Investigation into a fire of suspicious origin uncovers a cacophony of sinister plots, deeds and manipulations from arson to murder. Trails as intricate as a spider’s web weave tangled trails throughout the story of the inferno that is the Thunder Ridge Trailer Park high up in the La Plata Mountains of Durango, Colorado.
“Hurry, hurry,” she screamed as she raced toward the fire truck.
“My God,” Smokey gasped as he jumped out of the truck, his feet scarcely touching ground as he ran toward her. This woman, was as close to him as his sister, and was obviously in shock. A victim of the fire they were racing to fight, he wondered? He held his breath, struggling to maintain professionalism against the sense of anxiety knotting in the pit of his stomach. When it’s someone as close as Jo-Ellen was to being family, the term victim held a horrific new meaning. “It’s okay, the paramedics are here. They’ll take care of you, now.” He tried to quiet his trembling voice, make it sound soothing to Jo-Ellen. “Relax; we’ll take care of the fire, now.” Smoky starred deep into Jo-Ellen’s eyes trying to find the woman inside, trying to reach through the pain, the obvious shock she was in. She seemed to stare through him oblivious to his words.
The Emergency Medical Technician’s van slammed to a stop behind the fire truck. One of them jumped out of the van, opened the back doors and prepared to receive a passenger. The other ran toward Smokey, who had scooped the big woman off her feet and was racing back toward the rescue squad van. Smokey saw the blistering skin on Jo-Ellen’s face and arms. I made his stomach lurch. Her nightgown scorched in places and pasted to her body as though it had melted there alarmed him further. No time to stop and worry about her now. The EMT helped him get Jo-Ellen up into the van and onto the stretcher. All the while she was calling out for Barney.
“Who is Barney?” Smokey asked. Confusion mixed with concern crowed his mind. He had never heard Jo-Ellen or his sister speak of a Barney in Jo-Ellen’s life. He couldn’t do anything until he got out to Thunder Ridge, so there was no point in dwelling on it. He knew Jo-Ellen was in good hands and he had a duty first and foremost to get to the fire, in case there were other victims beside Jo-Ellen and Barney. Time was of the essence.
She didn’t answer his question anyway, she screamed, “Hurry, before all of Thunder Ridge becomes an inferno.” What Smokey knew of Thunder Ridge was it already was an inferno though of a different kind. It was a hot bed of trouble.
Smokey couldn’t wait for an answer as to the identity of Barney. His strides lengthened as he bounded toward her vehicle to move it out of the way of the fire engine. Hamilton heard Jo-Ellen’s screams of pain.
“God, just let me die,” the words strangled by pain gurgled out and heightened his feelings of trepidation.
Smokey shuddered. Jo-Ellen’s truck was still running. He spun it onto the main road and planted it in the snow bank out of traffic. The driver made the corner with the fire truck, and as Smokey jumped on the back of the tanker, the big truck started picking up speed. The two miles back into Thunder Ridge seemed endless. The brief look Smokey had gotten at Jo-Ellen told him the fire must be bad. He hoped that whoever Barney was, he had somehow gotten to safety and would be all right until they got to him. When people lived out this far, any fires were almost certainly a disaster, especially to a mobile home of the older type that most were at Thunder Ridge. It seemed Thunder Ridge was a magnet for people down on their luck. They bought the cheapest, oldest trailers, no matter the condition, something they could afford was all that mattered. Most were little more than a shell of the former trailer, little more than a roof over their heads. A shout jarred him back to the present.
A man was standing in the road ahead waving “This way,” he shouted motioning them on in as they rounded the bend and crossed the narrow bridge over the arroyo into Thunder Ridge Trailer Park. He motioned to them to take the left fork. The driver had to slow to make the tight turn. The man jumped up on the running board.
“It’s the manager’s duplex,” he yelled.
Lights flashing, siren now silent, they pulled the pumper to a stop. They hurriedly strung the hose out and attached it to their water pump, the other end they planted in the arroyo. Smokey shouted to the man who had directed them in “turn off the propane gas tank that supplies the duplex and the rest of the park,” he motioned toward the tank.
“Already done,” he yelled back.
Smokey knew it must have been. The fire seemed to be contained in one side of the duplex.
Smokey and the driver hit the apartment door in unison, and then they turned the hose on the nearest wall. They dropped the wall of water to the floor, and then washed it back up the wall. They chased the fire back toward the bedroom where flames licked around the door as the fire roared like some angry animal. Smokey gave the door a kick and jumped back before the rush of fresh air supplied the fire with renewed energy. The flames leaped out toward them. The wall of water from the hose pushed it back into the bedroom. It had gone up into the attic above the bedroom. They stood now, pointing the hose at the only fire visible, in the attic above them. The torrent from the hose quickly quenched the attic blaze. As they backed up, Smokey tripped over a lifeless form. He gasped, at first, thinking it may be a child, remembering Jo-Ellen’s pleas to get Barney out of there.
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