Tuesday, June 21, 2011
“You’re just now getting in? Must have been some night!” Pops said to Pepe. The other guys looked at him expectantly, but Pepe just smiled and went to his locker.
“Yesterday West Park citizens presented the mayor with a petition to keep their local firehouse open but things aren’t looking good for Firehouse #5, one of the oldest stations in the city…” broke in the radio announcer, sparing Pepe from the Inquisition.
“The Historic Preservation society has suggested turning Firehouse #5 into a firefighter’s museum named after Antoine C. Green, a firefighter who died fighting a fire in a foreclosed house last year, but West Park neighbors say the number of vacant properties in the community increases their need for a local station. The next closest fire station is more than four miles away…”
“Turn that noise off,” said Randolph. He was the godfather of ‘Toine’s oldest son and he still blamed himself for the accident that took his friend’s life.
“Do you really think they will shut us down?” Youngblood asked Pops.
“It’s looking that way, son.”
“Dang! I just got this job.”
“Even if they don’t shut us down this ‘round, the governor is trying to cut our pension and health care benefits. At the rate things are going, I’ll never be able to afford to retire.”
“Well I’m not voting for that jerk again,” said Steve, biceps rippling as he tossed off another set of curls.
“What do you mean, ‘again?’ Did you actually vote for him the first time?” called Arsenio from his bunk.
“I was young. I didn’t know any better.”
“Well I may be a rookie but I’m old enough to know that if they close this firehouse, homeowners in West Park will have to pay through the nose for insurance. When they closed the firehouse in South Lake, my grandmother had to get a special policy through Lloyds of London. None of the regular carriers would insure her home.”
"Nobody cares about the little man any more."
“Yeah, you don’t hear our governor volunteering to cut his salary.”
“Right, and the state legislators just voted themselves a pay increase!”
Pops was so distracted that Steve spanked him and Youngblood in a rare upset at Scrabble and even Aresenio’s new corrido about a band of hypersexed bomberos couldn’t lift the mood in Firehouse #5.
That night an alarm roused the firefighters from their troubled dreams. They raced to put out a house fire in West Park.
Apparently there had been a party in progress when the D.J.’s massive sound system overwhelmed the antiquated wiring in the house.
Sparks were flying and the acrid odor of fried electrical circuits filled the air when they arrived. Randolph and Pepe aimed the water canons on the truck to keep the fire from spreading to the neighboring houses.
Meanwhile Arsenio checked to make sure everyone had gotten out safely.
“Stand clear. Looks like the roof is about to come down,” Pops cautioned his men,
but then one of the partygoers rushed up saying “My roommate is trapped in there! She was in the bathroom upstairs because she wasn’t feeling well. I was about to go up and check on her when the fire broke out.”
“I’ll go get her Pops,” volunteered Youngblood.
“No, it’s too dangerous. You’ll never find her in time.”
“My Uncle used to live in this house. I know exactly where that bathroom is. I can be in and out in no time,” said Youngblood, donning his gas mask.
Then he turned and disappeared into the smoke.
The partygoers and Youngblood’s bunkmates watched anxiously as the flames shot higher and higher.
A series of explosions sent a shower of sparks blazing across the night sky. The old house creaked and shuddered ominously,
but just then, Youngblood emerged from the house carrying the young woman over his shoulder. The firefighters placed her gently on a stretcher and helped the paramedics carry her to the waiting ambulance.
“Do you know who that is?” exclaimed one of the paramedics. “That’s the governor’s daughter! What’s she doing in this neighborhood?”
“The governor has pushed a special appropriation through the legislature to subsidize fire and rescue services across the state. ‘Hard times call for hard decisions, but the safety of our citizens should always be the first priority.’ The governor went on to commend the heroic firefighters of the Antoine C. Green station in West Park who saved his daughter’s life last month…”
“You done good, ‘Blood,” said Randolph, cracking a broad smile for the first time in almost a year.