The kitchen at Station 51, was a hot bed of activity. Chet's
mouth was still gaping open over
the sight of the rescue squad
decorated cake that Roy and Johnny had picked up on their way
to base from their latest non-transportation call. Stoker was
handling it a little better, and like
Kelly, he was still grinning like
"Tell me that again, Gage. Our machine.. It really
worked?" asked Kelly.
"Yep. Like a charm." replied Roy. "The cadaver was dead a day and your
machine still started moving every single solitary drop of blood in her."
"You mean if she'd been
alive, it would have saved her?" asked Chet.
"Dr. Brackett seems to think so. Well enough for
all practical intent
and purposes." Roy nodded.
Stoker's eyes bugged out, still tickled pink,
and he smacked Chet's
arm in celebration. "How about that, Chet? We actually did it!"
winked at them. "Even I was impressed." he said.
"Well, that's not saying anything." remarked
Chet. "It doesn't take that
much to ever impress you, Gage. You're such a simpleton." the
teased with a straight face.
"Yeah.. but I'm such a smart one." Johnny fired back with no sting.
enough to do you a favor by getting Brackett and the hospital
administrators to appraise
your machine. Aren't Roy and I gonna get
some thanks for doing it?"
"Thanks, guys." said Stoker.
"And I mean that."
"You're welcome, Stoker. Thanks for the experience." Johnny smiled,|
but then he glared at Chet, full
guns. "I've never seen anything the like
of it before. Not since the birth of plastic bagged D5W."
Kelly just chewed his piece of cake, and grinned. "Hmmph.. Like he
said.." he mumbled, jerking
a thumb at Stoker, spraying crumbs out of
his mouth and all over the floor.
Bonnie began immediate
cleanup detail around his feet.
Johnny had to be content with not hearing two certain little words
his cohort. But on this morning of all mornings, it didn't really seem
to bother him all that
much for once.
Cap was just about to comment on how kid-cute-ly the cake had
when the intercom tones went off.
It was for..
From: Patti or Jeff or Cassidy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat Apr 29, 2006 6:40 pm
Subject: Trial by Error
...one of the most dreaded calls a fire department could
hear come into their station.
##Station 51, Station 9, Truck 127, Battalion 1. Foam 110,
24. Gas leak at an elementary school. 2780 N. Nellis Blvd.
2780 N. Nellis Blvd. Cross street Arroyo
Grande Boulevard. The
gas company is reported as having arrived on scene. Time
out : 0659.##
"10-4. Station 51. KMG 365..." said Cap into the reply radio set into
the wall next to the large map
of Los Angeles County. Stoker didn't
have to trace their route this time. He and the rest of the gang
already knew the way.
"Roy!" Gage shouted. "Is that the school both of your kids are going to?"
"No. They're in another district." DeSoto sighed, rushing into his smoke
scented turnout with
a speed only a father could accomplish. "Don't
tell me we're dealing with M&M Construction again.
I thought OSHA
shut them down for good last week." he said, waiting for the bay
doors to rise high
enough to admit them outside. He made his
immediate right turn in the squad, squealing a few tires.
Behind them, Cap pretended that he didn't notice when the Ward
did the same thing, lurching into
the fast lane at slightly higher
than normal speed.
Inside the engine cab, Stoker was grumbling.
"It's gotta be those construction
crews again. That school's in their territory, Cap. I know the court
them to check ahead of time to get the location of any gas lines
and display that proof
on site before they started any wash grading, but
I'm getting one of my little feelings again."
Chet smacked a gloved hand against both of their red leathered driving
seats. "Stoker, now cut that
out. Don't you know that all six of us are in really
good moods this morning for once? Now we don't
need your natural born
precognating juju firing up so soon to spoil it."
Marco rubbed his tense face, frowning. He tightened his helmet's|
chin strap with a nervous grip.
"I don't think he's worried about just
his own head firing up, Chet." he commented ominously. "That
neighborhood's got houses that're really closely packed together."
"How could I forget that, pal?
We've shown up for every mock
evacuation drill that school conducted every spring and fall for
last past five years." snapped Kelly.
Hank held up two hands around his seatbelt to get his men
calm down a little bit. "Hush, you two. Let's not count all our possible
before they happen, ok? I for one, am gonna remain
strictly optimistic. The wind's not blowing all
that bad for us yet." he
said, sniffing appreciably at the dew damp sunlit dawn blowing
"Wait'll the sun gets a little higher..." murmured Chet, settling into his seat
as he watched the scenery pass in jerky movements by his window.
Unpleasantly overhearing, Stoker
upp'ed their siren volume and pushed
the safety envelope between them and the speeding rescue squad,
Roy and Johnny know his change with a few blasts on the airhorn.
Squad 51 needed no
urging. She leaped ahead, crisscrossing over
whole driving lanes as she tracked the shortest possible
the traffic lights.
"Oh, nuts! It IS them.." Cap spat as Stoker brought the engine to a halt
the customary two hundred
feet away from a danger spot. A backhoe
loader surrounded by bright flourescent orange cones was being
by a roaring plume of invisible natural gas, dust and metallic debris, shooting
into the sky. He sent Marco, and Chet out of the engine to snag out
all six of their scba bottles
and spares from the squad.
Hank rolled up his cab side window.
"Stoker. Stay in the engine.
We're gonna sweep this block with an
evacuation order. Looks like the PD's not here yet to do it
The tight lipped engineer nodded, already turning the huge pumper in
U'ie in the middle of the road and back towards the downwind
direction of houses they had just passed.
Already, the mercaptan indicator odor was reaching near choking levels,
even in the open air.
"They must've hit a 16 inch line or greater this time.
I'm seeing the glint of coal tar enamel coating
that pipeline." he said, looking
through a small set of binoculars."That's got to be at least a 300-pound
pressure line that's been severed or I've missed my guess." he told his men
with dismay when E-51
had reached her final mid-block position, cock-eyed
at an angle to block off curious motorists.
Stanley grabbed for the radio cab mic and keyed it up. ## #This is the Los|
Angeles County Fire Department
declaring an evacuation emergency! Leave
your homes and classrooms immediately! Move on a route heading
21st Street and Main in the direction of the high school. Do not stop to open any
windows and do NOT under any circumstances, turn any appliances, or
lights, on or off. Take all ringer
phones off their hooks.# ## he added, thinking
about electrical sparking and the sheer volume of frantic
parent phone calls
that would come once the newstrucks starting airing the school's escalating
Hank finished his initial recording into the dash tape recorder and looped it
into the Ward's
P.A. on continuous playback. Then he leaped out of the
idling cab to accept the tank an air masked
Chet already held out for him.
Cap coughed away the rotten egg smell stinging his nostrils, retreating
quickly into the cool sanctuary of his flowing faceplate.
From the corner of his eye, he could
see Station 9 gearing up and reporting their
situation to Headquarters and to the white helmeted chief
just getting out
of his cherry red Chevy. Cap didn't waste any time contributing his own input.
Building evacuation was automatically specified in the manual as his station's
first course of action
due to the intense explosion risks now running.
And Hank was truly worried about the clouds
threatening to overcast them.
He knew the wind would soon pick up then in the canyon and start to
the escaping gas, both from the severed massive pipeline and venting of the
contents, out of the surrounding homes and school's gas flame
interrupted water heaters and furnaces.
::If any air at all snuffed out pilots lights,
we could be in for a potential multiple-ignition-point
fire four blocks wide. And
all it takes for that to happen is one careless cigarette smoker, lighting
It was only a matter of time before the rest of the stinking cloud carried
buildings by gaps around their outer doors and through the fresh-air intakes on their
roof-top HVAC units. Thankfully, Hank was peripherally aware of police
and the other assigned
fire units conducting rapid traffic control in a very confused
intersection down the block from the
gas leak's volcano-ing excavation site.
He could vaguely see streams of escaping children being helped
bright vested adult crossing guards and by the police. Stanley knew that it was
well because there were few sounds of startled screams
cutting through the hissing sound of the rupture
belching violently in the ground.
Stanley formatted his evacuation plan out loud.
with me. We'll check all the houses on the east end of this
block. Roy, Johnny cover the west side....
We're all gonna get people
out and look for possible casualties. These fumes are getting real bad.
he shouted, his voice muffled by his air mask.
"Search and move together within visual
eyesight of each other.
And gang. Listen to me closely. Shut your radioes off and keep them
way. The gas pressure inside of any room will be very low, less
than 1/2 of a pound per square inch,
but spark risks are still very much there.
We do have some margin of safety working for us. Natural
requires a very precise air-to-fuel ratio to allow for any kind of combustion.
when you're in a trouble spot because the smell of it
will become unbearably strong just before the
explosive. People you find in these areas will be very, very sick.
them as quickly as possible and get out of there. Don't
even stop for a pulse check. There's no time.
Is that understood?"
All of Stanley's firemen nodded.
"Don't use your hand helds until you know you're back out in |
very, very clear air and use them only
if you have to. Get everybody
out into the street so they can be evacuated and treated.
watching out for all of ya with constantly updated reports on the leak's
repair from the gas company."
he said. "Once we're declared population
clear, go back over your territory and locate all the meter
For this neighborhood, it's usually the first fitting on the gas supply pipe
coming out of the ground near the mint green colored meters round the side
of each house. Give
a long-handled wrench one-quarter turn in either direction
on the valves so that all levers are crosswise
to your pipe to reach 'off'.
And shut off all stop valves labelled "WOG" behind appliances as you
"At least, there's no ignition or explosion yet, Cap." Roy told him, eyeing up
shortest routes that he and his partner would take across the house lawns to
loud, recycling evacuation announcement.
"Believe me, I'm Hail Mary-ing that blessing this morning
with the best of em."
Cap smirked briefly. "Go. We'll start PPVing classrooms and houses only when
the leak's been contained and repairs have begun." Cap said. "If you've
finished up your houses, go
help pull kids out of the school windows. Looks
like they're jamming up the fire doors."
jogged up. "Cap, we've got a few owners who want to go back in to
get their pets out."
He turned around in place with one eye on his two departing coworker
the other he put into the direction Chet was pointing.
"At the Promontory Point Apartments over
there. Those ugly peach
adobe ones located behind the school." Kelly told him.
Signal the police to tell them 'no' any way they'll take it."
Kelly started to jog away when Cap snagged
the back of his air tank,
and hauled him back around using his greater size.
"Ah, ah ah. Tell them
from here with a hand gesture because I need
you to set up every on-scene truck's medical gear, strong
equipment. And grab out all our own oxygen supplies." Stanley told him.
L.A. County have far more than the non-paramedic stations do.
So offer our extras up to any firemen
showing up with victims."
"Right, Cap..." said Kelly running to the squad and engine to break
their stokes stretcher stores and oxygen apparatuses. He gingerly set
metal cases and basket
beds down on top of asbetos tarps to prevent
any chance of an errant pavement spark happening inside
tendril of migrating invisible gas.
Roy and Johnny began to run for their nearest house, keeping pace with |
Marco and Hank's progress
on the opposite side of the street. They
widely circled around the violently hissing pipe hole in
the center island's
machine graded ditch.
DeSoto tapped his partner's shoulder when they reached
the first porch.
"You know, Any air in that pipe line could allow an explosion if a malfunction
in an appliance allows its flame to flash back upstream. They're gonna have
to seriously purge that
big line once they get it shut off..."
Johnny nodded. "Air definitely does not belong in a gas
line. But I can think of
a worse situation for us to be in. Remember the last gas call involving
M & M when they were accidentally flushing the water mains last year
using their utility truck?"
"Yeah, I remember. They backpumped pure gas into everybody's toilets
and garden hoses for not knowing
a hydrant's normal water pressure. It's
a wonder nobody was killed during that stunt." Roy gasped
approached a front door.
The two paramedics didn't bother to knock. They just entered.
movement-quiet means possible.
"Hey! Is anybody in here?! Fire Department! You gotta
get out now. Pipe leak!"
A sleepy young mother with her baby staggered out of
a bedroom. "What?!"
Then she started coughing when the sour rotten egg of gas sidled into
front door. "Oh, no.**choke*"
Gage immediately covered the baby's face with an offered
mask and showed the mother out to the safety of the cluster of light
flashing fire engines. He choked
a few times on the room's gas stench but
soon, he was back at Roy's side breathing tanked air. "Any
asked as he saw Roy leaving the mother's back rooms. "No. The rest
of the house's empty.."
DeSoto whistled through his steaming face plate.
"Ok, let's mark this one's main door with a search
sticker and move to
the next house..." Johnny said, smacking one onto the front door and
it conspicuously ajar. As they were leaving for the neighbor's,
along the way, Gage overturned a few
lawn chairs to clue in other firefighters
as to the first house's completed victim search status.
Seven minutes later, there was only one house left to check. The one|
immediately in a direct downwind
coming from the rupture.
Kelly had taken to following Roy and Johnny along the curb with demand
valve cases, staying available for them and offering keen observations
for them from the street.
He shouted. "There's somebody home over
there. A jacuzzi's still on, with a pair of men's shoes around
Johnny and Roy ran inside the house, tanks clattering. "Check that out,
Chet, for anybody
blacked and drowning. The fumes are getting really
bad over here." Roy said, seeing a couple of dead
sparrows on the grass.
Kelly dropped his two oyxgen cases to the grass and ran to the house's
deck. He grabbed a bird feeder pole out of the ground and used it as a
probe, sweeping it from
side to side in the steam bubbling tub's water.
"It's clear..." he told DeSoto and Gage as they disappeared
"Ok, we'll be right back!" Johnny shouted to him.
Roy did a double
take at the family name on the front door. "Did you
see that?" he asked his partner.
Johnny blinked. "I'll check in here, you check down the hallway."
Gage said distractedly, looking
towards the pine tree shadowed living
DeSoto wasn't to be denied giving news."Johnny
the welcome sign said
Brackett! Doesn't he live out this way?" Roy hesitated.
Uh.... Maybe.." Johnny gasped through his mask. "But doesn't he
"Nah.. it's his
weekend. He's still gotta be here. There's a car in the driveway."
Roy shouted back.
tense searching seconds later Gage yelled, pulling Roy away from his
own room searching. "Got him...!"
Johnny said quickly, seeing a pajama
tangled form in a blanket on the couch.
A TV set was still on and ironically, it was covering the gas leak|
incident on the news.
Dr. Brackett?!...Can you hear me?.." he shouted, bending
close and shaking a shoulder. But Kel didn't
move. "He's unconscious,
"Let's get him outta here..." said DeSoto, grabbing his legs.
Johnny got a hold of Brackett's head and armpits and soon, they
had him outside.
met them both running, and he helped lower the pale doctor to
the asphalt. "Holy cow, isn't that---?"
"Yes, Chet. It's him. Just shut up and get out the resuscitator.
He's getting cyanotic." Gage
grunted as he and Roy laid him
out onto his back and opened his shirt. All three firefighters
their scba gear.
For the few moments it took Kelly to get things ready, Johnny
did a breathing
check after tilting a clear airway on the
Rampart doctor. Gage froze, listening and feeling intently.
"He's not breathing.." he told them.
To save time, Johnny gave Kel two hurried, light breaths,
to mouth, to see if he could get a decent chest rise. He did.
Then a quick gloveless grope
at a cold sweating neck also
proved fruitful. "He still has a strong carotid..."
Chet sighed in relief at that finding.
"That was close.." Kelly whispered. "Always better half
all gone..." Chet quickly took over Kel's care using the thumb trigger
valve. "Ok, he's
regaining good color, guys." he shared as Roy and
Johnny caught their breaths and finished summoning
"And there's a definite voluntary gasp. I think he's coming around
a little already."
"Just keep helping him." Johnny directed. "He's not out of the
woods yet. Gas suffocation's funny
Johnny rose up on his knees to a greater height and horsewhistled, |
getting Cap's attention to get
a couple of firefighters with a empty
stokes on the fly so they could get their patient over to the
the medical gear and closer to a defibrillator.
Hank's face opened in shock at the
sight of who they were working on.
"Kel Brackett? Is he all right?" He crouched down to be sure Chet
was making the proper rate and volume of ventilations around
the doctor's own feeble attempts
at weak breathing.
"He will be. We got to him in time. Nothing that a little epinephrine
fix." Roy said. "His pulse's still real good."
"Where'd you find him?" Hank asked.
the living room couch."
"He a bachelor?" Cap asked, wondering.
"Yeah. He lives alone.."
DeSoto replied, fully expecting the question.
"All right. Move him out, boys." ordered Cap to
the firefighters he had
brought with him.
Before they got even halfway to Chet's cache of waiting
Brackett came to and began to struggle, almost worming his way out
of the stokes
he was being carried in. The firemen lowered him
to the street in a controlled drop before he could
fall and hurt himself.
"Doc! Doc! It's Johnny Gage. Take it easy. You're doing fine." Johnny
said, taking hold of a bleary eyed, now coughing Kel, by his shock
dampened shoulders. "Here. Breathe
in more of this oxygen we're giving
ya. You weren't doing it so hot a moment ago..."
up and choked, turning red, as huge coughs finally cleared
the rest of his chest free of the burning
smell of gas. Then he relaxed
physically. But mentally, he was very agitated.
They all watched
worriedly as he grabbed his T-shirt in a powerful grip.
"What's the matter?" Roy asked him. "Does
your chest hurt?"
Kel took another breath of oxygen from the offering mask. Then he
fight it, actively pushing it away. "D-D-D-....." he
stuttered, shivering in a sweat chill. A firefighter
covered him with
a yellow sheet, thinking that was his complaint.
Johnny leaned in closer,
thinking he heard something different.
"What was that? Can you say that again?"
face contorted.. "...dixie.." he moaned, wincing.
The paramedics misunderstood. "Dixie? Easy,
Yeah, don't worry. We'll call her just as soon as we've stabilized your
vital s---" DeSoto
started to say.
Kel caught his collar in a death grip. "Go..get her out! Came home
he whispered painfully as he tried to struggle to full
awareness. Then he let go, his head falling
to one side into a lapse
of returned breathing difficulty.
Chet's face paled. "Oh, ...no ..way...."
Kelly gaped in disbelief, eyes
sliding back to the silent, white porched house.
Hank was iron.
"Kelly. Go check it out with your air on. Check out the
bedrooms first. I'll take over here." Cap
said, starting to ventilate
Brackett once more when his chest failed to move well enough for him.
Kelly got into the house.
"Dixie!" he shouted. His breaths whistled loudly in his mask as
he quickly searched for a direction in which to head. Then he
saw a baby blue glow coming from the
bathroom stabbing into the
room that was its opposite. The new sun's dappling light was
a fallen pillow on the carpeting. "Bet she's in there.."
he mumbled to himself. "Probably knocked
it down trying to
get out of the room."
He found Dixie sideways on the bed, nearly hidden by
She was in a one piece swimsuit and still wearing rubber sandals.
"Gone to sleep
after hot tubbing it, huh? Well, getting gassed by
a neighbor isn't exactly what I call the nicest
way to unwind. Not
by a long shot." Chet told her coughing, half out form as he hauled
and hung her face down into the perch between his air bottle
and a turncoated shoulder.
Dixie groaned at the jarring disturbance.|
"Easy, Dixie. I got you." Kelly said, making tracks
for the front door.
"Just keep breathing.."
Twin sounds of demand valve ventilations punctuated the air
around the fire department broadcasts
near the high school.
Roy and Johnny were just beginning to treat their current
and past bosses
when a young student wandered up from the other
kids still in the group awaiting buses that would
take them safely back
home for the day.
"Hey, are those people going to be ok?" asked the
as she looked down as Stoker and Marco lightly aided the nurse
and doctor's shallow
DeSoto smiled as he adjusted an EKG reading on a yellow shock
Dixie. "They sure will. All that escaping gas's
just made them a little sleepy. Don't worry. Those
will help them wake up from their naps in a couple minutes." he
said the little girl, satisfied. "I'm glad. I didn't think there
was anything you guys couldn't do.."
she told them matter of factly.
Hank started chuckling. "Huh, what a concept." Then he asked|
the child. "Who put that thought in
your head this morning, young
"My teacher." she replied, thoughtfully chewing on a
The firemen looked polite and didn't comment on that
further like nice little firefighters,
while they quietly worked to
ready Dixie and Kel for a code three transportation to Rampart.
The happy girl shared more. "Didn't you know? You're
famous. That day we played together got on the
today, my teacher says the reporters are all calling your Station
51, the house of
the Water Day Saints on TV." she
"Well, how about that gang?" Stanley grinned.
even that cake we still have sitting out, getting stale,
in the kitchen."
Water Day Saints, Episode Thirty Two
Emergency Theater Live
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