Fire, Man’s Eldest Ally, Man’s Worst Enemy

So, I got home from getting groceries and was putting them away when the building alarm went of for the hundredth time. My reaction – *sigh*, probably yet another false alarm or some dickhead pulling the alarm again, but you know, maybe I should go out and, you know, make sure, and make sure the caretaker is there and knows how to turn of the alarm and is on top of that…

So I get out to the hallway and there’s smoke billowing out from the edges of the door on apartment 21 down the hall.

I booked it back to my apartment to get my phone and call 911. My phone even gets this big “emergency call!” message on the screen when you’re talking to 911, it’s pretty cool. The transferred me to the fire dept, got the address, asked me if I was in danger myself, and said to evacuate the building – seeing as other people in the building are as jaded by that alarm as I am.

By the time I got off the phone with them, the hallway was full of smoke. I knocked on a bunch of doors and windows as I went up and down the fire escape, and helped Nathan chase our Siamese out from under the bed. Stuffed both cats in the cat carrier (cozy – they were not impressed) and took them out down the fire escape.

There were fire trucks there in about two minutes, I think – we’re very close to a fire station. Six trucks total, once they’d all arrived, and paramedics to check people. Everyone was fine though. Some people got their cats out, some were away and weren’t allowed back in to rescue them, but the fire fighters assured them that the cats would likely be fine, since the smoke was mostly in the one apartment. (Though the human tenants of apt 21 were away at work at the time, I did find out later that they had a cat who was asphyxiated – from the amount of smoke I saw, that one was probably gone by the time the alarm went off.)

The city arranged for a not-in-service bus for us to hide out in around the corner while it rained outside. Someone brought coffee, and we went and got subway – Laurie from upstairs was kind enough to shout me for a sub since I hadn’t eaten yet today, and was starving. We hung out in there for about four hours, chatting, while the cats complained, and someone came by every half hour or so to say it would be at least another hour before they knew when we’d be allowed back in to get our stuff, or know if we’d be allowed to stay in our apartment tonight.

Finally, they let us back in. The hallway smells like burned plastic, and there’s smoke damage on the walls, but our apartment is not damaged, and smells mostly okay. The Fire Marshall has declared the building habitable, aside from apartment 21 (not sure about the apartments below it that suffered water damage) and we’re allowed to stay the night.

So, we’re fine, the cats are fine, we still have a place to live. It was an electrical fire, which makes me wonder about the buzzing sound coming from our living room light switch. It was an exciting day, and I’m wondering if the sight of smoke filling the hallway is going to haunt my dreams for a while or if I’ll just be fine. Probably be fine. Last time I had a reaction like this was witnessing a car accident, and I was okay after that – I cope pretty good with emergency type stress, it’s long term stress I don’t do well with. I’m still a bit on edge, though even the sight of smoke filling the hallway of my apartment building didn’t trigger the level of adrenaline rush that I get due to social anxiety. Kind of funny – I cope with a building fire better than I do social conflict.