the ammonia if it gets wet
like a metal stokes would." And the stocky masked and
helmeted fireman ran for the station's engine.

"Bring a C collar too! And a short oral airway!
I wanna get one in before she swells up any more."
John shouted after him.

Three minutes later, Daphne was breathing secured,
and almost free when a new smell reached those on
the outskirts of the evacuated area.
Rain.. on hot concrete.

"Rain!! Everybody out of there! Now!!!" Cap shouted
into his HT. "Move it! Move it!! That cloud's gonna
bloom big time..."

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All the firemen around the car dropped their hoses
and grabbed Daphne's board gracelessly.
And Roy, John and they, ran with her, top speed,
away from the semi truck.. leaving behind all else.

The cloud of anhydrous NH3 above them writhed
ominously, expanding with the gift of water,
and then hideously, it began to settle, on the way
to smothering those running on the ground beneath it.

Station 51's vehicles were nearest to the semi.

"Move move!! Everybody on.. We're getting outta
here!" Stoker ordered..

The firemen hefted up Daphne's long board onto the back
of the engine and clung to the side rails as Stoker
hastily fired up the engine and rapidly backed away
down the freeway in a race to avoid the
spreading cloud of gas. Roy and Johnny barely
managed to get the squad, festooned with un-chem suited
hazmat men hanging on to whatever they could, out of
there when a wall of caustic puffing vapor occupied the place
where they had just been..  

Roy frantically wove in between cars, driving back
wards as fast as he could, until he was convinced he
was outdistancing the rain spiked gas plume's widening

In Roy's mind, he was intermittently terrified and
amused when Stoker maneuvered the LaFrance
with all the lurching grace of a drunk rhino, in reverse,
along their same torturous route in between the maze
of stopped abandoned autos on the highway.

Mike almost didn't see a Harley, and he threw the steering
wheel full left to avoid it.

Chet, his grip insecure, fell off the side from the landing
when momentum flung him wide.
He impacted the road violently, and rolled with
his heavy tank bottle still on his back, in front of the
squad. Roy slammed on his brakes when he saw
a canvas backed body lurching in his rear mirrors.
"ohmyg*d" Gage said, and both Johnny
and Roy's eyes slid back the way they had come
to the rolled tanker to see a huge angry semi transluscent
wall of ammonia boiling down upon them.

Then they both glanced back at the stunned Chet, who
was just trying for his feet. Johnny said, "Move Roy,
move.. We'll pick him up as we pass him by.."

Roy didn't speak, he acted. And the squad began to
pick up speed once more in reverse.

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"Get up ! Get up, Chet! Grab onto me!!" Gage shouted,
throwing an arm through his open passenger window for
Chet to snag onto. "It's almost on us!"

Terror made Kelly get up immediately and he started
sprinting for Johnny's hand and the squad's landing
board like a hobo trying to catch a caboose.

Along the way, Kelly shed his breathing apparatus in pieces,
clearly running for his life. The bottle fell away finally and Chet
stumbled only once before his running finally gained him
the ground he needed, he caught up with Roy's
continuing high speed reversing.

An errant gust of wind caught Chet full in the
face and it came with poisonous teeth and

Kelly's hands flew to his eyes and he screamed,
just as Johnny grabbed his arms and hauled him
partially into the squad, belly down.


Others motorists in the safe area saw the engine
and squad escaping the spreading cloud only by
slim meters as yet unaware of what was happening
in the cab.

They began to cheer when the two reversing
red vehicles regained their lead on it, and
began to pull away.

Those cheers turned to shouts of horror when
they saw Chet's legs and lower half
dangling precariously out the window of
the high speed backward traveling rescue squad.

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 Father and Son
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