I must get out.
That one thought constantly invaded my mind as I regained consciousness and crawled around on the heated surface, the house in flames around me. I frantically searched for a portal to the outside, but all doorways were blocked with fallen debris.
I had a wheezing and coughing fit as I inhaled more smoke; my lungs filling up with the black fumes. More rafts fell from the top of the ceiling of the wooden cabin. There! A hole opened up with just enough room for my escape. I quickly made my way toward the opening, my legs burning with pain from a falling beam. But then I remembered why I had come in here.
Our unit had responded quickly to the fire, pulling up in several large trucks, quickly releasing water upon the burning cabin from our hoses. And then the screams came. A woman’s voice, frantically begging for help. Without another thought I rushed in, for I knew the house would be collapsing soon.
And as soon as I entered, it did. I was pinned down, my leg caught under a large wooden beam that had fallen from above. It took all of my strength to be free from the wood’s grasp, and I drifted off into unconsciousness soon after.
As I neared the opening I paused, listening for the sound of her voice. But none came. She might be dead, unconscious, or perhaps she simply gave up any hopes of being saved. It was a death sentence to go after her now, but I would not concede to the shouts of my comrades outside telling me to come out. I was here now, and I would not be leaving unless it was with her.
I frantically looked around the room until my eyes found a crumbled doorway. Not caring for fire safety, I stood up; my leg screamed in pain, but I endured. I hobbled as quickly as I could, finally coming to the next room.
She was sprawled on the ground, fragments from the cabin on top of and around her. I rushed forward, reading to spring her from her trap. But then I heard it. A baby’s cry. To the left I found a crib, with a baby of only a few months old. Tears filled my eyes, and not just from the smoke. I sprung forward, pushing away rubble and picking up the baby in my arms, cradling it.
“You’re going to be okay, little guy,” I said in a soothing voice. “You’re going to be okay.”
It killed me leaving his mother on the floor like that, but what other choice did I have? I ran from the room, back to the opening I had found, dodging flames and falling objects. I handed the baby off to one of my comrades and quickly rushed back to his mother.
Finally releasing her, I gently lifted her over my shoulder, carrying her out as the ceiling caved in behind us. I knew it wasn’t long until the rest of the house fell.
Go on, I urged myself. Hurry.
The heat became unbearable, the exhaustion begging me to give up right then. No, I will not give up. I must go on.
I prayed to God that he may help us, and as I made my way toward the escape from the flames, tumbling as I went, a prayer was constantly on my lips.
Finally we made it, and I handed her off to the other men in my unit. I stepped out the opening as the cabin collapsed, engulfed in flames.
Now a new thought filled my mind, overpowering all others. We survived the blaze.