The alarm bells sound just before the break of dawn and the silent air is shattered by the shrill ringing. A series of tones can be heard throughout the house followed by the disembodied voice of a dispatcher as the men inside the sleeping quarters jump from their beds, hastily sliding on their boots — the only part of their uniform they parted with before collapsing in exhaustion.
Within minutes they've donned their turnout gear and, helmets in hand, they jump into their trucks to pull away from the station with lights blazing and sirens blaring.
Adrenaline runs rampant as they head toward the scene; a five alarm fire - the likes of which haven't seen in well over six months. The Lieutenant turns in his seat and assists the rookie beside him with his coat collar, a silent acknowledgement of the young man's fears and a reassurance that he's not alone.
Arriving at the scene, the men are met with a frantic crowd. Citizens crying and screaming in panic over their loved ones still remaining in the building that is rapidly being destroyed by the raging inferno before them. Thick black smoke billows from the windows as flames lick their way around edges. The crackles and bursts emanating from within create the sinister laugh of this Devil's muse, daring even the bravest of souls to attempt to cross the threshold of the domain it's claimed.
Without a pause, the men band together in pairs and enter the gates of Hell on Earth in search of the fire's victims. They will not rest and they will not concede defeat. They will stand tall and put their lives on the lines for even those they do not know.
Unmovable curtains of smoke, flickering with the light of the flames surround them. The scorching heat is unbearable, but still they continue to search, moving slowly through rooms with sweeps of their flashlights and booming voices calling out to anyone who can hear.
From down the hall, they hear the terrified screams of a survivor. Their steps pick up pace as they use the sounds to lead their way, and upon spotting their rescuers, the victim's tears turn to ones of unfathomable relief.
Within the arms of their saviors, those trapped and left behind are delivered from the beast's clutches and into the awaiting embraces of their loved ones. Praises and sentiments of profound gratitude are showered upon the men, but the words, gestures, and watery smiles can only be savored for a fraction of a moment. They still have a demon to tame and conquer.
It's what they were born to do.
It's what they live for.
They are our true modern day heroes.