LONDON'S BURNING

Ship to Shore

The atmosphere around Blackwall Fire Station could have been cut with a knife. Sally and Hyper were arguing over their living arrangements, apparently the Irish Tricolour had fallen down from where Hyper had hung it over the front room window, while the English St George was still flying proudly. Hyper thought Sally had pulled it down on purpose, she pointed out that if he had put it up right in the first place then it wouldn't have fallen down! She then managed to add further insult to injury by pointing out that he didn't need it anyway as Ireland had been knocked out of the World Cup!

Adam had decided to get away from their argument by occupying himself with chatting up a woman who had arrived at the station wanting some advice on fire safety. However, he was more interested in her availability for a drink with him sometime. He was slightly put off when she told him she would have to find a babysitter first!

George was pouring over the newspaper, strangely he had remained on the same page for some time as Recall had pointed out. George reckoned he was reading something interesting but quickly put the paper away when Recall tried to see what he was really reading, hidden in the folds of the broad sheet. Pearce was hiding in his office, worrying about John Coleman's replacement while Hi-Ho was sulking because Adam had joked that he would make someone a lovely wife with his cooking abilities! It was a bit of a sore subject for Hi-Ho, who was a bit shy when it came to girls, Adam reckoned it was because he didn't have "the gift"!

"Who was she?" Hyper asked as Adam finally parted company with the pretty blonde woman.

"Um… she wanted to know the best position… for her er… smoke alarm!" Adam explained hurriedly.

"Oh yeah?" Hyper didn't believe that the sole topic of the twenty-minute conversation had been the positioning of smoke alarms. "Did you offer to go and fit it for her!"

Adam just grinned as they were interrupted by the ringing bells. Hyper darted into the Watch Room to grab the information from the printer.

"Fire, oil tanker at the Blackwall Docks," he relayed the information as the Watch gathered in the appliance bay.

The stricken oil tanker was the Mari Belle, which had sailed into London from a French port to make a delivery to an oil refinery. Fortunately she had been empty when the fire stated, or so Blue Watch had been led to believe anyway. The ship's captain was trapped in his cabin, Pearce sent Hyper and Adam in to find him.

"Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!" a panic stricken French sailor tried to get Sally's attention. "Mazout, mazout! Mazout sur la navire! Vite! Vite!"

Sally frowned. "What?" she couldn't understand what the frantic Frenchman was trying to tell her.

"Mazout! Vite!" he seemed to be trying to drag her away from the flames, which she was trying to fight with a powerful jet of water spraying from a hose.

She looked to Hi-Ho for help, but he knew even less French than she did. Hyper and Adam were venturing into the flames, knowing little about what lay in ahead of them.

Several other fire appliances had arrived to join the fight against the flames. Amongst these was a Brigade car, out of which got a tall man in his late twenties, whom Blue Watch didn't recognise.

"What's the SP?" he asked as he walked up to Pearce, while fastening his white DO ranked helmet in place on his fair head.

"Persons reported sir, one so far," Pearce started to explain. "The Captain, I've sent a BA crew onboard to locate him, sir…"

"Who's in there?" the man asked with interest as he consulted Hi-Ho's BA board.

"Um… Crew Commander Sharpe and Firefighter Benjamin…" Pearce explained, wondering if the names meant anything to the stranger.

"Ah yes," the DO seemed to recognise the names.

"Monsieur! Monsieur!" the desperate Frenchman tried to interrupt once more. "Danger! Danger!"

The DO turned to the Frenchman.

"Mazout sur la navire!" the Frenchman was crying frantically.

"Quelle sorte de mazout?" the DO questioned, his French accent spot on.

"Pétrole!"

"Pétrole?"

"Oui, oui monsieur," the Frenchman fell silent as if he was contemplating something. "C'est illégal. Je suis désolé…" he muttered.

"Hmmn," the DO didn't look happy with the information he had just received, in the language of which none of the others fully understood. "Geoff," he turned to Pearce, who was amazed yet complacent that the DO knew his name without being told. "Warn your crews, there's petrol on board."

"Right away sir!" Pearce jumped into action.

The DO turned back to the Frenchman, wanting to ask how much fuel was on board the Mari Belle, but the Frenchman had disappeared. All the crews could do was look on, in horror, as a series of explosions ripped through the large ship that had been grounded on the shallow banks of the River.


"Well that's blown it…"

"I don't think this is a time for jokes, Adam."

"It wasn't a joke, more of an observation!"

"Maybe we should try and get out of here. I think the firework show is over for now."

"Who's making jokes now!"

"BA control from Blackwall pump three…"

There was nothing on the radio as Hyper tried to contact Hi-Ho. He tried several more times but it was no use. They had been knocked off their feet by one of the many explosions onboard the ship, the radio connection had been damaged in the fall. They were trapped inside the cabin of the ships' navigation tower, where they had come across the body of the Captain, who was slumped against a wall. They could feel the heat of the blaze through the shattered windows.

"He didn't die from the fire…" Adam commented as he examined the body. "Look at that," he pointed out a large gaping wound on side of the dead man's head.

"Perhaps he fell…" Hyper suggested. "Hit his head on the side…"

"Or perhaps someone bludgeoned him to death!" Adam suggested as he found a blood stained heavy metal winching handle lying beside the body.

Hyper was busy looking out of one of the windows on to the docks below. There was no chance of anyone seeing them from the ground, as the flames were too high and too ferocious. Smoke was filling the cabin, it wouldn't be long before the fire reached them.

"Come on," Hyper decided to make a run for it, although he wasn't sure where they could run to.

"What about him?" Adam asked, pointing to the Captain.

"He's dead, Adam, come on…" Hyper urged.

They made their way down to the bottom of the tower, the heat growing more and more intense the further they descended towards the fire burning in the hull of the ship. Soon they could go no further, their path blocked by thick smoke and extremely intense heat.

"Which way?" Adam asked.

Neither of them were too keen to make any attempts to dash through the flames. There was only one thing for it.

Adam glanced at Hyper.

"I suppose it's a good job I didn't make a date with that girl!"

"You mean to say you passed up on a perfectly good opportunity?" Hyper was amazed.

"Yeah well, she wasn't my type! Are we doing this or what?"

Hyper glanced nervously towards the murky water below them, which was reflecting the glow of the orange flames, making the water itself seem as if it was on fire.

"Just one thing…" Hyper started.

"What?"

"I um… I can't swim!"

"Now you tell me!" it wasn't the news Adam wanted to hear at a time like this.

"I just thought you should know… If I drown… tell Sally I didn't mean what I said, it's only a stupid flag!"

"You're not going to drown, you muppet!" Adam tried to reassure him. "Just hold on to me…"

Hyper looked a little uncertain at the offer.

"Come on," Adam urged as the flames were creeping up behind them. "Face it, it's the only opportunity you're going to get to grope me!"

A further explosion came from the stash of illegal petrol stored inside the ship's hull. A ball of bright orange flame shot high into the air, way above the heads of the horrified firefighters standing on the docks. The force of the explosion was so strong that the ground shook as if a mini earthquake had just taken place. All they could do was look on aghast, with concern for the safety of their two friends onboard the ship.

On the other side of the blazing ship, circles of water rippled out, disfiguring the reflections of the flames in the river water. Suddenly the shimmering water was disturbed again as two yellow helmets popped up and bobbed around on the surface.

"Geoff!" Sally yelled as she saw the empty helmets floating around in the water.

Blue Watch crowded round, there was no sign of Adam or Hyper in the water. Sally was beside herself as the two BA cylinders drifted by.

"Down here!" Hi-Ho was yelling, he had noticed something on the rocky banks of the River, well away from the burning ship.

They all raced down to the shore to find Adam dragging Hyper out of the water. Once on firm land, Adam dropped to his knees, both of them lay motionless until the Watch came to the rescue.

"I thought you couldn't swim!" Adam commented.

"I can't, not properly. I just thought it would be so much more fun if I held on to you!" Hyper replied.

They both lay on the slimy stones of the riverbank, laughing both at the joke and through relief at their remarkable and lucky escape. Blue Watch pitched ladders between the shore and the docks to rescue their uninjured colleagues.