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Into the Flames
I dedicate this story to the brave men and women who fight for our well being. This natural disaster shook our nations media, it had the most firefighter casualties in US history.
I lay in bed awake, looking at the ceiling as my mind goes blank. I look at the clock, the minute hand had just struck the 12. The room was silent with sleep, but the outside world roars with thunder and rain making the house creak like an old rocking chair. Then, not soon after a the sky lit up with an unforgiving brightness. Thus brings back a haunting I wish would have disappeared, because that sudden flicker of light brings back a day of death and sadness to the town of Prescott. My name is Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor of the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire that took my crew away from this evil- infested world.
It was an ordinary night of pattering rain, claps of thunder, and relentless attacks of lightning after weeks upon weeks without it, here in Prescott, Arizona. After much debating we came to an agreement to stay at the department for a few more hours, then the phone rang after about 5 minutes afterwards. "I got it!" Jesse yells from the garage with his deep southern accent as he runs to the phone and answers it with his usual greeting " This is the Prescott Fire Department Granite Mountain Hotshots what is your emergency?" The voice on the other side yells, all we could hear was Jesse asking the voice to calm down over and over again. After the phone call we are all suited up and ready to go, but what we were ready for was nothing compared to reality.
The clock ticked past 5:15 as we zoomed down the highway with the light and siren on. Everyone is silent except Dustin who is trying to keep his spirits up by singing the top 40 hits in America. (We all got a good laugh when he started to sing We Are Young by F.U.N because he was one of the oldest on the crew.) After several minutes of laughing at Dustin we finally reach the destination, but we couldn't see what the problem was. Confused I asked Jesse " Are you sure this is the right place Jess?" He only nodded. Then the wind changed directions and started to really blow. After about five minutes we saw it, the flames looked like we were staring into the heart of the Devil, they roared with anger, dismantling the landscape like a starving animal ripping apart it's first prey in months. My heart sank as we drove closer to fire and how the truck started to heat up. Everyone is silent, including Dustin as the truck drew to a complete stop. Clayton and Jesse jumped out of the truck, I saw smoke from the front...the engine was over heated. Then I hear Jesse and Clayton arguing, " Jess, you know that we can't drive this truck any closer." Said Clayton "I know, I know, but what about the equipment and the phone and the..." Argued Jesse "We only need to take what we need Jess, otherwise we can't do anything we would just be sitting ducks!" " Just shut up for a minute Clayton and let me think!" After a few more minutes if bantering we were finally told to get out of the truck and only bring what's necessary.
The sky grew darker with smoke combined with the flames the sky gave off a eerie glow like in horror movies when something terrible was going to happen. After couple miles of walking through the jagged forest Jesse and Clayton pull me to the side but the rest of the group carried on. Jesse was the first one to speak." Brendan, we know how much you love action and everything, but we need you to be our lookout just in case we have anymore dangers heading our way ." I just stood there in shock for a couple of seconds then I opened my mouth and said " Why?" Just as that word escaped my mouth Clayton jumped in saying " Because you just join the force kid, and we don't want anything to happen to someone who has a whole life ahead of them." "Yea" said Jesse " it's not protocol, but we are just trying to do what's right." After that comment all I did was nod without saying another word or smart comment. The last time I saw my crew was when they walked towards the flames with no effective equipment, it was a suicide mission because I knew nobody would come out as if they were feeding the fires hunger for death...
Hours dragged by as I sat at the lookout point, before they went they gave me their phones just in case none of them made it back so I could have the terrible duty of telling their loved ones about their passing. The lookout was in a tree about 5 or so miles away from the notorious fire. I looked down at my watch, 3:15 am, my eyes were weary and heavy for staying up all night, but I stayed awake till I saw a sliver of sunlight. My hope faded as I saw the dawn of the day with no sign of anyone. After several hours I heard a phone starting to ring, it was Clayton's, and on the other end was his wife. I was lost for words, so I cried and cried and cried because I knew they were dead and only a miracle could bring them back. Minutes pasted, more phones rung, and more tears were shed as I had the horrible honor of telling their loved ones the scandalous news. It felt like my whole world was swallowed by a black whole as the thought of death engulfs my mind.
After the agonizing news I looked over the horizon, then reality hit me like a ton of bricks... The fire was still spreading and it was coming right for me. Intimidated by the golden flames, I climbed down from the post and started running to go get help, since the phones didn't have any signal on the forest floor I couldn't call for any backup. I pushed past low hanging tree branches and thorns trying to escape from deaths grip as the flames caught up to me. They formed a fiery cage around me, smoke clogged my lungs as I gasped for air, the world started to spin as each of my breaths grew shorter, and shorter. The heat burned my skin, but just as the flames enclosed around me I felt someone dragging me towards the exit. Then the whole world turned black and my body went limp.
What felt like minutes turned into days when I realized I woke up in chaotic hospital filled with dying, sick, and sad people. My head ached and throbbed from the noise of screaming and yelling, then I looked down at myself noticing that I was bandaged all over my body, hooked to a heart monitor and oxygen. About two hours went by so I started to examine the passing cots, the one that really stood out to me was one with a little 9 year old girl. She was surrounded by doctors and nurses, hooked to oxygen, heart monitor and bandaged all over trying to keep the blood from leaving her small body that was covered in severe wounds about 2 inches deep and 1 in wide, but just as the cot rolled past my room the little girl opened her swollen eyes and stared at me with her helpless, dying face. Every doctor and nurse around her strive to keep her alive as her skin started to turn pale and the heart monitor went blank...
That little girl was still stuck in my mind after several hours of watching more suffering people pass by my room, finally a nurse walks in. Her voice was gentle and sweet with a little northern accent to it as she said " How are you feeling Mr. McDonough?" "Ok, I guess," I said with a raspy voice " do you know what happened to me? Why am I here?" She giggles and said "Well, let's just say you were rescued by a crew member of the Blue Ridge Fire Department, then you passed out from lack of oxygen and have been out for the past three days." Then she adds " you're very lucky Mr. McDonough, very, very lucky." " Why... Why do you say that?" " Because both your skin and your lungs are damaged, especially your skin... You lost a lot of blood Mr. McDonough." "What about that little girl? She looks a lot worse than me, why are you here?! Why am I here! I should be DEAD! NOT HER!" My feelings were at their peak, until she says " Mr. McDonugh... Mrs. Annabelle Derek is alive, sir."All I could say after that was nothing, I was in utter shock... After changing my bloody bandages she looked at me with sideways glance then left the room without looking back. Feeling guilty I just close my swollen, heavy eyes and cry.
A couple days later I was released from the hospital, rolling a oxygen tank behind me. From that moment weakness was the king and strength crumbled beneath it, then I start thinking about the girl, how she survived was a complete miracle, her condition bound her to death, but her will to overcome death was improbable. Before I could rethink my actions I was in my Red Camry driving down the highway on the way to the hospital. When I arrive my body starts to shake uncontrollably, the sterile smell of Lysol brings back my days of weariness there in that horrid place. I asked the lady up front where I can find Annabelle Derek, she responds with a sweet southern drawl "Room 523, darlin'". I waste no time getting there, her door was covered with flowers, get well cards, and hope letters. I slowly opened the door "creakkk", my eyes started to water when I saw that little girl swallowed by her bed, trying to keep her lungs breathing and her heart working. It was like looking at hope in its purest form... suddenly the door opens. "She's very lucky you know..." It was the nurse "
Ever since that day that question was stuck in replay like a broken record as it repeats that one part over, and over again. The world we live in is corrupted with violence and destruction each year, from natural causes or just by humans, but in the greater scheme of life death is only a small part of it. When this event happened our nation was shocked because this was the most firefighter casualties in the history of the United States. Even though we had a great loss in our society all the men who fought against the "King Fire" in 2013, their legacies will live on for the greater good in the United States history.