Wednesday, June 22, 2011

...Fire Sucks!!...

For our friends in the line of fire, praying for something to change.

I guess it’s true: there are no atheists in foxholes.

And while I consider myself more of an agnostic, you still might find it strange that I prayed to whatever was out there earlier this evening when the utility room adjacent to my apartment caught fire.

I didn’t even realize how close it was until I was out of the building. I had just enough time to grab my Emergency Exit Kit before the smell became so strong that I had to leave. My Houseguest was using the computer so it wasn’t in the bag, and since they didn’t bother to get up and move for the door until I ordered them to do so, it never made it into the bag. My poor Snowflake (that’s the computer’s name) was nearly a casualty.

 I had been in the kitchen preparing my lunch for tomorrow when I started smelling a bad oily smell.

I looked toward the window to a gray sky but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I sniffed in the general direction of the odor, then into the kitchen, then back to the back wall where the vents were. I opened my window and saw a woman in one of the grassy playfields to the left staring back up at me. Maybe more like towards me.

And then I saw a big puff of black smoke billow across my field of view.

I pressed my face to the screen hoping to see a nearby neighbor fanning at a smoking gas grill. When I didn’t see anything more than the frozen neighbor, I just knew something was wrong.

 I changed my shirt, threw on some shoes, and grabbed my purse and the kit. I was trying to pack up the computer when the smell overwhelmed me and I decided we needed to go. I tapped the doorknob for heat and when it was safe, we filed out of the back door, banging on other apartment doors as we went.

When we were safely outside we could see smoke and flames shooting out of the grated vent. Two women from the complex were approaching the building. They were on their way to the pool when they smelled the smoke. One of them happened to work in the office and came in with her key to unlock the door. From where I stood in the parking lot I kept my eyes trained on the smoke and held my breath that I wouldn’t see flames creeping towards the roof or coming from my window.

For a minute, I was only mad about Snowflake. There was not a single other thing in the house that I would have grabbed on my way out, and I almost couldn’t even picture what was in the apartment. But I would have missed it terribly if it had been destroyed.

While we were outside, the barrage of emergency response vehicles, (three big fire trucks, a small one, a paramedic truck, one of those cute SUV style trucks, and two police cars) caused quite a commotion and onlookers walked over from every direction. I half expected someone to throw marshmallows or steak, or break out with the veggie shish kabobs.

A couple people took pictures including a woman who introduced herself to me as a reporter and gave me a card. A few others filmed it and stayed around long enough to watch the firefighters rip the grate away from the building to get a better look at the fire source and resulting damage. I heard one of them mention something about a bees nest. Houseguest had noted all the bees flying toward the flame earlier and joked that they were running to check on their family. She also “joked” about going to get something to eat.

 Gee, thanks for your sensitivity. Don’t mind me; I’m just trying to calm myself down from having almost lost everything I own. Even if it was junk, it was mine, and I would rather discard it because I have chosen to do so, and not because it’s charred to bits and pieces.

 I flashed back to some years ago when I worked at an apartment complex and we lost almost an entire building due to fire. Of the 12 total units, only 2 of them suffered mild smoke and water damage, all other homes were devastated. I remember having to call residents at their emergency contact number and tell them what was happening so they wouldn’t come home surprised to see rubble where they’re home used to be.

 The recovery was a time consuming, depressing mess. The Red Cross assumed much of the work including vouchers, resourcing, and plain comfort, but the extent of the damage went far, far beyond the smoldering ruins that made the entire complex smell like a wood burning stove for the rest of the day and well into the night.

 I felt awful for those people that lost their homes and their belongings. The other thing I really remember about it all was seeing the different ways people handled it: varying combinations of humor, or crazy raging indignation, blame, understanding, and some with almost robotic-like resolve. I don’t know what I would have done. I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

 It turns out that someone had had the presence of mind to use the butt of a fire extinguisher to get the door open and contain the fire so the property damage was minor. And no one was hurt. Woo-hoo and thank goodness.

When we got back inside it was like the furniture had rearranged itself and all the “junk” had moved itself into view. Tons of stuff that I had that couldn’t remember when or why I had brought it into the house in the first place. That stuff is already in the dumpster and I’m super busy this weekend, but I’ll just have to take out a little at a time every day until all the other crud is cleaned out of here, too.

I opened the window back up and turned on a small fan to the window to help move out the smell and reflected on how lucky I had been.

 That could have had a completely different turn out for a lot of different reasons.

  •  It was daylight and quite warm and I don’t live far from the pool so there was a lot of foot traffic that noticed and responded.
  • I was (mostly) fully dressed having just taken a shower less than an hour before.
  • I was wide awake and alert. I used to wake up from dreams all the time swearing I could smell something burning. I don’t know if I would have been as quick to react coming out of my sleep.
  • I was (mostly) prepared. I would have been seriously worked up over losing my computer, but I did have my kit and my purse, so for the most part I had everything I really needed, including myself.

I am grateful for….

 67.  The statue lady in the yard who became my first confirming clue that something was wrong (if only by doing nothing at all.)
68.  The level-headed person who kept it together well enough to extinguish the fire.
69.  The forward-thinking people that invented and through the years improved on the fire extinguisher.
70.  The ladies going to the pool, who could have very easily said, “Wow, that’s strange” and then kept right on walking
71. Anyone that called the fire department. By the time I called, they told me several others had reported it already. I could hear the sirens before I even hung up the phone.
72. Whoever set up this little town to have me less than 5 minutes away from two different fire stations.
73. The friendly and helpful emergency response people that made sure we were all okay. (Those firefighter uniforms are cuter than I remember.)
74. (Dare I say it?) God for sparing our lives and our homes. If it wasn’t God, whatever it was, I’m eternally grateful.

No clue what she’s saying, but I love the sound of it anyway. This isn't the best quality video, but it will do for now....Joy Denalane “Siehst Du Mich”

“Flashback and smile to yourself” music...
Hi Five “Unconditional Love”

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