In a dark, smoky maze of narrow corridors it is very hot. You can hear screams of burning people, children’s cry. To pass through it, you need to move windows, push forward sideways, crawl. “And this is a moment when many people start panicking, chocking or experiencing claustrophobia,” says Leszek who on a daily basis works in a car company and afterwards voluntarily serves as a local fireman.
Arek, a state employee, finds out when he must set off for a rescue operation of Bechcice Volunteer Fire Brigade (Lodz Province) from a text message. A special application informs him about fire with a specific, louder sound, so even without reading the content he immediately knows what’s going on. When he is at work, but there is nothing urgent to do, his boss lets him leave to carry out his voluntarily work.
“Once they called us to a reed fire on a pond. Along the way, we heard that the nearby monastery is burning and all patrols in the neighbourhood are needed. So we made a sharp turn and rushed to the monastery,” recalls Arek. “From afar you could see tongues of fire licking the church towers. At the site, the white helmets of the volunteers mingled with the red helmets of the state fire fighters. Some firemen had already climbed the roof, others were putting ladders up against walls. Fire was all around. Many people being evacuated from the church inside the building, among which there were mainly older women.”
“They gathered in a group looking at the burning monastery. Suddenly some women took out rosaries, kneeled and started to pray. So we were standing there with hoses and them with rosaries. As the fire started to spread faster and faster we were running around trying to extinguish it. Everybody tensed so you could hear a swearing or two and in the background women’s prayers and flames,” Arek continues to describes the situation”.
“The action lasted until two in the morning. Sure it was dangerous and exhausting. The moment we managed to stop the fire, we had to climb up again and dismantle the roof. It almost finished with a happy end,” he adds. “The building housed a Salesian Order catholic school with a piano room on the top floor. While putting out the fire, some water got inside so firemen carried the instruments down to save them. ‘I don’t know what caused more damage – the fire or your water,’commented the school priest at the end. What a gratitude!” shrugs Arek. “I didn’t even have the strength to argue with him.”