So there was a fire in my building a few weeks ago. I sorta glossed over it because I was still feeling pretty bad from my food poisoning episode and it was still a somewhat surreal incident. A lot of you picked up on the irony since I had only just moved into this concrete fortress after living in a fire trap for over 6 years.
That old house would have gone up in flames in seconds and I literally had nightmares that I would come home to smoking rubble and Yoshi would have perished. I dreamed about trying to run into the burning house to save her but that people held me back. I had an escape plan figured out. Right under the bed was a small knapsack big enough to stuff Yoshi in so I could manage the rickety fire escape with both hands free. I had decided if I had to save my neighbour’s two cats I would stuff them in pillow cases and hope her dog would be ok tossed off the roof onto the soft grass. We’d had a couple of near misses with stupid tenants as well as stupid friends of tenants doing stupid things like setting fireworks off on the porch or throwing cigarette butts from windows onto the roof. Our electrical wiring was really dodgy and our clothes dryer even caught on fire once. Fortunately somebody was right there when it happened and put it out.
Not only did I worry but my parents worried too. They didn’t say much about it but I knew they worried.
Of course moving to the new pad was a great relief because it was concrete and there were sprinklers in every suite and the tenants were mature adults and not stoned and drunk party savages. I put the knapsack away and forgot all about fire.
So picture this.
That Saturday morning around 9 am I was laying in bed totally fucked over by this food poisoning thing. I mean like laying there hardly having the strength to get out of bed. Seriously weak and dehydrated having not eaten for 4 days or being able to keep anything down. Far off in the distance I heard somebody’s smoke detector. A persistent “Eeeeeeeeeeee,” noise in the background. I didn’t think much of it as it being summer everybody has their balcony doors and windows open so you occasionally hear when somebody sets theirs off with burnt toast or something. Then I heard my upstairs neighbour running back and forth which was very unusual in a concrete building. Normally you don’t hear your neighbours at all. “Running to get the toast out of the toaster,” I thought but I did start to feel a bit uneasy. Just a little.
Then I heard somebody on the street exclaim, “LOOK! A fire! A real fire!” and at that very moment the fire alarm went off.
I have to admit I was feeling so crappy I considered just laying there and letting a sexy fireman carry me out.
But I didn’t. I got my poisoned ass up and, shaking like a leaf with weakness, grabbed Yoshi and stuffed her in her basket. I got my keys and my purse and my cell phone and left my apartment wondering if it would be in the same state when I returned because by this time I had clued in that the fire was in the apartment above mine and who knew what damage I would come home to.
Out in the hallway was a helpful guy yelling “FIRE!” and I walked past him to the fire stairs and that is when I heard a woman screaming. I started walking down the stairs, wearing the same pjs I had been wearing for 4 days and behind me were two guys supporting a woman who was absolutely hysterical. They were telling her that everything was ok and that the firemen would take care of everything. Yep! It was the fire starter herself. The cause of this mass exodus.
At this point adrenaline took over for me as I could smell smoke and I just wanted to get down those stairs so I could find a place to sit down as I thought I might pass out with weakness. One floor down my way was blocked by an old lady with a black dog. The dog was freaking and caught half way through the fire door. The lady was freaking too saying the dog didn’t know how to go down stairs. I asked her if she could carry the dog and she tearfully said no. I knew I sure as hell couldn’t do it so I not so gently (but still lovingly and with great respect) planted my foot on that dog’s ass and forced it down the stairs. Fortunately it was a fast learner and got the hang of negotiating steps almost immediately.
Yet probably another inappropriate action towards a defenseless animal on my part but I just couldn’t let that lady and her dog block the stairs.
We all made it down to the lobby and the firemen were already there. I sat down outside and just watched for a little bit. Lots of people, lots of pets, lots of housecoats and pyjamas. I was not the only one looking like a freak. Then the news cameras came. I averted my face. The Pyro Lady was hysterical and was carted off in an ambulance. I saw two really nice guys carrying an old lady on oxygen out of the building. There are a lot of old sick people in this place. I felt bad for them and that I was too sick to help. All I saw was a hell of a lot of smoke. The fire dudes were up on their cherry picker contraption aiming water at the balcony. It turns out that is where the fire was. Caused by a cigarette. Not cool.
I called my parents and my dad drove over to get Yoshi and me. I knew I couldn’t wait around in the hot sun feeling like I did. We laid on their bed for a couple hours resting while everything went on at the apartment building.
My dad went to check out my apartment and reported back to me that it was completely untouched. No smoke smell even. So I packed up Yoshi and we got driven home. I went right back to bed and it was sorta like it never happened.
We have had a couple false alarms where I have had to pack up the cat and go down those stairs again. I guess new buildings all have problems working out the bugs in their fire systems. We have been assured that every apartment is an individual envelope and that fire could not spread. The sprinklers would put out a fire immediately as well.
But I bought Yoshi a new very secure carrier and it is placed in an easily accessible location. I am sure now she won’t get frightened and break out of her basket like she almost did on one of the false alarms. My keys and purse are always right by the front door in case I need to make a speedy exit. Every night I place clothes on the floor next to my bed in case the alarm goes off. I am more nervous than in the old house. So is Yoshi. She hides under the bed now when she hears the alarm sound.
It is a shame that it happened. Yet it has brought the tenants closer together. We have had safety meetings and know who on our floor needs assistance. My neighbours are really good people. If it happens again we will be there for each other. That part is pretty cool.