Fire Life

Basement Fire

By Michael Morse

House fire, reports of a man trapped in the basement. Thick, black smoke with wisps of yellow pouring from the basement windows. A darkened door, firefighters putting on their masks then disappearing into the ink.

More firefighters arrive, another attack crew follows the charged line through the front door, radios clacking, sirens in the distance approaching, pump grinding, then humming as another line is charged.

A ladder company sets up and raises the aerial and two firefighters climb to the peak, quick vent saw humming, then thundering as the throttle is engaged and metal teeth meet asphalt shingles then wood.

Glass shatters, shards falling to the ground in front of and on to the firefighters from the third engine company that has stretched a line to the rear door and forces the door, masks up and goes in.

Two soot covered firefighters appear through the smoke and falling debris, carrying the lifeless form of the victim.

Stephanie goes down while lifting the stretcher. Her back.  I feel some of her pain simply by being next to her.

“I need you,” says Stephanie. I call for another ambulance to take my place and take over for Steph in the back of the truck.

I leave my new partner, Brian some quick instructions and take over for Stephanie, who somehow manages to drive Rescue 4 to Rhode Island Hospital before she too needs medical help.

The man is badly burned, not breathing and pulseless. Hector, from Engine Co. 11, joins us as we speed from the fire scene toward the ER. We do some CPR, start an IV, push some epi and hope to see some movement in the flat line. Nothing. I prepare the ET equipment, tilt the man’s head back, insert the blade and look in.

Nothing but black. Inhalation burns. I think vocal cords and slide the tube home. I pull out the stylet and attach the bag-valve to the end of the tube and squeeze the bag, see the chest rise and the tube fill with condensation.

“Tube’s in.”

We continue CPR, push some more epi, the truck had stops, perfectly placed with all the others in the rescue bay. Steph stays put, can’t move from the driver’s seat. The guys from Rescue 2, who are at the ER with another patient, get her as we bring the burn victim in. The trauma team takes over, I help put Stephanie onto a stretcher and walk outside. Hector follows, and we return to the fire scene.

Things are under control now; the victim’s mother is there, asking if her son got out of the house. I tell her that he is out and had been taken to the hospital. She is relieved. I’m afraid her relief wouldn’t last long.


Michael Morse recently retired from his position as captain, Rescue Co. 5, with the Providence (RI) Fire Department after 23 years. He lives a few miles from his old station with his wife, Cheryl, a couple of Maine Coon cats and their dog, Mr. Wilson. He writes about his experiences as a firefighter/EMT in his books, Rescuing Providence and Responding, and contributes ar