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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    WolfM
  • Author
  • 2,304 Words
  • 1,311 Views
  • 20 Comments

Embers - 4. Embers 4

Hope no one minds me posting a bonus chapter before next Monday arrives. ;)

A panicked voice coming through the radio headset caught everyone’s attention. “Bloody fuckin’ hell. Take cover.”

Strong gusts coming off the mountain increased, and flames easily rose one hundred and fifty feet into the air. Dry vegetation exploded with the fury of the attacking predator. A glowing blizzard of embers pelted the men, seeking any opening in their clothes to enter and burn.

Brandon held tight to the hose, as he dropped flat against the ground. Some of the men were knocked off their feet. Hurricane force winds intensified the inferno as it began to spin. A vortex of fire formed and moved out of the trees into the narrow space between the forest and vehicles. The hell storm reached for the sky as it approached one of the trucks, spinning the vehicle nearly forty-five degrees.

Glancing to his right, Brandon made sure Lucas was where he had last seen him, before looking for the other men. No one he could see appeared injured, but the truck that moved was engulfed in flames. He turned away from the houses to face the fire. Brutus was between him and the flames. A flicker, just before one of the blue lights atop the large truck failed, caught his attention. The plastic shield deformed under the intense heat.

“Welcome to the Gates of Hell, Brandon.”

Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he stomped down the fear calling for him to flee from the apocalyptic nightmare unfolding before his eyes. As the firenado continued to spin, strong winds blew flames and embers towards the men and structures. Brandon pressed the transmit button on his radio. “Brutus Four. Move to the other side of the trucks, turn your hoses into the wind, and open up wide.” While transmitting, he did exactly as he suggested. Widening his hose’s stream into a large fan, he allowed water to blow back against them, the trucks, and the houses behind.

“Zeus One. Copy, Brutus Four. Tilly, stay on structures, everyone else do what the Seppo said.”

The others saw the immediate effect, as the spray cooled the area, and doused many of the blowing embers. One of the small trucks remained focused on putting out any fires that sparked on the houses, as its occupants finished loading what they could get in their cars.

Fire-driven winds battered the men as they trained their hoses on the inferno. The pumps struggled to keep up, when Noah and the others brought the powerful rooftop monitors, and all the fixed nozzles to bear.

A low rumble could be heard in the distance, different from the sound of fire and wind. Their radios crackled to life as the sound grew louder. “Archangel Nine inbound. Brace for close-in drop.” The roar of four turboprop engines passing overhead caused Brandon to look up at the P-3 Aerial tanker. A white cloud spread out from its belly, as water fell from the sky. “Drop complete. Be back as soon as we can.”

Cheers went up, as the fire momentarily submitted, and the vortex finally dissipated.

It took nearly ten hours for the eucalyptus trees surrounding them to burn enough that their oil had been expended. Several more water drops throughout the day greatly aided the fight.

Out of seven homes in the area, one was lost, and two others damaged. Most of the outbuildings were little more than twisted piles of smoldering debris. Thankfully, no one had been injured or killed.

As the weather pattern shifted, the fire moved south through the dense forest.

The two cat one trucks had their roof mounted turrets directing a spray of water into the trees while hot spots around the structures were doused.

Lucas crossed his arms, as he looked at the burned out truck. “Fuckin’ hell. I’m glad that wasn’t one of ours, but it sucks for the town that just lost it.”

“That’s all eucalyptus?” Brandon pointed towards the forest.

“Pretty much. And we really like the stuff in this state. It’s everywhere. As you saw, it burns like a bitch. It’s one of the reasons we’re having such a hard time fighting this.”

“That prop dropped water, which I’m totally fine with, since I hate getting turned pink. But aren’t there any aerial tankers to put in control lines?” Brandon was used to fixed wing aircraft spreading liquid fire retardant in the path of a blaze, assisting ground forces with gaining control of it.

“Mate, we’re lucky we got what we did. Out here, it’s been maybe a tanker now and then. The fact we got seven drops today is amazing. When they can find a place to pick up water, we might get a couple helicopters.” Lucas wiped his brow, dropping onto his butt for a rest. “The estimate’s around twenty-thousand fires currently burning in the country. Everyone’s screaming for something, and we’re stretched thin on resources across the state as it is. They don’t waste something like PHOS-CHeK in an area like this. Maybe if they thought the coal pits a couple kilometers over were at risk of burning, they would.” The reddish slurry seen spraying from firefighting aircraft had a much different result than water. While one had an immediate and short lived effect on the fire, chemical agents like PHOS-CHeK would stick to the trees and grass for months, limiting their ability to burn.

“Odds are even a light breeze will carry embers past the line and spark any dry spot they land on. We cut fire breaks where we can and go a little into the forest to work. It’s mostly trying to save what we can.” He took a long sip from his water bottle. “Lives are the priority, and if we’re lucky like today, most of the houses make it. Closer to the wineries, we might get retardant drops, if they have any to give us. Remember, they don’t want all that alcohol going up in flames. But there’s also a worry about runoff from rain contaminating the vineyards, not that the ash and smoke aren’t already doing that.” He glared at the now empty houses. “Fuckin’ fools shoulda been out of here two days ago when the evacuation order came. We’d have still fought to protect them, but wouldn’t have had to worry about the people fleeing.”

A couple of the others wandered over and took a seat as they set up a rotation on breaks. “Nice trick turning the hoses into the fire and letting the wind do the work. They never taught us that one.” The crew chief’s comment surprised Brandon.

“I think the Seppo saved our trucks.”

“It’s kinda the same effect they use to cool outdoors in the California desert during the summer. All the restaurants have mist spraying around their outdoor seating. Some of it evaporates in the low humidity and cools the area. Our command showed us a couple videos on a European system that uses something like a jet engine to disburse a mist during a fire for the same effect.” Brandon rubbed his hands through his hair. “A crew I was with in Northern California got caught in a firestorm two years ago.

“We were surrounded by dry or dead pine trees and the road we were evacuating on got blocked. We had three pumper trucks, a hand crew truck, and two civilian cars with us. We got lucky and had a river next to where we got trapped. The guys fired up the pumps, dropped snorkel lines in the water, and we decided to make a stand.” Brandon noticed the men around him were all silently focused on what he was saying. “Everyone got their emergency blankets ready just in case.

“Those trucks were a lot bigger, since they were type one city trucks, and not wildland rigs like these. Anyways, we opened up the high pressure monitors and every hose we could deploy into the wind, as wide as we could. Like here, it blew back on us and cooled things enough we didn’t lose the trucks or any people.” He shivered at the memory. “I don’t know if it works every time, but it worked then and today.”

“I felt the heat back at the houses drop when you did that.” Thomas, who worked on the small truck named Tilly, nodded to the American. “I think it helped us save the rest of the houses.”

Joe patted the newcomer on the back. “So, remember that one, boys. If we got a couple trucks and something like that happens again, turn most or all the hoses into the wind.”

“As long as it’s blowing from the right direction and doesn’t shift wildly, it might work. For a last ditch effort it doesn’t hurt.” Brandon leaned back onto his elbows.

“You done earned your keep today. I admit I had my doubts about you. Being a Seppo and all. Also your size for a wolf.” Pride showed on Joe’s face. “You’re officially one of the Mutts now.”

As the day wore on, Brandon and other guys grabbed McLeod tools from the trucks. Invented in 1905, they were a mainstay of wildland fire equipment. The tool has a sharpened hoe on one side of the blade, and a rake with course tines on the other, mounted to a long handle. The men dug up where they saw something smoldering, while another guy would spray the coals with water. It was the true grunt work of the job. The further they moved into the burned out trees, the more dead animals they encountered.

Two trucks came rolling into the area.

“’Bout bloody time they showed up. The diesel tanks are almost bone dry.” Joe walked over to the new arrivals.

Lucas nodded towards the trucks. “Fuel tender and resupply. Looks like we’re gonna be here a while. The big boss man came to check on us.”

Brandon watched as the trucks were gassed up.

The brigade commander looked over the area as he pointed a thermal camera into the burned out forest. “What happened to that one?” He gestured towards the truck carcass left behind by the bursting flames.

“A flamin’ Willy-Willy hit it. That Seppo Sydney sent us saved the rest of the rigs. Taught us a new trick. We’re keepin’ him for the duration.”

“I’d rather you have someone a little bigger than a koala.” The regional boss glanced in the direction of the men, focusing on the new guy. “Anyone hurt?”

“Think a few of the boys burned the hair off their arse, but no one needs to be treated. You’re gonna need to give a lift to those guys.” Joe pointed to the crew who had lost their truck. “Unless they can get that thing started.”

“I’m always down for a root, but not with you guys. So stop checkin’ out my butt.” William called out.

“Territorial bastard, aren’t ya.” The older man did not look amused at first. “Guess anything’s an improvement with this lot.”

Ignoring the jokes around him, the commander focused his attention on the crew chief. “I’ve got a truck coming in around ten tonight to relieve you. Sorry I can’t get them here sooner. I know you guys have had a long day already. They’ll deal with hot spots and try to prevent flare-ups overnight.” He nodded towards Brandon. “I didn’t like the idea of them sending us the American. But if you’re happy with him…”

“Yeah, we want him and we’re keeping him. We were down one body and need all the help we can get. If it wasn’t for him, we’d have lost more trucks. Sounds like he’s worked some of the big fires they had in California. Not exactly the same fuel, but he knows the job.”

“Good enough for me. He’s yours.”

******

It was nearly midnight before the crew made it back to the vineyard to bed down for the night. The men stumbled towards the chow line and quickly wolfed down their meal. Even with lycan stamina, the group was in zombie mode by the time they reached camp.

“Get some sleep. I know it was a long day, but we’ve got the daily briefing at six in the morning.” Joe turned towards the newest member of the Mutts. “I don’t care where you come from or how long you’ll be here, Brandon. You’re one of us.”

“Thanks, Chief.”

Brandon collapsed onto his bedroll. He pulled his arms from the Nomex jumpsuit, and rolled it down to his waist, exposing his muscled body to his crewmates for the first time. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out a note pad and pencil. Soon he was lost in thought as he jotted things down.

“What ya writing?”

“Huh?” He looked at Lucas, who rolled onto his side, and propped his head up.

“Just curious what you’re writing. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be nosey.”

Brandon’s gaze shifted from the pad of paper to his new friend. “I’m just trying to put some of the stuff going through my head on paper. I’ll write it up later and send it to my mate and friends when I can.”

“Oh, kind of like for a blog or something?”

“Not exactly. An online friend taught me a good way to deal with things is to write a poem about it. Probably sounds stupid.”

“We’ve all got to deal with it in our own way. For us, our family and friends kinda know what we’re dealing with since some of them are evacuated or living through the fires. Yours are far away so they don’t know what it’s like until you tell them.” Lucas was quiet for a few moments. “Any idea what you’ll call it? The poem that is.”

“Gates of Hell sounds about right.”

“That it does. G’night, Brandon.”

“Goodnight, Lucas.”

Copyright © 2021 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

2 hours ago, WolfM said:

The coastal canyons around there can be a bitch for that. At least none of those fires took out the house from @Carlos HazdayMalibu book.

I mentioned this before, elsewhere. I use Australia in my stories, and the place burns down. Same with Northern and Southern California, and Colorado. Anyone have a bully or despised person they'd like me to use their place as a setting?

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WolfM

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

I mentioned this before, elsewhere. I use Australia in my stories, and the place burns down. Same with Northern and Southern California, and Colorado. Anyone have a bully or despised person they'd like me to use their place as a setting?

I've already told you. I don't care what fires burn in Mexico. Not going there to fight it. You're characters are on their own for that one. lol. DC didn't exactly have fires and I don't think Miami has either, so that's two places that have been spared. Chicago had one, but long before either of us, or our characters existed. :)

Edited by WolfM
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2 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

I've now read this chapter a minimum of three times. Each time, my heart beat goes up. Those descriptions of the flames, winds, and flying embers had me panting. Good job, dude.

Thank you, My Teacher.

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Intense chapter, very descriptive and so very visual I could feel the heat from the fire, glad they got out 

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19 hours ago, Kitt said:

My EMS crew have volunteered at some huge (for NJ) brush fires, but they look like sedate camp fires compared to what you and yours face. I cant even imagine...

Your narrative increases the respect ( already considerable ) I carry for firefighters. Well done sir.

I'm sure Brandon would love to deal with a sedate camp fire. :)  You EMS guys are wonderful.

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14 hours ago, mikedup said:

Intense chapter, very descriptive and so very visual I could feel the heat from the fire, glad they got out 

Thank you, Mike. :)

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1 hour ago, WolfM said:

I'm sure Brandon would love to deal with a sedate camp fire. :)  You EMS guys are wonderful.

Fortunately I have never needed to do more at a brush fire than make firefighters drink and wash their eyes, a little oxygen here and there. Back when I was active they did not believe in cross training women, so I was always a support role. Eh, someone has to do the backstage shit!

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42 minutes ago, Kitt said:

Fortunately I have never needed to do more at a brush fire than make firefighters drink and wash their eyes, a little oxygen here and there. Back when I was active they did not believe in cross training women, so I was always a support role. Eh, someone has to do the backstage shit!

They award Oscars and Emmys to supporting actors too. Those roles are just as important. My mum volunteered on our local ambulance crew for 50 years and my dad is a Life Member of our local volunteer fire department.  

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On 3/13/2021 at 12:57 PM, Kitt said:

Fortunately I have never needed to do more at a brush fire than make firefighters drink and wash their eyes, a little oxygen here and there. Back when I was active they did not believe in cross training women, so I was always a support role. Eh, someone has to do the backstage shit!

Dughlas summed it up similar to what I had in mind. The production can't happen without the stage crew. No matter what the main actors do, they need the support team or there isn't a show.

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On 3/12/2021 at 3:20 PM, Carlos Hazday said:

I mentioned this before, elsewhere. I use Australia in my stories, and the place burns down. Same with Northern and Southern California, and Colorado. Anyone have a bully or despised person they'd like me to use their place as a setting?

I think Palm Beach might be a little too close to you!!!

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Far too exciting for one’s first day. Brandon acquitted himself well. Now he’s been accepted, maybe he won’t worry so much about being the stranger. 

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23 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Far too exciting for one’s first day. Brandon acquitted himself well. Now he’s been accepted, maybe he won’t worry so much about being the stranger. 

After a day like that you know you can trust the guys you're with and they can trust you. The honeymoon ends quick.

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