Thursday, December 26, 2013

Last Call

I wrote this to a dear friend some time ago.   He has a vested interest in this sort of story.  In any case, I dreamed about this again the other night, so I secured his permission to post this.  Here it is, unedited.

This is a true story.

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Back in late 1989, I was living at my parents. My teaching career was already ending (different story), when the rescue squad received a call for a house fire: Victims trapped. This was in the nearby village of Parker Ford. Many of the houses there go back to colonial times, and in any case, it's up the road a bit from Spring City.

By the time we arrived, the house was fully involved, with flames shooting from all windows and through the roof. It was a colonial stone structure, 3 stories high, and in the distant past had been an inn. As with all colonial homes, it was a stone shell with all wooden interiors.

We were first on the scene and were pulling on our air packs when we started to hear the screaming. At one of the third floor windows were silhouetted a woman and a daughter, 5 years old. Both were screaming. We could barely see them through the smoke and flames, but we could hear them calling to us, screaming for help.

We jogged toward the fire (in all that gear running is impossible) and tried to enter the house. The heat was so intense, our gear started to melt. This fire was not natural. We literally couldn't get through the door. The heat currents pushed us away. We tried a few times.

More equipment arrived. We looked up at the window and urged them to jump. They couldn't get to the window. There was one last piercing scream and a huge crash as the floors collapsed upon each other like dominoes. Then all we could hear were the flames and the sirens and shouted orders.

Myself and the three others from my truck stood staring up at the window, air packs still on, when one of the packs began ringing, indicating it was short on air.

I don't have to tell you the smell. Burning human bodies have a distinctive smell. Almost sweet. Once you smell it, you never forget it. I'm sure you smelled it that day.

The fire took several hours to extinguish. I was among those who went in to find the bodies. They weren't hard to find. The daughter was burnt to a crisp. 100% blackened charcoal. She fell apart as we tried to put her in a body bag. The mother was almost the same, except for a 1"x 1/2 " patch of cold white skin on her inner thigh. She also fell to pieces.

Fire marshal determined that it was arson. The woman lived there with her boyfriend, who owned the house (passed down through generations) and their daughter. He made her angry somehow, and she decided to torch the house with kerosene. The guess is that she set the fire, then heard her daughter on the top floor and went to get her. The flames on the old wood spread too fast, trapping them both.

That was my last rescue squad call. I still have my partially melted helmet which has streaks of black from that fire- from their bodies. It still smells faintly of their deaths after over 23 years.

23 years later, I still hear their screams.

We were volunteers.


My Helmet.  Undusted for all these years.

1 comment:

  1. sophie you are a very brave women who has been through a lot in the last 2 years, you are a very beautiful person

    ReplyDelete