1 : marked by flames or intense heat: a burning fire
2 : characterized by intense emotion; passionate: a burning desire for justice
3 : of fundamental importance : urgent <one of the burning issues of our time>
1 : an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge.
2 : to express uncertainty about: doubt
3 : to dispute; a challenge
The wind changes direction, smoke and flames blow towards my outstretched arm. I pull it back just in time to save what little arm hair I have. I don my flame resistant glove, pick up my flat metal tool and dive back into flames from an upwind direction. One minute later my perilous task is complete; all of the hamburgers have been flipped and repositioned to avoid the sudden flair up. Didn’t even spill my beer, nice!
Darren comes over, attracted by flames as most firefighters are, and helps to offload some of the finished burgers. Darren’s wife organized the block party and my wife is helping by setting up the tables and taking food orders on her iPhone.
Most of the families on our street are here in the cul-de-sac on a Sunday with perfect weather. Cones block the street from traffic; kids are playing soccer and drawing on the street with giant pieces of chalk.
A few days ago Darren and I were watching flames throughout the big city where we both work. Darren’s a lieutenant on a fire engine with quarters next to the elevated commuter train station where this whole mess started. As a paramedic on an ambulance in the 911 system I run into Darren a few times a month when we get called to the same job. A few days ago I was posted at the same commuter train station when the page came out to the whole county. The jury is expected to read their verdict in one hour. Darren got the same page while enjoying a day off by playing with his young daughter and newborn son. He grabbed his jump bag and made the 40 minute drive into the city.
I’m looking at the train station through the windshield; all of the windows covered with plywood to protect against the potential for civil unrest. As this is expected to be ground zero; my partner and I decide we need to be somewhere else. Anywhere but here!
Just then the dispatcher comes up on the radio and we get a call; a car backed into a young woman, pinning her to another car in a parking lot. The car took off; hit and run. The young woman has minor injuries and PD was called but I don’t expect to see them any time today. I know they’re currently mobilizing to full deployment. She’ll have to file a report at the hospital.
On scene we exchange apprehensive comments with the fire fighters about what the next few hours will bring. Once at the hospital the same conversations are shared with the ED staff. Out in the parking lot to the ED they are manning their MCI (mass casualty incident) tents with decontamination showers used for pepper spray and tear gas exposure.
Katie, a part time EMT, picked up my unit today as my regular partner took the day off for a class. Katie wants nothing to do with the big city today. I volunteered for the tac-medic units which are sent into the ‘warm zone’ with PD escorts. But if Katie wants out I’ll do everything I can to make it happen. I call our dispatch center on my cell to make the request. They made contingencies for this; almost half of our staff volunteered to work the riots so there’s no reason to send someone there who is uncomfortable with the impending chaos. We get cleared to head towards the quieter cities on the other side of the county.
Before leaving the ED I open my jump bag with my riot gear and don my ballistic body armor. Although it makes me feel a little better it just makes Katie more nervous. I need to get her out of here ASAP!
On the way to our post on the “safe” side of the county we get a call assigned to us based on our GPS location. We didn’t make it out fast enough; the freeways were parking-lots because most of the businesses in the city closed early to allow people to get out before the chaos.
Katie is getting pretty worked up as we drive to the urban sprawl gang infested neighborhood just outside the city. We pass the apartment building where 3 officers were killed last year and the street where two more were gunned down on a traffic stop. But this isn’t that kind of job; this is a basic call for a woman on a psych-hold by PD. Nothing medical going on here so I assign a BLS (basic life support – EMTs) unit to transport the patient to the county EPS (emergency psychiatric services), thinking that maybe we can clear the scene and continue our escape.
Dispatch has other plans; they immediately send us to another call closer to the city. This call could be a carbon copy of the last one with the only difference being that I have no BLS units available for transport. I’ll have to take this guy to EPS myself.
As I’m walking the patient to the ambulance with two officers I hear a shooting go out on the police radio. Katie’s eyes get big and round. The location of the shooting is only 4 blocks from our last call. We were driving past that street just a few minutes ago. The officers’ jump in their cars and take off; lights on and siren wailing.
I transport immediately; the city is becoming increasingly chaotic, Katie is getting worked up, and EPS is further in the right direction to get us out of the city.