Rory (Hope City #7) - Maryann Jordan


“Fuckin’ traffic! Get out of the way.”

The wail of sirens screamed continuously, and Rory McBride shook his head as the driver cursed and honked at the line of cars in their way, obstructing their progress. As a volunteer with the Hope City Fire Department Second Battalion, Baker Street Station, he sat in the back seat of a twenty-five-ton ladder fire truck with two other fire engines ahead and two ambulances traveling behind. He couldn’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t want to get the hell out of the way of the progression of sirens and flashing lights.

Leaning forward, he caught a glimpse of the impeding traffic, most now moving to the side. Finally, the cacophony of combined lights and sounds must have convinced the last obstinate driver to pull over, allowing the fire truck to surge through the intersection, making a sharp right-hand turn onto Bridgewater Street. Like many streets in Hope City, it was lined with row houses.

The truck finally came to a halt just down from where smoke was billowing from one house on the end. His radio filled with orders.

“Command post to the south.”

“Hand jack engine fourteen.”

“Pull in to two-ten.”

“Occupant report?”

“On it.”

“Command post on opposite side of road, to the south.”

“Get on the hand jack.”

“Got it.”

Moving quickly, Rory climbed down from the truck, his helmet already fastened over his Nomex hood. In full PPE turnout gear along with the extra tools, the seventy pounds he was carrying would soon have him sweating once he hauled everything and made it to the fire.

Captain Purnell ordered the first fire engine to stop closest to the hydrant. The second engine would lay a supply line toward the attack pumper. Used to the strategy, the firefighters immediately raced to their positions. Rory hated the fires in the rowhouses, knowing how quickly they spread from one to the other, threatening all the families within. When they were built over a hundred years ago, there were no regulations requiring firewalls between the residential units.

He grabbed the supply line and wrapped it around the hydrant as the ladder truck moved closer into position to get to anyone that was on the second or third floors. Flames were bursting from the second floor of the end unit, quickly spread by the winds sweeping down the street.

“Hook it up!” The captain radioed his order. Rory and another firefighter secured the continuous water supply to the hydrant.

His firefighting mentor, Terry, jogged over. “There’s an entrance on the side of the first house. Unit Three is going in. Line stretch.”

Flames sent their tentacles upward as several windows were broken, allowing more boiling black smoke to roll out. He left the hydrant firefighter at the hose bed of the engine and ran to roll out and stretch the line with several others as the captain called for the mounted master stream.

“Assume and knock down fire until we get the deck gun in position.”

With the water now blasting through the fire hose at over fifty miles per hour, it took two of them to hold it steady.

“Wet it down then start hitting that.”

“Who’s on utility security?”

“Got it. Gas is secure. Working on electricity now. Will confirm.”

“Copy that.”

The captain’s voice cut through the others on the radio. “Who’s on the occupancy report?”

The last question coming across the radio sent chills down Rory’s back. Their jobs would be easier if they knew all the occupants were out of the residences.

“Exposure has been wet down.”

“On direct attack of second structure. PAR with three personnel.”

“Possible small child inside. First unit. Second floor. Back room.”

Shit. Words that no firefighter ever wanted to hear was that someone, especially a child, was trapped inside a burning building. Looking back at Terry, he asked, “Where do you need me?”

“Unit Three will look for the child. Get to those people standing over there. Check to see if anyone else is unaccounted for.”

With a nod to the others holding the line, he jogged to the first group of people standing on the sidewalk and yelled, “Who lives in these houses?”

An elderly woman pointed to another huddle of people. “They do.”

“Then move back, please, all of you. We need to have room to work and don’t want anyone else to get harmed.” Twisting his head around, he motioned for one of the police officers nearby. With his arms spread wide, Rory walked forward, herding the bystanders until the officers jogged close and took over moving them toward the other side of the street. Turning, he hustled to the group she had indicated. A young