A Writer’s Guide to…Escaping a Fire!

Writers can get people into and out of trouble with a handful of eloquent words and some convenient coincidences. It’s no wonder then that we are the first people you turn to for advice on how not to die and stuff. With this in mind, I have decided to take on the heavy burden of writing some guides for that very purpose – to save lives!

Disclaimer: Following these guidelines may result in death.

First on the list of things you, the Hero, may get into trouble with is fire. This guide covers the likes of house fires, warehouse fires, fires in the villain’s lair because he discovered your intentions moments before you arrived and set a trap, but does not cover the supernatural fires of hell or magic.

Tombstone cowboys walking from fire

Problem: Fire
Goal: To not die
Description: Most often yellow and orange. Variably useful and ouchy. You’ll know it when you see it
Difficulty: Difficult

Note 1: A Hero knows that danger lurks around every corner and under every cheerful welcome mat. He or she should be ready for anything, including instantaneous infernos. Plan the quickest routes to multiple exits and note the obstacles – the smoke my reduce visibility to zero. If you intend to start the fire, do so far away from your exit. If you are an action Hero, windows between the ground floor and the fourth floor are acceptable exits, with the fifth and sixth floors viable when directly above a vehicle on which to land. If possible, know whom you will encounter along the way, which of these people can easily be shoved the ground and which will need to be dodged. If this is a house fire, Grandma will slow you down if you try to help her; but fear not, for the frigid embrace of the Reaper will soothe her burns.

Note 2: Stay low to the ground to avoid smoke inhalation. Smoke and chemicals will rise, so the cleanest air will be closest to the floor. Since visibility will be better down here, you could try shooting the ankles of random henchmen to counter the big-sissy-ness of crawling along the floor.

Note 3: As in any situation in which you are in a house with Macaulay Culkin, you must check door handles before you open doors. Do so with more sensitive skin, such as that on the back your hand or a small child if available. If the handle is hot, there is most likely fire on the other side, and you should not open it. When you do open a door, do so slowly and with your shoulder braced against it in case of pressure differences, and be prepared to close it again before the fire spots you. Fire cannot open doors.

Note 4: If you find yourself trapped, call your team of ex- special forces soldiers of fortune, a friend with superpowers, or the fire service. Do not hide under beds or behind curtains – the fire will look for you there. Douse any material you have handy in water and hold it over your face. Altering the pressure with which you do so will cause the sweet release of death will come for you or keep smoke inhalation to a minimum.

Note 5: Remember, do not use the elevator in the event of a fire. Wrap your shirt sleeves around your hands and shimmy down the elevator cable instead. Avoid falling elevator cars and do not climb as far as the basement. Alternatives include the stairs.

Die Hard Elevator Shaft

Note 6: Locked doors can be kicked open by driving the heel of your foot into the door as close to the lock as possible. If the door opens towards you, don’t be stupid. Close doors and windows as you go. Rather than allowing smoke to escape, they will fuel the fire. It will also slow the spread of the fire. Fire can’t go through doors, stupid; it’s not a ghost. Shoot a hole in any fire extinguishers you pass, thus creating your own sprinkler system.

Note 7: If you must go up rather than down, as the best Heroes do, try to pick up an incapacitated civilian along the way. Should the fire catch up to you, dropping the civilian will slow it down and give you the chance to escape. Alternatively, once you reach the roof, news helicopters will record your heroics. On the roof, leave the door open to help clear smoke from the building, and walk towards the wind, so as to give yourself the best chances of survival. If a strange bald man has been telling you you’re The One, now is the time to jump to another building.

Note 8: Once out of the burning building, do not, under any circumstances, let anything stop you from re-entering. Firefighters may get in your way and will only slow you down. They cannot possibly carry out all their heavy gear and the little girl crying for help from the top window. But they do have ladders, so maybe wait to see if you can procure one.

Note 9: The penultimate consideration is health care. During a fire, the average person will have breathed in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, soot, various aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, acid gases, toluene, benzene, styrene, metals and dioxins. As a Hero, you are not an average person, and should belligerently wave away any paramedics and light up a cigarette.

Note 10: Fire engines are fast and people get out of the way of their sirens. Should you still need to give chase to a villain, they are a good choice. Ensure no firefighters are still in or on the vehicle, and if possible cut the fire hose being used to fight the building fire, or it will trail behind you and get caught on something or cause the city millions of dollars in damage, and you may have to hand in your badge until you are the only one who can stop the next villain and have to come out of retirement. After all, you were the best damn whatever you were that someone or other has ever seen.

Con Air Fire Truck

Congratulations: The fire has been outsmarted and your spouse/partner/mentor/cat has been avenged!

Next time on Writer’s Guide…something else!

One response to “A Writer’s Guide to…Escaping a Fire!

  1. Pingback: How to be a Hero | Nexuseses

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