Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The fire alarm in our building went off tonight. It was deafening. When I poked my head out the door, I smelled smoke and grease, like a diner that uses the same oil for three years. Flip went into the hallway to see what was going on as people gathered, but nobody knew where it was coning from.
The smoke got thicker.
I called 911. They put me on hold for at least two minutes while their recording cautioned me that if this was not an emergency, to hang up and call the police. They told me this in English, Spanish and Chinese.
Then they played another recording which informed me that calls would be answered in the order received. They repeated this, too, in English, Spanish and Chinese.
Finally, a woman came on the line. It was difficult to hear her because of the loud alarm, but after I told her what I knew and gave directions, she told me to go outside.
Flip was already out in the hall talking with other tenants, so I climbed up in our closet for Truffle's carrying case, stuffed her into it, threw on sandals and a down jacket, grabbed Flip's down jacket, locked the door and went downstairs.
I thought of our treasured possessions that I was leaving behind and realized that I was okay with it as long as Flip, Truffle and I got out. I hit the street.
Flip asked me for my keys because he was barefoot on the cold sidewalk. He went back inside. My upstairs neighbors who adopted Joey, the backyard cat, invited me to stow Truffle in their car, which was parked in front of the building. I set her on the front seat because Joey was in back. Truffle is not kindly disposed toward other cats.
Flip was taking a long time to get his shoes, so I ran back inside in case he didn't realize that I had already removed Truffle.
Three fire trucks raced down our street as we all waved at them from in front of the building. The place was crawling with firemen from three different precincts, all bearing hatchets. They agreed it was a grease fire but couldn't find the apartment it was coming from.
They questioned us about whether we were cooking. I was the only one who admitted to doing so as I was making pasta, but I had turned off the sauce 1/2 hour before and was only boiling water and making a salad when the alarm went off.
Nobody else seemed to know their apartments had kitchens.
"Somebody's lying," said one of the firemen.
They went up and down the stairs with their hatchets checking every door. The smoke and burning grease smell were very intense all over the building, but they finally determined that there was no danger and left. I would have liked to invite them in for pasta.
These men were great! They came quickly and were very thorough. They were intelligent and pleasant.
It takes a special kind of courage and conviction to become a firefighter and risk danger every day. They couldn't possibly be paid enough for what they do. And their trucks are very cool, too. I would have liked a ride, but still...
I feel so safe now.