Friday, March 17, 2006

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is On Fire!

This dancing firebug courtesy of Brad Templeton's photos from Burning Man.

So not the roof exactly. The vacant apartment on the floor above mine. Why? Because a contracting tool forgot to turn off his sanding tool after knocking off for the night. By seven, the burned-out motor ignited a small fire which, since my own hovel shares a bathroom vent with the one above, filled the apartment with the haze of smoke.

The smell came first. Wiring then burning leaves, the sander motor igniting then the splinter-garden parquet veneer, I assume. I smelled it while on the phone with a friend from Chicago, whom I confidently assured it was one of those odd, fleeting annoyances, like the sirens I hear from other people's tragedies. I was wrong. Our building, our fire. Our floor's hallway was as usual, though I heard clomping on the stairs. I got the dogs and myself to skeedaddle down the 28-floors of stairwells, but when I opened my apt. door again, an 8-foot tall fireman told me and my neighbors whose heads had also poked out to stay where we were. This because it was a very small fire. Comforting that.

In a surreal scene provided to us high-density and high-altitude dwellers, I went out onto my balcony and watched the gradual reduction of smoke billowing from the apartment windows directly above my own. No water shooting out or anything more dramatic. Just gray clouds of smoke snuffed down to nothing.

A friend, stuck down in the lobby after coming home from work, told me that about a hundred residents were massed there and weren't being allowed back up. Firemen blocked the elevators. But within ten minutes of his call, I saw four firefighters waiting in my hallway for a ride down, and it seemed like things were wrapping up. They told me the about the sander motor overheating. Something like that had seemed a distinct possibility given the endless grinding and banging noise coming from that unit daily. I must briefly give my friend in Chicago credit for presciently declaring "Contractor Negligence" before hanging up to allow me to investigate the smell. This was before the facts were known. Before we knew how far the fire would go. Nowhere, thankfully.

My biggest bummer is that I've been living under the sanders and pounding for more than a week, and if I have any skills, they're at dealing with this kind of racket though I don't love it. From my time here (and during a lengthy condo rehab in Chicago), I've learned to work and drowse through the cacophany of Hephaestus' forge, but now, with the fire damage, set the clock right back to zero on the project upstairs. New York's everlasting construction and rental rehab is best for people with regular jobs who get home after things get quiet. I'd get one myself, but my friend reported one of his office's ventilation fans blew out this morning, too, leaving the whole place reeking like an arson at The Little Mermaid's. Incinerated, cubicular fishiness.

Happy St. Paddy's Day, ya'll. May we all survive it, and may I grab my share of corned beef before the streets of my neighborhood are hot and cold running drunks. Slainte!

1 comment:

April said... glad you guys are okay. How scary!