So this crazy thing happened on Thursday afternoon: our apartment building caught fire.

(I don’t even know how to continue from that. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.)

Our landlord had come over because we had a couple questions and he was helping us fix a few things in the apartment. We were having a really good time getting to know each other. He had brought his dog Gumbo, who was adorable and a bit rambunctious, and we had just said goodbye. I was just settling back into working when I heard a knock on my door. It was our landlord again, and he said, “Can you hold my dog? The building’s on fire.”

I grabbed Gumbo’s leash as he raced upstairs, then I got my purse and headed outside. Sure enough, something on the roof was on fire! We live in a brick building but there are these two wooden structures on top, and one of those was burning.

Everything is a blur now; it all happened so fast. I heard fire engines coming, and a crowd gathered. Soon enough, the street was blocked off, and there were six or seven fire trucks and at least 30 firefighters. One of them hooked a truck up to the hydrant in front of our building; another was taping off an area and dispersing crowds. I stood with a few other residents as we watched the structure burn. The hook and ladder went up and firefighters climbed up on the roof. The black smoke started turning white, but it took a long time for the fire to go out completely. A big portion of the structure was lost completely, but the fire was stopped before it reached the roof or anything else.


I have so many thoughts surrounding all of this. They too seem to be jumbled. I’m just going to list them here – they probably won’t be in much of an order.

First, I have an endless list of words floating in my head when I think about the men and women who spend their lives fighting fires – the first of which is grateful. They saved our home. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened. Other words that come to mind are brave, selfless, insane. I don’t know how they run into flames when the rest of us are running away from them. I am so glad that we live so close to a fire station and am just incredibly impressed by their caring and courageous acts. I look at them with such respect, and I have a new understanding and appreciation whenever I see a fire truck or ambulance racing down the street.


Another thought: I’ve done fire drills so many times and in so many different capacities throughout my life. But when there’s actually a fire, it’s a completely different sensation and feeling. I’m impressed with myself that I had the sensibility to grab my purse; I did not, however, manage to grab my keys before leaving. And my phone wasn’t ready for a disaster: it only had 9% battery life when I left our apartment. I should be more prepared in the future.

Also, there’s something so vulnerable about seeing your home on fire. We feel so lucky that it was on the roof, that the building wasn’t severely damaged, that we live on the first floor and the fire (or even the residual water or smoke damage) didn’t make it down to us. But there was definitely a moment, as I was standing on the corner watching our building burn, when I realized we didn’t have anywhere else to go should the fire reach our apartment. All of our physical possessions would be gone, and we wouldn’t have anywhere to live. That thought hits you pretty hard in the face of a disaster.

We got so lucky with all of this. When we were allowed back into the building a short time later, our apartment looked like nothing had happened. The lights that I’d left on were still lit; the TV was even still on. It smelled vaguely of smoke, but nothing serious had happened. The only sign that there was a fire was that our patio/balcony/little outside area was now covered in ash and little pieces of charred wood. We even had friends over that night for dinner, just like we were planning to. Now, a couple days later, there appears to be no water damage to our unit. The one inconvenience is that the water heater is out; I’ve finagled a method to bathe that involves boiling water on the stove, but it takes a long time and is a little labor-intensive. (Crazy how easy it is to take warm water for granted, eh?) Hopefully it will be up and running soon.

I don’t know how to end this post either (I guess this is a piece where I really haven’t known much). Mostly I just hope I never experience something like this again, but that I’m grateful that it ended pretty well considering what could have happened.