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   The Long Hot Summer
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Page Five

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From:  patti keiper (  
Sent:  Sun 1/04/15 9:22 PM
Subject:  Simmer..

Johnny Gage followed in Roy's footsteps into the dayroom at the station. His right
shoulder was chafing a bit in the heat, causing him to keep pulling on his uniform sleeve
to try and relieve it.

DeSoto sighed at him and made for the coffee pot, chiding, without even needing to turn
around. "Our radiation fallout's gone, Johnny. Our final decontamination process four days
ago scrubbed it all off."

Gage remained physically irritated. "Well, nobody told me that I'd be missing some
serious skin afterwards. I feel like an escapee from the burn ward."

"Hey, I'm trying to eat here." Marco said, making a face as he tried to chew on
cold roast beef and carrot sticks.

"Sorry." Gage apologized genuinely, still scratching. "I'm sure Dr. Welby and his colleague,
Dr. Killy.."

"That's Kiley." corrected Chet.

Johnny didn't miss a beat.."Dr. Kiley know their business, but being uncomfortable on top
of all the abnormal this summer should have been factored in before we were let back on duty."

Chet looked up from the debrief papers he was busy organizing before their morning
meeting. "Are you saying you feel wimpy?"

The others chuckled.

Gage bellied up. "No, uh, no.. I just.. I'm a firefighter. Of course I don't actually feel.."

"..weak." chimed in Stoker.

"..altered." added Cap. "Do you think you need a psychological evaluation, John? One
can be arranged." he said, mock getting up from his chair and reaching for the wall phone.

Gage hastily stopped scratching and dropped both hands onto the table top. "I'm fine, Cap."

"Good. Now can we start the briefing the chief called on us to do?" Hank pegged.

"Sure, uh, let's have at it." Johnny smiled wanly. "I'm all ears."

"Minus some hide." Chet teased, sotto voce.

"Would you--!" Johnny sputtered. "...quit reminding me already! I'm still itching!"

Cap raised his voice to quell his men's sniping. "Two words. Hancock Park. Does that ring a bell?"
he asked, holding up some city infrastructure diagrams and seismic topographical surveys.

Marco nodded. "Isn't that the Wilshire business district near the Miracle Mile Shopping Center?"

"It is. Just a few blocks down."  Hank replied.

"Is there a homelessness problem cropping up? Extra medical calls?"  Chet guessed.

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Gage scoffed. "That's an every day affair. Roy and I get at least one welfare call a week
checking up on folks trying to live there,  unsuccessfully, while trying to blend in with the tourists."

"What gives them away?" Kelly asked.

"It smells." Stoker volunteered, still thinking about the original location Cap brought up.

Stanley snapped his fingers in celebration. "Bingo. Right on, Stoker. Yes, it does. Like fresh
asphalt. Got more?" he said, trying to drag more out of the gang.

Roy frowned, angling his head. "The LaBrea Tar Pits. They've never been a problem before, Cap."

"It's not the pits; never has been about them past the occasional idiot kid getting mired in one."
Hank shrugged. "Think it through. What used to be around that neck of the woods about twenty
years ago?"

Mike Stoker had the answer when the others were silent. "Salt Lake Oil Field, about 1,000 feet
below the surface of Hancock Park. They used to drill for oil extensively before downtown L.A.
was fully developed. There are old, sealed off wells all over the place on just about every corner
in those neighborhoods."

"How did you figure that out?" Chet asked.

Stoker eyed him up casually. "I'm an engineer. I'm always looking out for the nearest water hydrant
by which to park on fire calls. The layout of them, and what's not them, sort of sticks in your head
after a while."

Chet laughed. "Is that anything like knowing where all the burger joints are? Johnny should know
about those like the back of his hand."

Everybody smirked and chuckled.

"Food's food. Always important to know where to get it." Johnny defended, feeling targeted.

Roy was already one step ahead. "Oh, no. It's been too hot. And for too long. Beginning to boil?"

"Yep." said Hank. "You nailed the problem Headquarters has asked us to investigate. We've been
taken off the regular calls schedule to handle this."

"What are we looking for, Cap?" Chet asked.

"Abnormal tar seeps.  We never got our cool winter, Chet, when usually all that asphalt
in the area resolidifies. Winter winds and rain would have further covered the surfaces of the seeps
with sediment washed down from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. But that never happened
this year. One good rain could spell a good deal of trouble for us in just a couple of hours." Hank

"How so?"  Marco asked.

"Any unusual high rainfall amounts might combine to raise underground water levels,
forcing any methane pockets that have formed, to rise to the surface. There's a ton
of decomposing organic matter under the soil right now due to the heat. And it's really cooking.
Within the past week, these petrogenic fumes have been found to be the cause sparking the fires
in the park on the hill above the tar pits. Although the gas from decomposing plant materials has
been forming for thousands of years, all the new streets, buildings and parking lots built in the
last year have kept any gas that used to naturally escape, contained."  Cap shared.

Immediately, the gang got restless.

"Wait a minute. Is this a basement checks detail? For all of downtown?" Johnny asked.
"Just us? One station?"

"Yep. We're a little low on man power since four stations are still helping with that radioactive mess
around the navy ship's pier. That's a lot of beach to contain and truck away. L.A. City's taking our
service calls beginning at 0900 this morning. We'll only respond if something occurs in our local
vicinity, whereever we may be on any given day for the course of this assignment. We've got it
for the rest of the week." Cap said.

Roy nodded. "Inspections. Okay. To back up the surveyors monitoring the park emissions?"

"That's about the size of it. L.A. feels this is a very likely a future volatile situation and it's
being given a high priority over the usual business of summer wild fires and related environmental
medical calls."

"But what do they think us six guys accomplish here?  Nobody can smell that kind of gas." Kelly
said, making a face. "How will we know where and what's dangerous?"

"There in lies a suddenly serious problem with the oil industry. We'll look for what we can detect,
fire and spark hazards. If we encounter them, we'll issue citations.  City inspectors will be working
with us on our same radio frequency. We'll hopefully be preventative and very timely where it
counts until the danger passes when the weather cools."

"Or when it rains."  Stoker added ominously.

Cap sighed and nodded, feeling more than just a bit of the chief's helplessness at the problem.
"You've got twenty minutes to pack up and get mobile. We'll eat at the nearest restaurants at
intervals and sleep at 61's on 3rd. They already know to expect us. I'm sorry, but no days
off for the next three. This is being treated as an unofficial emergency operation. We're also
going to try and minimize public panic before any starts once the media puts two and two together
about the significance of the Hancock fire, that we aren't putting out, and starts reporting on it.
Let's get a move on."

The gang drained their coffee cups and did not fuss further.

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Richard Kiley was closing his black bag at the rest and recuperation tent in the
green area off the pier operations when Marcus Welby and their receptionist
nurse, Consuelo Lopez, rushed in with a fresh set of confidential orders from the

"No way. We're done, Mark." he said firmly, parking in a chair in exhaustion. He
had been monitoring clean up firefighters all day for signs of overheating
or dehydration problems.

"Wish that were true, Richard." said Welby, no nonsense. "We're not off the hook
yet. But we did win a sleep break." he smiled.

"Of about six hours." said Consuelo, eyeing up her watch. "Then we're
getting moved to the Page Museum, our new temporary headquarters."

Kiley stopped rubbing his face. "Well, at least the stink of tar is better than
that of a burned out, no longer radioactive ship."

"That's the spirit!" Marcus smiled. "Be grateful. You could have been one of the
county's firefighters from that station we monitored Friday. They're barely cleared
for duty and they got assigned right back into another risky spot."

"Oh, yeah? Where? The nuclear power station? I wouldn't be surprised."

"No, downtown."

Dr. Kiley laughed. "Oh, the heavy crimes rates. Horrors." he chuckled.

"If only it were that simple." Dr. Welby said, growing serious. "Their battalion
chief just informed me that whole city blocks may go up in flames if everybody's
not careful. The ground's leaking a dangerous gas out all over the place."

Nurse Lopez chided sharply. "And we're being placed on top of La Brea?"

"It's the safest proven place to date. The ground's open to venting there. It's
everywhere else in the neighborhood that's the proverbial powder keg." Marcus said.

"I hope Cedars Sinai knows about all this."  Kiley said, anticipating the potential
burn counts in his head.

"They do." replied Dr. Welby. "I want you to get on the phone with Rampart Hospital
as an overflow if this thing does blow u-"

Consuelo knocked on the wood of her chart she was filing into a plastic crate.
"Shhh. Boys!" she chided, crossing herself.  "Don't tempt fate." her brown eyes,
shooting sparks into their direction.

The two family doctors smiled at her in amusement, knowing her quirks all too well.

"I'll get on it." Kiley promised his boss, reaching for a portable radio phone. "I hope they
have a cot waiting for me. I'm bushed."

"We've got four. Three for us and an extra one for all of our gear." their nurse confirmed.

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Dixie McCall was in the cafeteria having lunch with Roy DeSoto's wife, Joanne.
"So there's really nothing to worry about any longer? I mean, about Roy's radiation

"Nothing at all. The tritium's spent the rest of its half life yesterday. And all of his lab
tests and blood chemistries came back normal. I thought Dr. Brackett called you
specifically to tell you that yesterday morning."

Joanne sighed, and scratched her forehead wrinkling up underneath her page hairstyle
bangs. "Oh, Dixie. He did. I'm just having trouble accepting the fact that he actually walked
away from a work incident that big."

McCall had the grace not to smile. "Yeah, radiation's a pretty heavy wrap in anyone's book.
It's not like we have a lot of experience with it in this day and age. But that's not why I invited
you to lunch, Joanne."

"Oh?"  wondered Mrs. DeSoto.

"Your husband's going out into an unknown again. For nothing specific so far. Not yet. But I'm
answering a woman's intuition by sharing this with you in advance."

"Dixie, I already know about the inspections. I just got off the phone with Roy a few minutes ago.
We've always been honest with each other when it comes to big incidents or oddball assignments.
Roy never sugarcoats work from me. This seems to be something about looking for fire hazards in
the Miracle Mile neighborhood? It sounds pretty routine." Joanne said, taking another bite of her

"Oh, I sure hope so. But that fire in Hancock Park is being stubborn." she said, pointing to the
cafeteria's TV set showing the news broadcast on it.

Joanne's eyes got wide. "Oh, that's not out yet? But that started up the same day Dr. Morton
crashed his plane." she said, turning to watch the scene being reported.

McCall picked at her food, giving in to her misgivings.
"If the fire department is letting a fire keep burning, that can mean only two things, Joanne.
Either they can't put it out, or they won't, to deplete what they think might be fuel for future flames.
This whole thing will probably go south very quickly in my experience."

"Also in mine." said a new voice. Paramedic firefighter Craig Brice nodded at the two women and
took the extra chair they offered, placing his food tray and handy talkie on the table in front of himself
as he joined them. "The variables being discovered are just too great for any organization to cope
with or manage successfully at this point in time. All we can do is be ready to respond."

"I'll keep in touch with Roy, Dixie, I promise. We'll call each other at regular intervals. There's a payphone
every block, now isn't there?" Mrs. DeSoto smiled bravely.

"Pretty much." Dixie smiled. "I'm glad you're in the loop on this. You're handling it better than I am."

"I am a firefighter's wife." Joanne said. "Danger's always a relative." Mrs. DeSoto focused on
Brice. "Craig, what is your assignment this week?"

"I'm at Station 61. They had an injured man and needed a slot filled."

Joanne's eyes brightened. "Then you'll be with my husband?"

"Only at night when it's time to sleep. But I will keep in touch with him, for you, if you'd like, Mrs.
DeSoto." he offered. "I know both of your kids are still young."

"Thank you, Craig. You've always been a good friend to us. I'd like that very much."

Partially satisfied, Dixie listened to the rest of their conversation without intruding, drinking up the
sounds of normalcy in their voices and reactions. ::I'll be glad when this summer's over. Tomorrow's
the Fourth of July. I just hope nobody gets stupid in the wrong place at the wrong time for anybody.::
she fervently wished.

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From: patti keiper (  
Sent: Thu 3/05/15 2:09 AM
Subject:  Legwork

Nurse Consuelo, Richard Kiley, and Marcus Welby were napping on fire department cots
in the large windowed taxidermy display room at the closed Page Museum.  The bright
sun shining on their faces was no longer heavy with heat in the emergency air conditioning
the city had managed for them in the facility at the center of the La Brea Tar Pits's park.

Surrounding the museum, were the fourth alarm fire station companies monitoring the
perpetual subterranean gas fed fire still scorching a grassy expanse in Hancock Park.

Battalion Seven had paced the length of his crew assignments supportive hose layouts
all day, checking for changes in water pressure, his men's conditions in the heat,
and making sure the rotation schedule was being obeyed by all. Satisfied, the chief
nodded at each captain stationed on the hill as he drove by in his red car on his way to
find a relief physician for his own mandatory incident status physical exam.

He parked in the lot full of waiting Mayfairs and idling police cars and entered
the museum by its open main door, keeping an active HT in hand.  He could hear the chatter
of Station 51 as they moved from building to building, performing their safety inspections.

##HT 51 to Engine 51. Stoker and Lopez. Entering Kmart at the southeast corner of Fairfax Ave
and 3rd.## reported Marco to Cap.

##Copy HT 51. Myself and DeSoto are watching the vehicles a block to your east. Kelly
and Gage are working across the street checking out the tattoo parlor next to the waterworks.
See them?##  Hank asked.

##Yeah, Cap. Recording their positional.## reported Mike, checking off another mark on his map.

To Battalion Seven, the every day routine talk was bliss.  He deftly turned down the volume
of his radio as he approached the resting medical folk. Quietly, he moved over to the coffee pot
set up with food on a nearby table, and helped himself. Its softly steaming stream splashed faintly,
muffled, onto the ice that he had heaped into a mug to cool it.

That was all it took.  The coffee's sharp rising scent roused Nurse Consuelo from her bed.

Battalion had the grace enough to look startled.
"Sorry to wake you. I'm fine. Just seeking a little pick me up." he reported. "I wasn't quiet enough?"

She tossed her blanket back onto the cot. "I sleep super light because I fuss even in my dreams
at incident scenes. You're blameless. But you know, water would work far better than iced coffee
for rehydrating, mister mister." she scolded.

"I haven't peed all day." But Battalion Seven was humble and hung his sweat dripping head with
a grin.  "Okay.. Where's the cooler?" he asked, capitulating.

Consuelo smiled and pointed with a pen that she had started using to record his visit, towards
a stuffed Woolly Mammoth. "In between the pair of front feet on that other big, furry guy."

"I'm furry?" the chief frowned in amusement at her as he snagged out two water bottles to drain.

"You could use a shaver. I've got one. What if a news crew shows up?" the nurse shrugged.

"They're already here. We've kept them out of the museum so they wouldn't bug you. And nurse,
for the record, I like being fuzzy in the summer. Beats razor burn. News crews indeed..." he murmured.
"It's OUR job to break your sleep."  

Nurse Lopez just chuckled. "Glad you did. You're thirsty. Quit feeling guilty about stopping in early.
I'll sleep when I'm dead. So how's it going out there?" she asked, slipping on a blood pressure cuff
over the arm the chief stuck out for her.

"Pretty boring." he said, running the side of one of his icy bottles of water over his face and the back
of his neck. "Ah, that hits the spot."

"In your line of work, boring is good, chief." she warned, eyeing up the smoke from Hancock Park that
was billowing up into the sky through the observation windows.  She paused after she took a reading.
"146 over 92?"

"Hmm.. Mild hypertension? Well, I quit smoking only last month." the chief explained as an excuse.

"You're still smoking." Consuelo pegged. "You date fires regularly. Drink that water and it should go
back down again into normal enough to continue work." she emphasized finally, yawning big.

The chief dutifully started drinking again. "I'll... just go.... keep the sabertooth company while I finish
these off." he said, taking the hint that her nap break was not yet over.

"Cover its head with a blanket, chief, when you leave? Dead cats creep me out." she mumbled
as she got back into bed, turning her back to the animals looming over them.

Chuckling, Battalion did so, with a gayly colored striped one, and returned to his car, refreshed.
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Mike and Marco were having trouble locating the manager on duty at K-mart.  It wasn't hard to
find the patrons since their slightly smoky smelling fire jackets attracted the attention
of everybody within eye sight to their whereabouts instantly with a whole lot of head swivelling.

Stoker stepped up to the nearest cashier and smiled.  "Excuse me, we know you're busy, but
could you activate your blue light special beacon please?"

An actively jaw chewing cashier teenager snapped his Doublemint gum twice. "It's not sale time yet."

Marco lost his patience. "We're the red light special, amigo. And we need to see your manager
A.S.A.P. about an inspection. This is why we asked. Anybody who wears one of these," he said,
pointing to his helmet, "knows the only way getting him, is through that flashing light, so turn it
on. The hombre did ask politely, now didn't he?" he played to the long cashier line of people
standing there.

Heads nodded and saucily, an old lady who was first in line ringing up her groceries, reached up
and flicked on the blue light with a scowl. "Quit holding up the fire boys, kid. That's tacky. I'll
vouch for you, for not obeying that stupid sale time only rule. Just say I did it when he gets here."
she snapped, pointing to the light.

Rolling his eyes, the cashier finally opened the drawer of his till to give the woman her change.

The blue light did its job.  It wasn't thirty seconds before the store manager came from out of
nowhere to berate whoever did it. His rage drew up short when he saw the two firemen
standing by with their slate boards and handy talkies.  Miraculously, his body posture changed.
"Oh, is there a fire?"

"Not now, but maybe later. Show us the way to your basement utility room and the gas meters,
please." Mike said diplomatically. "We have to sniff around." he said, pulling out a natural gas
sniffer from underneath his turnout coat.

The K-mart manager went ballistic when he saw the probe like device. "Whoa.. whoa.. not
around here. What about the customers? They see that thing and they'll leave, man. Nobody
likes gas leaks."

Marco snorted, impatient with the heat and the lack of air conditioning in this, their forty eighth
business stop of the day. "You'll like it even less amigo if one we haven't found yet catches on

"Shh.." coaxed the balding Chinese manager. "That word's taboo in a retail place just as much
as it is a movie theater. Never say it." he grinned stonily.

"Fire."  Mike Stoker said a little louder than sotto voce'.

The manager moved instantly, shooing his surprise inspectors into the right direction and
away from the cashier lines. "Ahh, right this way, gentlemen. Care for some ice water?
It'll be free. On the house.."

"Your water should be free. That's a drinking fountain, isn't it?" Lopez gruffed. "And it's broken!"
he huffed, checking off a violation point with a florish on his slateboard as he spied the dried,
crusted white powder encircling its mouth jet and drain basin.

The manager's eyes got really wide with horror.
"I-I-I'll get you some water. Here, there's a water cooler in my office!" the manager cried
desperately, trying to be subtle and not attract any customer attention. "Please, feel welcome.
Have a seat." he said, inviting them in.  He practically slammed the door behind them and dropped
the venetian blinds so curious shoppers couldn't see the firefighters any more.

"Hiding us won't work. Our fire engine's sitting in the middle of your parking lot." Stoker lied,
accepting a paper cone cup full of spring water the manager handed to him. He downed it in seconds.

"As much as you like." the manager said, gesturing to the cooler bottle and the stack of cups attached
to the side of it. "The police drain me dry daily, too." he said with another fake smile of appeasement.

"Nice neighborhood." Marco remarked, linking that statement to shoplifters.

The manager agreed saucily. "You'd think we were Goodwill." he said sarcastically.

It was a full minute and thirty cups tossed into a nearby garbage can later before Marco and Mike
felt that both their thirst and their irritation at their current violations check client, was slated.

"Now, shall we go?" the manager minced nervously, indicating another door that led into
the employees only area. "Those places are this way."

"We feel motivated, mister, by the size of the map we have to cover today. Thanks for your
hospitality." Marco said diplomatically. "Could you hurry?"

"Yes, of course.." he said, opening the door for them.  He started sweating when the
light switch at the top of the stairs didn't work to light the way, forcing Lopez and Stoker
to break out their flashlights.  The manager winced when he heard the sound of
another check mark being penned in as a violation on the city safety check list.
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Cap squinted at the bronze colored sky. "Man, it's worse than hot."

"Yeah, you'd better keep your helmet on." Roy grinned. "You don't wanna get heat stroked."

"That's the easy way out of this assignment." Hank chuckled. "Not going there." he said,
grinning at some unsavories eyeing up the Squad for the drug inventory they knew was
in there.  He waved at the thugs. "Not on your best day, pals." he challenged them, turning up
the volume of the police channel on his H.T. loud enough so they could hear it.

Roy hastened their retreat with a toot of the air horn full blast from where they were
standing with both the doors of Engine 51 wide open to catch what little breezes there
were to keep the seats from getting boiling hot.

The gang members made tracks, ducking into the meager shade of the palm trees in
the alleyway.

DeSoto sighed. "I kind of like playing guard dog. Thanks, Cap."

"This gig'll be our break rotation since nobody's here with a set up R and R station.
I'll crack open a hydrant if any of us needs a serious cool down." Then he noticed
Roy's stack of inspection forms. "Discover any hazard spots on your block?"

"A few. Nothing major. The usual sprinkler system bugs. One place had an inadequate
water heater's pilot light. It was so plugged up, it had a blue flame. For a second there,
we thought we had serious ground seep and got a little excited. No such luck."

"We don't want that kind of luck." Cap said, eyeing up the sun wearily as the noon hour
finally crested over them judging by the palm tree shadows. "Not until tomorrow after
I've had about ten hours solid sleep."

"I can always pull out a stokes for you." DeSoto joked. "You can make a hammock out
of it over there." he said, pointing towards the gang's shady alleyway retreat.

"I think I'm gonna pass on that offer."  Hank smiled, sucking on a water bottle. "I'd probably
wake up mugged, without a single stitch of uniform or gear left to my name."

The two firefighters laughed. They sobered when they noticed how sharply the perpetual
fire smoke was rising up from Hancock Park in the distance.

Hank's face deadpanned. "Does that smoke plume look a little bigger to you all of the sudden?"

"Yes, it does, Cap." said Roy. "It's getting quite a boost."

Cap got on his H.T. to the truck to truck band. "Engine 51 to H.T.s 51. Hancock's flaring.
Watch your backs." he told his men. "Keep track of your escape routes."

##10-4, Cap.## said both Gage and Stoker simultaneously over the channel.

Roy began to look apprehensive. "Hello, underground." he said, studying the glowing

"...said the volcano to Pompeii." Cap muttered. "Something else is gonna give way. But where?"
he said, shifting his eyes over the sparkling, brand new white office buildings and skyscrapers
surrounding them.

Roy consulted the old drill holes map of the Salt Lake Oil Field operation from the 1960s.
"How about near by where there are the greatest concentration of bore holes?"

"That makes the most sense. Either that or alongside the margins of that natural water table." said
Cap, tracing a finger along one particular street. "Fairfax Avenue? What's there?"

"I don't know. We haven't covered that block yet." DeSoto told him.

"Okay, that's our next port of call. Pack it up. We're moving." he told Roy. "I'll go call in
our men."  

DeSoto nodded and gathered up their food trash and the map into an engine compartment.
Then he jogged for the squad to start up its ignition.
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From: patti keiper (
Sent: Sun 4/12/15 8:23 PM
Subject: The Tipping Factor

Rampart's walk-in E.R. visitor numbers were rising with the heat of the day.  

Dixie made the mistake of looking down while filing a few charts into her desk
snatch organizer. When she glanced up, she was just in time to see an orderly
catch a small boy of eight pitching forward out of his mother's arms.   McCall
shouted to her support nurse. "Carol. This one's just made the front of the line."
she said, rushing forward to examine the child where he had been lifted back up and
placed onto his side along a row of waiting chairs that others had vacated for his use.

Stan, the white garbed orderly, nodded. "I'll go grab a gurney. I think it's the heat,
ma'am." he reported to Dixie. "He's flushed, but was awake just a minute ago.
Pulse's there. Breathing's fast."

McCall smiled, as she tipped the child's head back to ease his irregular panting, for
the benefit of his mother. "What's his name?" she asked the sweating brunette, still
in her cleaning apron. McCall noticed that it was covered in fresh bleach stains that
were still damp and both of them were carrying an aroma of ammonia. "Was he
helping you scrub the house?"

"Yes. Oh, my g*d. What's wrong with Kyle?  When he said his nose was stinging I
sent him out to the sandbox to play a little to get some fresh air. I- I- thought that
would take care of it. It's always helped his asthma in the past. Is he all right?" the
mother asked.

Dixie picked her head up from where she had been listening to Kyle's chest. "Rales. His
lungs are filled up a bit. Most likely from those fumes. Kids are more sensitive than we
are to chemical odors, especially at the floor level." she shared, reaching up to the
gurney's underside rack that Stan had pushed next to them for the oxygen resuscitator
mask strapped there. She turned on the flow of pure oxygen and began using it
over the ruddy boy's nose and mouth. "Let's move him into five." she told the orderly.

"H-he was wearing rubber gloves, same as I was." the mother said, fretting.

"But he wasn't wearing any kind of mask. Makes a big difference with kids his size." Dixie
shrugged. "A scarf or handkerchief will work fine for next time."

Carol looked up from the phone receiver she was using. "Early's on the way. So's
Respiratory." she promised.

Dixie nodded at her gratefully. Then she looked back. "We'll get Kyle squared away.
It won't take long. Then we'll let you come in Mrs..." she said to Kyle's mother, who was
barely keeping her composure.

"Ferguson." the housewife supplied. "Karen Ferguson."

"Hi, I'm Miss McCall, the head nurse for the hour. How about throwing away that soaked apron for
now? Carol will get you some coffee. I'll come get you myself once we know for sure that this
is all that's going on. Please wait here. Don't worry. He's stable."

Carefully, hurrying, Stan lifted the tiny boy to the wheeled mattress without disturbing
Dixie's ongoing oxygen therapy on the boy. Together, the two of them pushed his blanketless
bed along and entered the nearby treatment room.
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Dr. Early burst through the door moments after Kyle had been transferred to the
exam bed from the gurney. "How's he doing? Is it an asthma attack?" he asked

"No, Joe. Fumes. Ammonia and bleach. He's bubbling a bit. No sign of wheezes." McCall
shared, taking a blood pressure once she doubled checked Stan's hook ups leading
from the fast heart rate registering EKG monitor. "He's tachycardic at 130 and very warm."

"Was he outside?" Early asked, moving aside the oxygen mask long enough to look
for signs of chemical burns in the boy's nose and mouth. "This looks like sunburn." he
said, sweeping a pair of quickly assessing hands down the boy's body, looking for other
issues. He had peeled off his socks and shoes and found confirming white skin there.

"Yes, out in the yard. I don't know for how long. His mother didn't say." Dixie shared.
"Eighty over fifty four. Bounding. Respirations are thirty, labored.  Doing well though. He
hasn't needed an oropharyngeal airway."

Early drew out a stethoscope and listened to Kyle's dry, red chest. "Dilated pupils. Positive
on chlorine exposure. Draw red tops for a P02 and blood gases. Let's get him washed down
to remove any cleaning solution off his skin. I'm still smelling it. Afterwards, packed ice under
his arms, around his neck and at his groin should get this high temperature down enough for
him to wake back up again. I think his blackout's a combination of things; asthma, some
fumes and the hot sun. He's not obstructed at all, just inconvenienced a bit lung wise. An
albuterol inhalation treatment with a nebulizer should set him to rights. Keep that crash cart
close though. We'll use some epinephrine to dry him out if we have to after that."

Dixie let out the breath she was holding in relief. "Cleanliness is not next to godliness.
I'll tell her the truth, Joe. Mom's young enough to listen."

Joe just chuckled. "Could have been worse. Like falling victim to something that you can't

"Got me there." McCall sobered, finishing up getting her blood samples.  "Don't jinx us. We're
busy enough as it is."


Chet hung up the gas station's payphone with a solid click. "Ha. Figures." he grumbled,
catching up with Johnny as they walked along the sidewalk, heading towards
their next safety check, a YMCA. It was adjacent to K-Mart, one of the stops
assigned to Marco and Stoker and on the way to where Roy, Cap and the vehicles
would be waiting.

"What was so important that you had to call home?" Gage asked, holding his H.T.
close to his helmeted head so he could keep tabs on the radio traffic going on
in Hancock Park a few miles away.

"Confirming a few things with Brice. He said the fire over there IS growing. We're
not imagining that." Kelly shared.

"They haven't been deployed?" Johnny wondered, eyeing up the busy, deceptively normal
looking, noon day downtown traffic. "61's a bit away from all of the action, but that's no
reason to hold anybody out on reserve. Especially not now."

Chet scoffed. "Are you suddenly a Battalion Chief? Neither one of us was wearing white
last time I checked." he said, pointing to his helmet's currently roasting black shade. Kelly
wanted to rip it off to cool his head, but resisted, knowing better than to actually try it.

"It's called anticipating, Chet. Something I finally picked up from Brice. By the way, what
else did he have to share with you over landline?"

"Joanne says hi?"  Chet offered, grinning. "Man, I'm so glad I'm not married. She was there
and checking up on Roy already. Now she's gone shopping. Must be nice, having money."

"What else did he say?" Gage deadpanned. "Something that concerns us if you can handle it."

Chet hefted up his gear pack a little higher onto a shoulder as they hiked up the steps of
the Y. "He said, the nearest hydrant was eighteen feet, seven inches away from
the phone I was using if we were needing one." he said pointing to the Fairfax's street corner.

Unconsciously, both firemen looked at the red one sitting alongside its red painted curb
dutifully. It was steaming in the heat due to perpetual condensation from its internal
water being enticingly held at bay by two turns of a pipe wrench that was cooling its outer steel.
Immediately, both of their tongues felt dry.

"What an *ss."  Gage rolled his eyes, cursing as he licked his lips.

"Him? Or me?" Chet asked, bouncing on his heels, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
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"Who do you think, Chet?  Who do I hate the most, given just you two guys?" he
said, reaching for the front door's automatic push button.

"Can I not answer that? I don't want to hurt my own feelings." Kelly cracked.

"Hush, now. We're here." Johnny said, trying not to grin.

"Pros, we are, once again." Chet celebrated. "We'll continue the popularity contest
question not later,....but sooner. Much, much sooner, rather than--"

"Shhh!"  Johnny said, eyeing up a pretty young and fit blond haired college student who
eagerly batted her eyes at them instead of being alarmed at a surprise inspection tour. "Best
foot forward, as Cap always says. Let me do the talking this time, buddy ol' boy."

"In your dreams." Kelly countered, just as eager to map out a potential dating prospect.
"Cap put me in charge of this block."

Sighing, Gage gave up to protocols, and followed Chet to the reception desk. He smiled
and let the irritating curly haired fireman standing next to him begin their business spiel.


They were half way down the stairs when Stoker's gas sniffer began to howl.
Marco looked over his shoulder to warn the K-mart manager back up the stairs
when he saw the man reaching for another light switch nearby.  "No! No don't
touch that. There's--"

The man's fingers didn't stop in time and the toggle was flicked to on.

A colossal explosion blew all three of them out of the stairwell on top of
a mushroom head of superheated air and fire like ragdolls.  Another
concussion rocked the office as more floor level hidden gas gave up the ghost
to the original spark and roared into instant, violent incineration around them.

"Stay down!" Stoker said, dragging the manager in by his feet to underneath
the desk where Lopez and he had scrambled for cover.  "Stay here!" he shouted as
the rest of the store's ceiling began to rain down on top of them.  He cradled
the man's head in his arms and tried to ignore the screams of shoppers and
employees alike in the main store beyond, running for their lives.

::At least they can get out okay. The exterior windows are gone.:: he thought to himself.

Next to him, Marco was losing a battle to stay awake. "Mike, there's.. no air."

Stoker reached out for Lopez's face to support his breathing with a head tilt. "Yes, there
is. Plenty of it. You just hit the wall too hard. Easy, ride it out. Wind's knocked out
of you. Once it's quiet, I'll get us all out of here." he promised, unbuttoning
Marco's turnout coat to monitor him. He also began to look for wounds. He found
none. In fact, nobody was bleeding in the office. But there was plenty of blood on what
was left of the glass surrounding their room.  ::From flying glass? Wait a minute,
that came into the store from the outside! Oh, no. What else blew up besides our
basement?:: Stoker wondered.

Beside him Marco groaned, half out, but his color was normal for him. His gasps
were slowly becoming more effective as he recovered from being thrown. Stoker
kept a pinky on his carotid as Lopez regained his lost nervous function.

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Mike's ears were ringing loudly and he found it hard to think. He got it done but it was a full
minute later before he remembered that they were both carrying their walkie talkies.
He snatched one up after he used a ceiling tile to beat out the small flames and cinders
landing around their refuge under the desk.

The store's power flickered and cut out completely, leaving only daylight to stream in
through the massive holes that had been punched in the roof.

A large spot of dusty sunlight illuminated Lopez, Stoker and the store manager's desk.

"H.T. 51 to Engine 51. Do you read? Subterranean explosion at K-Mart. I've injured
or dead victims present. We're non trapped. We are able to get out to street level for
a rendevous. Can you hear me?" he shouted. Static met his ears. "The tower's down?"
he coughed, shocked.

Marco was finally meeting Mike's eyes steadily and slapped the engineer's
monitoring fingers aside. "That was two blocks away. On the hillside." he puffed. "I'm ..better
now. How's he?"

Stoker grabbed the manager's arm and shook it where he was crying in a fetal ball beside him.
The man did not stop whining. "He's locked up in a panic."

"Green tag. Let's go. We can leave him." Lopez said, sucking in huge lungfuls of air that
was strangely not full of smoke. "Is all of that gas gone?" he said, buttoning up his turnout jacket

"Yeah, there's no more fire. The rest of these flames are dying by themselves. We aren't going
to get burned in here." Stoker said, glancing around their chaotic, debris strewn space. Plaster
dust was making eerie streamers in the patches of sun as it fell in all around them.

"I'm all for getting out asap. Nothing's left of the store, amigo." Marco pulled off the halligan
tool from the front of his jacket. "After you." he coughed, shaking the stars out of his head.

"Marco, are you hurt? No lies." Mike asked, pausing on his attempt at getting an open channel on
his radio by flipping frequencies to a different tower as they crawled towards the nearest gaping
hole leading to the outside.

"I'm fine. It was just a bad tackle, that's all." Marco grunted with strength as he pushed
aside a rafter's steel beam from their path. "I probably won't get sore until morning."

Slowly, the two battered firefighters dragged themselves out of their most immediate
building collapse danger and into the parking lot.

"Oh, sh*t." said Lopez once they were free.  From all of the street curbs, and through
every crack in the sidewalk slabs, yellow orange flames were shooting up like a massive torch
from below.  The earth itself, was burning underground for as far as they could see.
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Please Click Roy and Johnny
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   The Long Hot Summer
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