The Fire: A Page From My Spiral Notebooks

Stacks of old spiral notebooks tell the story of my career in law enforcement. Most of the pages contain brief notations—mileage, oil changes, weather, dates and times, arrests, names of witnesses, informants, and suspects, crime scene information, prisoners transported, and strangely enough, ideas for stories. You see, I’d always wanted to write.

Today, with the threat of a rapidly growing and fast-moving wildfire that’s already delivered smoke and ash to our property, I flipped through the pages of a couple of those notebooks in search of my handwritten documentation of an event that’s forever etched in my mind. I’ve always referred to it as The Fire.

Please join me as I share yet another private moment. This one, while I served as a sheriff’s deputy working the graveyard shift, alone.

Saturday June 9, 1984

11:45 – Relieve 4-12 shift. No serious incidents reported. Slow night.

12:00 – Begin patrol. Mileage 43888.

12:14 – Loud music complaint. Subjects complied.

12:47 – Assist state police with vehicle search and arrests on interstate. Meth.

1:18 – Bar fight. Weapons involved. Break it up. Arrest two males. Disorderly conduct and drunk in public. One charged with assault on officer. Process. Clean and dress minor knife cuts to my right forearm. Back on patrol.

1:59 – Vehicle stop. Expired plates. Stolen car. Murder suspect from Florida. Arrest and process.

3:20 – Assist jail officers with disturbance.

4:14 – Meet trooper for breakfast.

4:27 – Serious crash on county road. Leave before meal arrives, again.

4:33 – Arrive at scene. Vehicle on fire. Fully engulfed.

Passengers trapped. Trooper assists.

Screams from inside car.

Hair burning.

Smells awful, but all too familiar.

Faces contort.

Too hot to approach.

Searing flesh.


Man pushing against door.

Intense heat.


Fire extinguishers.

Glass exploding.

Tires flat.

Paint bubbling.

Bare metal.

Man climbs from window.

Burning. Collapses. Trooper pulls him to safety.


Woman stops screaming.


Little girl in back.

Five, maybe six-years-old.


Heat unbearable.

Run to car.

Shield face.

Hair on arms burns away.

Eyebrows singe.

Pull child through window.

Arms burn.

Intense pain.

Broken glass.

Tiny girl.

Hair gone.

Badly burned.


So fragile.


Hold her in my arms.

Clinging tightly.

Rag doll.

Mommy …



Tears. Mine?

“Mom …”


0800 – Off duty

0900 – Can’t sleep.

Little girl’s screams on my mind.

Still hear them today.

Tomorrow, too.

And the day after.


1 reply
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Here’s another post that didn’t make it past our enhanced security feature. Sorry, I had to implement it, but some people simply cannot play nice. Cathy, of course, is not one of those people. 🙂

    Thanks, Cathy!

    “Lee, thank you for sharing this. We need to remember that officers can also be victims when they experience awful things like this.”

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