-Echo: The Fire-
The Grandidier was considered to be one of the largest undertakings when it came to construction in the Savanna district of Zootopia.
It was planned to rival the Palm Hotel in Sahara Square, which had already made quite a name for itself. The hotel was shaped like a giant palm tree. The design was both elegant and functional. The large "palms" themselves serving as both rooms, restaurants, and various amenities for those staying at the 5-star resort.
The Grandidier was different. It was not planned to be a resort but instead a kind of central hub for the Savanna district. It would house offices, restaurants, shopping centers, a park on the roof right next to the highest waterpark in the city. There were even apartments for those rich enough to afford such a lavish lifestyle. With so much to do one could feasibly stay in the building for days on end.
The structure itself was designed after the tree is was named after; The Grandidier baobab.
The tree was a kind of icon to those who spent their lives in the savanna. The tall cylindrical trunk would rise high into the heaves. A series of thick branches sat atop the tree instead of jutting out at its sides. Some thought the tree looked odd. While others believed it had its own unique beauty that nature had trouble repeating.
The structure of the Grandidier was different than the Palm Hotel not just in general appearance but design as well. Instead of being a giant glass monolith like the Palm the Grandidier had large bay windows spread out at various spots up the building's sides.
While some had thought this to be an odd choice it saved money on the construction. It had also been noted that unlike the Palm not every room would need a window or some kind of view. The large windows however provided enough light for those visiting the vast interior atriums to feel like they were still outside in the warm Savanna sun.
While at night The Palm lit up like some kind of spectacular colored glass light, the Grandidier had its own unique beauty during the day.
A local artist had been hired to paint symbols of the old tribes running up and down the Grandidier. The different vibrant colors told a story of Zootopia's founding. It was a celebration of all the different cultures that made Zootopia great.
It was a monument to what the mammals of Zootopia could do when they put their minds to something.
It was a wonderful place to raise one's family….
It was going to be the new standard for artistic superstructures….
...An inferno like no one had ever seen.
Thanks to the size of the Grandidier mammals from all over the city could see the smoke as it billowed into the sky. Like some kind of nightmare come to life.
Mammals of all shapes and sizes came pouring out of the structure as heroes adorned in ZFD gear rushed in.
The first teams on the scene knew exactly what they were dealing with and knew they would be overwhelmed and quickly if they didn't get more support.
Fortunately for them, they didn't answer the call alone.
ZFD fire trucks of all shapes and sizes dashed through the streets. Their sirens blaring as their strobes flickered. Klaxons deafening anyone dumb enough to get in their way.
The ZPD and ZEMS were quick to respond as well and soon an army of first responders fell upon the scene.
Not all of the first responders ran into the smoke though. No, everyone knew where they were needed most. As much as they would have all liked to rush in and do their part it was important that a perimeter was set up, the injured be tended to, and the area cleared so the ZFD could do their job.
Even with all the chaos around her Echo had a kind of cool demeanor about her. The painted dog hopped out of the rescue truck's rear door and began to adjust her bunker gear as she looked up at the burning bahobab structure before her.
The air smelled of ash and other nasty things that the painted dog pushed from her mind.
"Echo! Palmer! On me!" Came a gruff shout from a camel with a white helmet.
The painted dog and a timber wolf both nodded at one another before hurrying over to their chief.
"I need you two on evac assist. Door to Door. You are hooking up with a team from Savanna 72 that's already on the 3rd-floor atrium. They will be standing by for you there."
Normally they would have had a longer briefing, maybe some kind of quick talk or idea of where things went wrong, but today was different. There was no time to just sit around and get updates.
The fire had already been raging for nearly half an hour which meant that any mammals seeking shelter from the flames inside were in perilous need of rescuing before they ran out of air.
Echo and Palmer had not even stopped in their tracks, they walked past their chief who gave them both quick knocks on their helmets for luck. The pair put their breathing masks over their muzzles and adjusted the face shield so they could see properly as they trotted through the crowd.
"Rescue 72, leads name is Hatch, come back safe that's an order!"
As Echo and Palmer weaved through the crowd another painted dog, this one inf ZPD blues, passed by. Echo nearly missed him but managed to catch his attention. She quickly removed her self contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, and gave her brother a toothy grin.
"What trouble have you been starting Delta?" She asked as she looked at the painted dog, his uniform covered in a series of black marks and ash. She felt a little bad, her brother always worked so hard on making sure his patrol blues were crisp and clean.
"Well, I was just on patrol when I thought, 'Ya know what, Echo could use something to do besides sitting on a lazy dog recliner all day," The officer said as he gave his sister a wink. One of the jokes between the ZPD and ZFD was how most police teams would be patrolling the city while the firefighters stood by in their stations waiting for calls, most of the time stretched out on a comfy recliner of some sort.
"First on the scene?" Echo asked as Delta walked alongside her.
While the siblings would have loved to catch up and joke around they both understood the urgency of the situation. Delta kept pace with his sister who, thanks to her bunker gear, looked nearly a foot taller than her litter mate.
"Yeah," Delta mumbled, his mood changing as he looked up at the billowing smoke coming from the structure before them. "I just can't believe it spread so quickly."
"Fire tends to do that," Echo said as she followed her brothers gaze. "Well rest easy donut muncher, the real heroes will take it from here."
"Can't help but notice you all arrive after the ZPD, so are you still considered first responders or should we start going with second responders?" Delta asked giving his sister a nudge.
Echo responded by putting a gloved paw on the other painted dog's shoulder and giving it a gentle shove.
"Come out safe, ok sis," Delta said just loud enough for her to hear. Had her tail not been covered by her bunker jacket it would have been wagging at her brother's concern.
"Plan on it! Got lots more jokes at your expense I need to tell you."
With that Echo put her SCBA back on and made sure it was secure. Delta gave her a pat on the helmet and hurried off to see what assistance he could provide elsewhere.
Walking into the Grandidier was like stepping into another world. While the movies portrayed events like this as an action-packed madness with a thrilling soundtrack it was actually somewhat calm and quiet.
Sure there was the occasional muffled shouts and sirens from outside would sometimes leak in when a door opened. For the most part, though the main atrium had this eerie serenity hovering over it. This was normal during most high rise building fires. There was no ambient music, no mammals hurrying to a meeting or friends catching up as they enjoyed coffee from a cafe. No, most mammals were gone now, the few civilians inside the lobby were the stragglers from high up in the building.
Echo looked up and took a moment to appreciate the artistic value of the structure. The main entrance atrium had a kind of open space design about it. The ceiling was easily 10 stories above them which allowed for a model of the Grandidier to sit in the center, surrounded by a reception area.
There were several groups of mammals spread throughout the massive entrance area which was designed normally to receive hundreds of mammals. Civilians covered in soot were being escorted by the ZFD while the occasional medic hurried past to provide aid to someone who had to be treated before they could be moved.
Everyone carried with them a kind of silent urgency.
It was moments like this Echo's steps carried a little extra weight to them. This was the kind of stuff she trained for. The reason for all those early morning runs, late night study sessions, and missed social occasions.
She had wanted to be a firefighter since she was a young pup. It was in her blood. Most of her family always found ways of entering a kind of career helping others. Her father was a police officer back in their home city of Manta Bay. Her mother had been a medic before settling down and having her pups.
Her brother Delta had followed in their father's footsteps while she and her other brother Bravo went into the fire service.
Remember to keep breathing, stay sharp, no unnecessary risks.
The words of wisdom from her father echoed in her mind, only for the painted rescuer to be snapped back into reality.
"Remember Elevators are out, stairs only!" Shouted a rhino in a fire leads uniform.
These were very basic concepts but it was still important to remind those heading into the building to follow the main rules of fighting fires and rescuing civilians.
"Please continue in an orderly fashion out the main doors, medical teams are standing by to assist," The rhino continued as mammals trudged by him.
Echo watched the various animals pass her by. Most of them looked like they had been through quite the ordeal already. It made sense, at this point in the operation most of the easier to get to areas had been evacuated. Now it was down to getting to those hard to reach mammals.
"I just don't understand," Echo heard one of the mammals say as they limped by, "What happened to the fire suppression system? There were no sprinklers…the fire doors wouldn't budge...I just don't-"
"You saw how fast this place was built," Another mammal whispered. "You really think something of this size was built without cutting corners."
"I knocked into one of those sprinklers once," An elephant explained, "It just popped off the ceiling….I don't think it was even attached-"
While the gossip Echo heard was something she wanted to pursue she knew she had to keep moving, there was a job to do.
Besides, that's just what it was, gossip.
These mammals had been through hell and they were now just trying to figure out why. Their imaginations probably got the best of them.
As Echo and Palmer made their way up a set of stairs to the third-floor meeting area she kept getting a nagging feeling.
It's just gossip. Fires are always bad and seem intense. These folks just haven't been through that stuff before.
Even with her cautious nature, Echo was about to be shown just how wrong she was.
When it comes to fighting fires it's not as simple as just tossing wet stuff on the hot stuff and heading home. Fire's can eat up gallons and gallons of water before even showing signs of relenting.
It's not just about dragging hoses through hallways either. It's about understanding where the water is needed the most. What will happen when you soak a room? Does it stay out forever? Or will it simply be re-engulfed when the rooms around it remain ablaze?
Echo recognized the first signs of trouble early on.
When they met at the rally point and were told about their tasks it seemed normal. The job was to get up to the higher floors and assist with door knocks. The idea being that they were to make sure no one was still huddled in certain areas. There was no doubt about it, this was going to be a long fire. So they needed to make sure everyone was out so they could focus on fire control and suppression in a more aggressive manner.
They wouldn't just be blindly bumping around in smoke-filled hallways though. Some of the team would be utilizing the fire hoses already installed in the building to try and suppress the fire the best they could in order to buy the others time to get mammals out and to safety.
When they arrived on their assigned floor some red flags started waving. Two of the four fire hose cabinets hadn't even been installed properly. One of them didn't even have access to a waterline yet. The two that had been installed were low pressure. Meaning they hadn't been installed to a suppression line. If anything Echo had to guess they just jury-rigged it to the main water line which wasn't designed for the high-pressure needs of a fire hose.
"Are you freaking kidding me?!" Came a muffled shout from a mare in bunker gear as she aimed the hose down a hallway and tested the system. It barely cleared the 3rd set of doors. Normally where she was standing she should have been able to douse the end of the hallway with water.
"Freaking budget crunchers," Growled the fire lieutenant in charge of their team, the lion looking at the hose and then down the hall where thick billows of black smoke started to invade the hall. "Alright focus on keeping the area wet then, we can't afford to lose our exit."
That had just been the first of many hurdles.
Between a poor fire suppression system and virtually no firewalls in place, the fire moved quickly. Echo almost let out a laugh at how pathetic the fire code was in such a new and modern building. The fact there were no firewalls was almost insulting. Had they been installed the walls would have slowed the spread of the fire, mainly because they were designed of slow burning material. It wouldn't have stopped the fire but it would have taken it a lot longer to spread.
By the time they were clearing out their third assigned area, the flames had nearly engulfed the whole floor.
Echo was busy carrying out a koala in a burnt dress at this point, her breathing becoming labored. She knew her tank must be running low. She cursed herself for not trying to control her breathing a little better but didn't feel so bad when the rest of the team reported similar situations.
"Still….still inside," The koala in Echo's arms mumbled.
Echo felt the fur all over her body stand on end as she looked down at the weak mammal in her arms.
"Steph….she….got scared...went to hide….corner office."
"Frick, ok," Echo said before looking up and shouting for assistance, "Medic!"
A mammal in a white helmet hurried over and opened his arms, the wolf gingerly took the koala and placing a damp cloth over her mouth.
"Possible civilian trapped in a corner office," Echo said quickly to the wolf. One of the key things now was communication. The urge to dart off on her own was quickly squashed by her training.
You aren't alone, so never go off alone.
"Tank check!" The lieutenant shouted.
Echo groaned, she knew why their leader was asking for such a thing, but time was a factor.
The painted dog adjusted a small device on her wrist and checked the gauge. Her eyes widened suddenly when she saw the reading. The small needle inside her pressure gauge was barely fluttering over the red line. She would be tapping into her reserve oxygen soon which she had always been taught was a big no.
"Low!" Came a voice.
"Same," responded another.
Most of the mammals in the small squad were reporting the same low levels, which did not bode well.
"Alright we are out of here, make for the main exit stairs and get hustling-" The lion who had been leading them began.
"Sir possible civilian trapped in a corner office," Echo nearly shouted over the clambering noises of the bunker geared mammals moving.
"Tanks are low-"
"Civilian is trapped!" Echo cut their leader off.
The lion looked at the rest of the group and then back at Echo.
"We can go with her and be in and out in no time boss," Came a confident voice from behind Echo.
The painted dog glanced over her shoulder and saw a dhole standing just behind her. Their masks covered their faces all Echo could do was give a grateful nod to her fellow canine who had spoken up.
"Thompson," The lieutenant began as he looked over at a gazelle who stepped forward. "Go with those two to the corner office."
The gazelle nodded and quickly hurried over.
"You three," The lieutenant began as he pointed at several other mammals, their bunker gear covered in ash and burn marks. "Make a quick run around this section and make sure-"
Echo didn't hear the rest as she turned and hurried off with the rest of her small team. Time was a factor and the orders being given right now weren't for her so why should she stay and listen to them?
Get into the office, get out, go home. Simple.
As it turned out the first part had been simple. They managed to weave through the various office spaces with ease. When they came to a closed door they had a feeling they had found what they were looking for.
Echo tried the handle which moved easily. When it came to pushing the door open however she found that there was some difficulty. She managed to move the door open just enough to peek inside.
The room was filled with smoke and looked empty. When Echo looked to the floor she realized why the door wasn't opening.
A young looking koala in a burnt business suit laid unconscious right against the door.
Must have tried to find refuge then passed out….please just be passed out.
It took some maneuvering but they managed to move the door open just enough for Echo to get a gloved paw in. She managed to push the koala aside which allowed them to get in.
"Got breaths," The dhole in the fire gear said excitedly as she leaned down and examined the koala. "Shallow but they are there."
"We gotta get going, she ain't the only one having a hard time breathing right now," Thompson explained in a somewhat hurried manner.
He was right, Echo noticed how her own breathing was becoming somewhat labored.
We have been here too long, got to get out now.
The dhole hefted the unconscious koala over her shoulder and turned to the others. They quickly exited the office and hurried down the hall.
Had they just been a few seconds faster they probably would have avoided the disaster that came from above.
Little did they know that two stories above them an indoor theater had been burning. Much of the auditorium was covered in a special soundproofing cloth material that made it so music from the shows wouldn't echo all over the building. The only problem was the material was highly flammable. Add that to the fact that many of the seats had been designed to fit even the largest of patrons and you had a ticking time bomb of a floor collapse.
The seats to the theater fell through the floor one at a time but soon it was like a drain had been unplugged and the seats cascaded down on the floor below, weakening the ceiling directly above the rescue team.
It all happened in a flash. Echo heard the ceiling above her begin to give the telltale signs of failing. As she looked up she watched in horror as the wood and plaster of the ceiling suddenly opened up above her and a large cement and steel beam came through, like a knife cutting through butter.
There were screams, shouts, and what sounded like a freight train barreling down on the poor painted dog. Echo tried to dive down the hall but felt suddenly dragged to the floor. Her body pressed against the carpet as her helmet cracked.
The pain was like nothing she had ever felt before which caused her to scream out in agony.
She wasn't stuck on her face for long. She felt a pair of small hooves suddenly grab her by the wrist. She knew who it was and did the same, grabbing Thompson as he tried to pull her free.
"We got you pup," Thompson said through gritted teeth.
Echo's body didn't even budge, but that didn't stop the small gazelle from trying to free his teammate.
In the end, it was Echo's cursing that got him to stop.
"I'm sorry Echo," Thompson said as he put a hoove on her shoulder and looked over, inspecting the damage. "Shoot….you are stuck pretty bad."
"Lt. can you hear me?" Echo heard the dhole speak frantically into a small walkie talkie on her shoulder. Only static returned. "Lt. We got a serious problem, we had a collapsed ceiling and now Echo is stuck! Come in!"
"The transmission is being blocked by all the crap they put into the walls," Thompson growled. "Go to the stairwell and grab the others."
The dhole hesitated and looked to her trapped compatriot. It took Thompson to snap her back to reality.
"We need help getting her free! Go get the others! I'll stay with her!"
The canine carrying the koala simply nodded and hurried away into the smoke.
Echo let out a cough as she tried to lift herself up. The pain in her leg caused her to go limp and fall forward.
"Echo stay down," Thompson ordered, "We are getting help now."
Echo sucked in some air and let out a cough as a burning sensation filled her lungs. The very air she breathed tasted like ash. She looked down at her wrist and noticed the needle in the gauge was now completely limp. A simple flick would cause it to go to one side and then the other.
She realized her facemask had been cracked. Judging from the damage around her the tank on her back had probably been breached.
She was out of air, pinned to the floor, and out of time.
She managed to move just enough so she could look around and take in her surroundings.
Flames began to invade their floor and dance across the painted dog's vision.
"Hey, we got you, ok?" Thompson said firmly. "We aren't leaving till you are free."
He is nice, he is lying but he is still nice.
Echo couldn't get over the comradery of the ZFD. Here she was with a mammal she had only just met not even an hour before. They were surrounded by flames with no chance of escape and he was comforting her as he refused to leave her behind.
Most mammals would have already hurried away, knowing full well there was no chance to save the poor painted dog.
This stranger though put a firm hoove on Echo's shoulder and gave her words of comfort as the flames licked at his bunker gear.
Two shouldn't have to die….
"Go…." Echo managed to get out, the taste of copper filling her mouth.
"Shut up," Thompson said firmly, knowing full where what Echo was about to say.
"Go…," Echo repeated as she coughed. "I can't move my leg, its pinned, and at best it's broken. I could be bleeding internally. Even if we get free I-"
"Will be carried out of here even if I have to strip down both our tanks and carry you naked," Thompson said before letting out a cough.
His tank is empty too…
Even if they got her free right then it would be almost impossible for the lone gazelle to drag her to safety. Her size alone would have been an undertaking but add all the gear she was currently wrapped up in and it made the task almost impossible.
"Thompson," Echo began as the world around her grew dark, the shadows invading the edges of her vision. "Please just go…."
"Shut up Echo," Thompson said again.
"You don't have to die with me," Echo said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
She was going to die. No doubt about it. This was the end of this firefighter.
It was in these final moments that her thoughts went to her family.
She wished she had given Delta a hug before she went into the building. She wished she had had a chance to hold him close and tell him how much he meant to her. She wished she had seen her brother Bravo. To give him one last kiss on the cheek and tell him thanks for all the late night study session and early morning runs when they were preparing for the fire academy.
Her mother and father would probably never forgive themselves. They had always pushed this kind of service over self lifestyle on their pups. Always reminding them it was better to help others and be kind to one another. Echo, however, was glad she had gone into this line of work. She would never fault her parents for the drive they had given her to become a first responder.
In the end, Echo only had a few regrets, all of them revolving around her family and how she wished she could have said goodbye one last time.
Echo was in a dazed state at this point. The lack of oxygen getting to her brain was affecting her senses. She felt a sharp pain in her leg once more. Then there was a firm pressure on her shoulder followed by a tug.
Thompson must have been trying one last time, he had somehow grown stronger. His hooves had somehow been replaced by massive paws.
Is this really the end?
Echo looked up and realized it had to be. Towering above her was a shrouded figure.
So there is such a thing as Death. Thought he would be skinnier…
The last thing Echo saw before the world went black was Death raising his mighty ax.
Thought he carried a scythe…
No, she was sure of this, it was an ax. Just like the ones used by the ZFD.