by A21 Reporter Andy Clems
The inferno swept through the surface complex of the mine with terrifying speed. Workers scrambled to the safety zones on the edge of the facility as the first fire crews arrived in their gleaming appliances. Next to the towering flames, the advanced pump trucks of the local engine company looked like toys.
News soon reached rescue commander Thompson that ten people were unaccounted for and that they’d last been seen descending the main work shaft shortly before the disaster. Thompson knew the auxiliary gear wouldn’t have a hope of making it to the mine workings in time to carry out a rescue, so she immediately put out a distress call to International Rescue.
The battle against the fire continued as Thunderbird 1 arrived on the scene. Scott brought his agile craft in low to assess the danger zone, then performed a perfect three-point landing in a nearby field. There was little hope of setting up mobile control anywhere near the mine shaft, so he briefed Virgil and Alan from the safety of Thunderbird 1’s control cabin.
Minutes later Thunderbird 2 touched down nearby and the freighter craft raised up on its powerful hydraulic legs revealing Pod 1. The flap was swiftly lowered and with a roar of engines, Alan drove the Monobrake down the ramp and parked to one side, standing by. He radioed Scott to come over and Scott did so, slipping into an identical fire-suit to his younger brother. The pair watched as Virgil drove the Fire-Cat out of the Pod and preceded to the edge of the fire.
Scott darted into the Pod and in moments he was behind the controls of the International Rescue Mobile Recovery Unit. The MRU was designed for the transportation of rescue equipment, triage of injured disaster victims and was specially constructed to withstand extreme heat.
Several appliances were pumping torrents of water onto the blaze, but their combined efforts were barely holding the inferno at bay. The Fire-Cat took up position and Virgil carefully aimed its multi-purpose turret at the worst part of the fire. Calculations showed the local rescue teams were clear of the target area, so he fired a volley of ‘snuffer’ charges and stood by in case a second barrage was needed.
The first set detonated on cue and the explosive force snuffed out the majority of the fire blocking the way to the central mine shaft. Virgil radioed to Scott and Alan that the way was clear and watched as his brothers drove their machines through the gaps in the buildings to the towering main shaft. Once in position, Scott opened the roof hatch of the MRU and Alan backed the Monobrake up to the other craft, raising the armature at the rear of the vehicle as Scott made the connections to the Dycetaline Cage inside the MRU.
Lifting the Cage clear of its transporter, Alan maneuvered the Monobrake into place beside the elevator shaft, lowered the Cage into position and locked off the Monobrake’s armature. He and Scott climbed inside the cage and in seconds they were on their way to the bottom of the mine. Virgil monitored their progress on his scanner screen inside the Fire-Cat, then set off to help the other fire crews extinguish the rest of the Blaze.
Inside the shaft, Scott and Alan monitored the heat levels constantly. It didn’t look as if the fire had penetrated the lower levels, but every eventuality had to be considered. The depth gauge indicated that they were nearing their destination, so Alan shut off the winch system and opened the doors.
The two men climbed out of the Cage, down the ladder past the shaft’s regular elevator car. They walked along the roughly cut tunnel, the powerful beams of their torches cutting a path through the darkness. When the fire had reached the main generators, the power to the shaft had been cut off. Hearing muffled sounds in the distance, Scott called out and was relieved to hear a voice answer back. The Tracy brothers picked up the pace and soon came to a wider chamber where they found the workers.
A quick once-over revealed they were unharmed, just shaken. Alan radioed Virgil to confirm they were heading back to the shaft. As Virgil replied, his transmission was abruptly cut short by an explosion on the surface. Alan shouted for Virgil to respond, but the line was dead. Seconds later the whole tunnel shook and Alan tensed, seeing the grim look on Scott’s face. The mine was cracking up and could come down on them at any moment…