The characters do not belong to me, they belong to Universal and Mark VII Productions.  As usual, no money was made off of this.  Again, my bank account is available as proof. 


A new friend of mine used to work in Virginia as a firefighter/EMT.  He told me a really funny story about a snowman succumbing to a heat wave, and I couldn’t resist. 


Very special thanx to Jill Hargan and Audrey for the beta reads.  Audrey, thank you for giving my ramblings a home.  Jill, as always, you are a great friend.



Man Down?


Jackie Beechner, RN



If the sun had been shining, it would just be disappearing behind the hill.  A cool fog was creeping in, settling in the valley below the fire station, a perfect match for the even pale grey of the clouds covering the setting sun.  John Gage leaned against the building of Station 86, frowning unconsciously as he tipped his coffee mug and drained the last of the contents down his throat. 


Two days earlier was Halloween; a holiday he was growing to love thanks to his partner, Roy DeSoto’s children, Christopher and Jennifer.  This year Johnny and Roy took the children trick-or-treating while Roy’s wife JoAnne stayed home and handed out candy. 


Johnny chuckled to himself as he remembered the children’s costumes:  Chris dressed in his father’s turnout coat and helmet, face smeared with soot from the fireplace to represent ashes; Jennifer dressed in her Winnie-the-Pooh outfit JoAnne had sewn.  They had been so excited to have both their Daddy and their Uncle Johnny going with them this year.  Even though darkness had fallen early, the weather was still warm enough that they were able to stay out late and let the kids bring in a huge haul of candy.


Johnny sighed as he looked at the gathering fog in the growing darkness.  He realized his melancholy had nothing to do with the overtime shift he was working at 86’s.  He knew it was due to the changing of the season – cooler days, less sunshine, more grey and fog and rain.  Although he loved the outdoors, he didn’t get to enjoy it as much this time of year.


“Hey, John.”


Johnny turned at the sound of the man’s voice.  “Hi, Kurt.”


Kurt Michaelson was the station’s new captain.  Not much older than Johnny, he still had an enthusiasm for his job that carried over to his crew.  Johnny liked the man, had remembered working with him a time or two earlier in his career, and it was because of Kurt he had signed up to work this shift.


Tonight, Kurt’s enthusiasm had to do with a new piece of equipment that the county was having the more remote stations carry.  These particular stations didn’t have paramedic crews.  Instead, they had crews of firemen that were the first responders in the area, rendering first aid and basic CPR until the rescue squads and paramedics could arrive.  However, recent innovations had allowed science, emergency medicine, and technology to combine into an even more powerful weapon in the war against needless cardiac deaths. 


Station 86 was one of the first stations in the county to receive an Automatic External Defibrillator, or AED.  An AED would allow first responders to apply the electrodes to the patient and the machine would determine if an electrical “shock” was necessary.  The machine would even deliver the shock after prompting the responder to push a button.  The AED dramatically cut the time from onset of arrest to restoration of a cardiac rhythm, and a paramedic was not needed to operate the machine.  After seeing too many instances of needless deaths on the job, Kurt was beyond excited to get the machine.


Kurt had shown Johnny where the pack was located on the engine, right behind the Captain’s seat, along with the oxygen pack.   Johnny listened politely as Kurt extolled the virtues of the machine, pulling it out, opening it up, and turning it on.   Johnny remembered being one of the crew of paramedics that had pushed to get the equipment, then taught the first responders how to use them.  But, he also knew Kurt.  And most of all, Johnny appreciated Kurt’s enthusiasm.  He remembered feeling that way when he first became a paramedic.  So Johnny bit back the chuckle and the smile, and nodded appropriately when Kurt spoke, knowing the machine would be put to good use.


Kurt nodded toward the valley.  “I guess Fall’s finally set in, huh?”


Johnny sighed in the growing darkness.  “Yeah, guess so.”


“Got any more camping trips planned?”


Johnny chuckled.  “Nah.  Gettin’ too cold.  You got anything planned?”


“Well, Marcie and I’re talking about going up to Big Bear one last time before the snows set in.  We have to wait ‘til our time off comes up, and hope the weather holds.”


Johnny nodded, opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by the klaxons.


"Engine 86, Squad 51.  Man down.  4985 Laurel Canyon Drive.  4  -  9  -  8  -  5 Laurel Canyon Drive.  Cross street County Road 18.  Time out 1719.”


The other two men of the crew came running from the rec room into the apparatus bay, pulled on their turnout coats and jumped aboard the engine.  In one fluid motion brought about with years of experience, Johnny grabbed his turnout and pulled it on, then climbed aboard behind the engineer, tightening the chin strap on his helmet as he settled into his seat.  Kurt had acknowledged the call, then jumped into his seat, pulling the door shut as the engineer pulled the big rig out of the bay and into the deepening twilight. 


It took the engine less than five minutes to reach the ranch house set back from the street.  The engine was situated so that the scene was on the right hand side of it.  The Halloween decorations were still up and barely moving in the very slight breeze.  Orange plastic pumpkins competed with skeletons with ghoulish smiles for spaces on hay bales.  Along a short white picket fence were black cats with arched backs. A witch had flown into a tree that had white-sheeted ghosts dangled from its branches.


As the crew pulled up to the scene, their attention was drawn to a still figure laying in a heap on its side in the front yard.  It looked as if the person was sitting on or near a hay bale when they collapsed.  As Johnny took in the yard before him, he realized something wasn’t quite right about the figure lying on the ground.  Maybe it was the fog.  Maybe it was the near darkness.  But something was really wrong about this scenario.


The engine pulled to a stop with a hiss of the air brakes.  Before it was completely stopped, however, Kurt had jumped to the ground, grabbed the AED with one hand and the O2 pack with the other, and had taken off at a full run toward the victim.


Johnny opened his mouth to speak, but it was too late.  Instead, he jumped off the rig, ran around the front of it and across the yard in time to hear Kurt, who had knelt by the victim, say, “Open the AED, he’s not responding!”


“Uh, Kurt. . .” he said quietly.


Kurt was wrapped up in his rescue and didn’t hear Johnny.  “Man, this guy’s really cold, he’s been down a long time!”  Kurt said, trying to position the victim to get to the man’s chest.  “Hope the AED will do him some good.  Give me the electrodes. . .” Kurt’s voice faded as he pulled his hands away from the victim’s chest, the shirt partially unbuttoned.  “What the hell?”


Johnny heard the other two men of the crew begin to snicker and giggle.  “AED won’t do him any good,” Johnny said softly, kneeling behind Kurt and laying a hand on his shoulder.  “Ain’t much of anything anyone can do for him now.


Kurt’s breathing was ragged as the rush of adrenaline began to wear off.  In the darkness Kurt looked a little closer.  “It’s a scarecrow,” he muttered softly.


At that moment, the machine, which had been turned on, droned in its mechanical voice, “Shock not advised.”


The engineer guffawed loudly.  “No, a shock wouldn’t be advised.  It might set our victim on fire.”


The handi-talkie in Kurt’s pocket went off.  “Engine 86, LA.  Squad 51 advises it will be 25 minutes to your scene.  Do you need additional assistance?”


Without thinking, he raised the HT to his lips.  “LA, Engine 86.  Cancel Squad 51.  It’s a scarecrow.”


The second the words left his mouth, Kurt knew he’d never live this rescue down.


Everyone on the crew heard the confused silence for a few seconds before dispatch responded.  “Repeat, Engine 86.  Did you say ‘scarecrow’?”


“Affirmative, LA.  Our victim is a fallen scarecrow.”  Might as well get this over and done with, Kurt thought to himself.


“10-4, Engine 86.  Notify if you need further assistance.”


The other two members of the crew giggled harder.  “Nah, LA, I think we got this one covered.  Whatcha think, Johnny?  An IV of D5W?” Davis, the other firefighter, said.


Although Johnny thought the situation was pretty funny, he also thought of his friend, who was now glaring at his crew.  “No, I think a quiet, dignified retreat is appropriate now,” he replied.  Although I’m sure gonna hear bout this when I get back to my usual shift, he thought to himself, knowing full good and well his coworkers had scanners at home, and knew he was pulling overtime up at 86’s today.


A car pulled into the driveway.  Ah, shit, Johnny thought to himself, Kurt’s bad situation just got worse.


The other two members of the crew began putting the AED away as Kurt and Johnny got to their feet.  A young mother and her two boys got out of the station wagon and began walking toward the crew.  Kurt took off his helmet.  “Ma’am, I’m Kurt Michaelson, Captain of LA County Fire Department Station 86.  Is this your home?”


The young woman nodded.  “I’m Mrs. Danner.  I just left to get my boys from Tae Kwon Do practice.  May I help you?”


Kurt glanced at Johnny and cleared his throat.  “Well, Mrs. Danner, we got a call that a man was down.  When we got here, it looked like there was an unconscious person lying on your front lawn.  We were checking out the situation, and discovered your scarecrow. . .”  Kurt’s voice faltered at the ridiculousness of the situation.


Mrs. Danner giggled.  “Oh, no!  The scarecrow got knocked over yesterday and my husband didn’t get around to taking down the Halloween decorations.  I’ll bet Miss Murphy across the street made the call.”


“Miss Murphy?”  Johnny asked.


“Yeah,” the youngest Danner boy responded with a giggle.  “She’s like a hundred years old and blind like a bat!”


Mrs. Danner grimaced at her youngest son.  “She’s a really sweet elderly lady who lives over there,” she pointed to a house across the street, “but her vision’s not what it used to be.”


Kurt and Johnny looked at each other, the whole situation suddenly making sense.  “We’re very sorry, ma’am,” Johnny replied, giving her his most charming smile.  “We will be going on our way now.”


“Hey, Mom!” the oldest Danner boy cried, “That’s that new machine that charges hearts!  ‘Member?  We saw it on the news!”


Kurt’s crew began snickering again, causing Mrs. Danner to look at Kurt, whose face was now turning the entire spectrum of red, with some compassion.  “Those are wonderful machines.  Do they work?”


“Not on scarecrows,” the engineer shot back under his breath, causing the two members of the crew and the two boys to laugh loudly.


Mrs. Danner sharply admonished her boys while Kurt pointed to the engine with murder in his eyes.  The two men moved to obey, carrying the equipment back with them, and giggling with every step they took.  Turning back to Johnny and Kurt, Mrs. Danner said, “Thank you for coming to check it out.  I’m thankful you cared.”


Johnny and Kurt merely nodded and walked back to the rig.  Getting in, Kurt picked up the mike.  “Engine 86 10-8 to quarters.”


“Engine 86, Battalion requests a written report on the performance of the AED.”


This time, in the dark, with his back to his friend, Johnny quietly laughed along with the other two members of the crew.


Later that evening, as Johnny was reading his book before turning in, Kurt walked into the rec room and laid a piece of paper over Johnny’s book.  Johnny glimpsed up at Kurt’s retreating back, then looked down at the piece of paper.





Name of victim (last, first): Crowe, Scare         Age: Unknown (less than 1 month)

Address: 4985 Laurel Canyon Drive                 Date: November Time: 1719

Victim Vital Signs:  Pulse 0; Resp Rate 0; Temp approximately 60oF

Victim Allergies: Heat, horses, cattle, fire

Describe response: Victim found unresponsive on ground, possible assault, unable to resuscitate victim due to combination of allergies and length of time down (refer to vital signs)

Were appropriate measures taken?  Yes   Was AED usage appropriate?  Yes

Could anything be changed from this incident for future AED usage? More respect and dignity for the victim

Should AED usage be continued? On my crew, yes, unless frontal lobotomies are allowed.


Thank you for your comments and suggestions.  They are valuable to the program’s success!




Johnny smiled and shook his head.  Hearing a sound at the door, he looked back up.  Kurt was standing there, a smile on his face.  “You gotta admit, it was pretty funny,” Kurt said, then disappeared back out the door.  “Lights out, John,” he called over his shoulder.


“Coming, Cap,” Johnny responded, closing his book after looking at the page one last time and slipping it between the pages of his book.  Yep, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, Johnny thought to himself as he walked across the room and turned out the lights.  Even rescuing innocent scarecrows makes it all worthwhile.





*Click on the scarecrow to send Jackie feedback



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