It's 4 a.m. and you are trapped in the bedroom on an upper floor of a home. Below, the fire is growing twice its size every 30 seconds.
The hot, black, billowing smoke and sparks are rising up the stairway like a chimney. The smoke is hundreds of degrees and full of poisonous toxins like carbon monoxide and cyanide.
If you stand up and rush towards the child's bedroom only 30 feet away, the heat will sear your lungs, burning your cilia and then cause edema - a condition in which the superheated smoke causes your scorched lungs to fill with fluid while your charred skin peels back.
The temperature in the hall increases about 100 degrees for every foot of height above the floor, the ceiling is approaching 800 degrees and soon the hot organic vapors from the walls, rugs, furniture, etc., burning in the floor below will ignite above you.
To compound your peril - and that of the child in the other room only 30 feet away - much of the smoke has already accumulated in the attic above you. Heat rises until it stops, then it accumulates. The timber that supports the roof is already aflame, the roof is on fire and the timber above will soon come crashing down, puncturing the plaster in the ceiling above. The life expectancy of you - and that child down the hall you hoped to rescue - is now down to minutes.
Fortunately, for you there is still some small hope left. This is because last weekend, firefighters attended another training session in addition to the already hundreds of hours in training and study they have already done.
These firefighters - many of them volunteers -spent that nice, warm weekend crawling or running up and down stairs with about 80 pounds of gear on, just to rehearse how they will try and rescue you and that child should an event like this occur.
These firefighters understand that the person in the above paragraphs might not be that child's mother or father; it might also be one of them.
These men spend many hours in study, training and grueling practice that seems as exhausting as trying out for a football team. They want to be confident in fighting fires or rescuing friends. They strive to be competent in extricating a victim of a vehicle accident and getting them to a hospital before the broken bones bleeding or trauma leaves the person in prolonged agony or even death.
These men train like athletes, study their craft like scholars, sacrifice time from their friends and family with a fervent dedication to their duty protecting their community.
But they need not only your help and support; they also need you. The fire departments need new members and people willing to commit themselves to service, training and discipline. In return you truly get friends who really would face the fires of hell for you.
North Strabane Fire Dept.