A/N: This is a response to Ginger S's call for one-shots about life not always giving you a second chance. I don't usually do one-shots, but I'll give it a whirl.
Can't Take It Back
"Life comes with no guarantees, no time outs, no second chances." -Unknown
I sent him in.
I sent him in to his death, and I can't ever take back that order.
I ordered an interior attack. It was the right thing to do, with the knowledge I had at the time. The building was new, it was supposed to be up to code, and we didn't know if there were still any people in there. Our first job is to save lives, and if there were any people in that building, we had to attack the fire from inside to be able to get them out safely and in time.
The building was supposed to be a modern, well-constructed apartment complex. It wasn't supposed to have been inspected by someone getting a kickback from the developer. The floor wasn't supposed to collapse under Marco and Chet.
We thought the fire had started on the ground floor. The first floor was fully involved when we arrived, and there was heavy smoke on the upper two floors. There wasn't supposed to have been fire in the basement, but there was. There wasn't supposed to have been a truss floor in a new residential building, but there was. There were supposed to be heat detectors in the basement, but there weren't. There should've been an indication that the basement was involved, but there wasn't.
I made all the right decisions, all the right calls, but based on information that was all wrong.
John and Roy were sweeping the top floors for occupants, and Chet and Marco were attacking the fire on the ground floor.
Marco radioed in that he was about to come out for a new air bottle. Mike was standing there, ready with the tank. But Marco didn't come out.
Chet called the mayday, while continuing to man the 2-1/2 himself.
"Mayday, mayday, we have a collapsed floor and a firefighter down, in the basement, halfway down the Bravo side. Mayday, mayday!"
John and Roy responded instantly, heading to the basement, while the team from 127s went in to continue to hit the fire on the first floor. I called for a second alarm assignment, but it was too late.
Mike responded instantly, dialing back the pressure on Chet's line so he could handle it alone. I responded instantly, transferring incident command to Mike and masking up to go in for search and rescue.
John and Roy got to the basement in record time. "Engine 51, DeSoto. We have heavy flame in the basement. Unable to attempt rescue at this time. Respond attack team to our location."
And those were the words that sealed Marco's fate. Chet said later he could hear the alarm—the one that said Marco was running out of air—but that he couldn't raise Marco on the radio, and couldn't see him.
The autopsy showed cause of death as asphyxiation. The coroner said he was probably unconscious already when he ran out of air, since he had a massive head wound from the debris that fell on him. He said Marco wouldn't have known anything after he fell through the floor.
Roy said he'd had to physically restrain Johnny from running through the flames in the basement to try to get to Marco. It was a good move, since Marco was probably beyond help already.
Nobody blames me for Marco's death. Nearly every piece of information I had at the size-up stage was wrong, with no way for me to know it was wrong.
But I made the call to send him and Chet in, and I can't ever take that back.