House Fire – Part 2

Woken up last night at 3:00am by the neighbour’s smoke alarm going off again. My neighbours weren’t home -too much smoke damage after Saturday’s fire, and their place is not safe to live in right now for all the toxic particles in the air. The hugeness of Saturday’s event has become even more apparent to me in the intervening days. I have been watching the clean up crew bring out stacks of charred timber as well as sooty furniture wrapped in giant plastic bags. They have ripped out the ceiling on the second floor and entirely gutted the third floor.

So last night at 3am, the alarm went off again. My guess is residual particles floating in the air from the excavation were causing the alarm to malfunction. But since the neighbours weren’t home there was no way to make it stop ringing, plus I wanted to make absolutely sure it wasn’t another electrical fire sneaking up on the back of the last one. So I called 911. Once again three big firetrucks arrived, their lights silently flashing. I let them into my apartment to try to gain entry via our adjoined third floor balconies, but without success. It was impressive (and entertaining), though, to watch them scale the 7 foot tall fence in full gear including helmets and oxygen tanks.

Once my hosting job was done, I sat on the steps outside my apartment for 45 minutes while the firefighters tried other ways to get in without having to bust down any doors or windows. Eventually they were able to contact the neighbour, who is staying at a friend’s house fifteen minutes away while the repairs are being done. A few minutes later she came whizzing up in a cab to let them in, apologetic and flustered. Once the FFs determined there was no new fire, they bundled up in their trucks and slid away quietly into the night.

It took another 20 minutes for the neighbour to talk through the process of disconnecting the alarm with the alarm company. Unlike those battery operated ones, this smoke detector was wired into the house, and from the one-sided conversation it sounded like she was being instructed on how to decommission a bomb. Finally she was able to disconnect it, and I went back to bed. What I wonder is: why do these things seem to happen most often in the middle of the night? It also makes me wonder about the nature of locked doors, and why is it I don’t even know my neighbour’s phone number.


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