Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fire Drill

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.


katrice said...

I bet your subletting bad neighbor has something to do with this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Ah, Katrice,

I think so, too. She went out shortly before the alarm went off. I heard her shoes go clitoris clatteris right before she slammed her door.

Business as usual.

Unfortunately I can't prove it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It's a little unsettling that they did not figure out the source of the smoke.. Still, you got to enjoy seeing the flashing lights and the men in uniform. I don't know why but I have a mental image of you drooling over the beefcakes in next year's Firemen's Calender!!! LOL.

Anonymous said...

Nobody else seemed to know their apartments had kitchens.

This post makes two really good laughs in one early morning. How can I ever repay you? Really, consider comedy writing. What? They'll be getting those increased wages.

We all have firemen stories, don't we? Mine includes a fancy hotel, taking an Ambien seconds before getting into the shower, a fire alarm, clothes thrown on a dripping body, navigating steps to safety, Ambien kicking ass after two sentences of dialogue with fireman "Chuck" (my friend told me his name along with other sordid details of my hypnotically-induced behavior I did not want or need to know, Jesus H. Christ on a cracker), "Chuck's" arms as my legs gave out, not navigating steps of any kind, almost lapsing into respiratory arrest and, best!, absolutely no recall of dancing in the street, the astonished looks on the faces of bystanders or anything else.

Proud to say this was my most embarrassing lifetime moment to date. Only three years ago, too! Pretty snazzy, huh?

Firemen, police, soldiers during wartime and a host of others facing danger always get my respect. The non-asshole-I'm-not-on-a-powertrip kind, that is.

Oh, oh...just remembered another fireman tale from a patient a few weeks back. Sad, moving, deeply moving. Her husband and several of his fireman buddies died in a fire when each ran back into a burning building to get trapped children before the roof crashed in, killing everyone. When the debris was cleared and the bodies were found, each fireman had a child enveloped in his arms.


End ramble.

Emperor Ropi said...

well, a little action in our dull life.

Rachel said...

I'm bothered no one knows where the grease fire is from....

I think Katrice is right: bad neighbor has something to do with this. She was not on premises when fire started, so she could not have been interviewed, and someone that blowsy would forget to turn off a burner.

Did the firemen check out her apartment, or only the ones where they had permission to enter?

Anonymous said...

Glad you (and Flip and Truffles) are okay. And I am glad that the building is still standing.

Fireman are, without a doubt, what I want to be when I grow up.

furiousBall said...

glad everyone is safe. firemen are good folk. i plan on volunteering once i'm free to have a life after my d-word is done

Anonymous said...

I'd worry about my neighbors kitchen, I mean, you know they will only cook again. Hopefully, they have cleaned the grease up.

Franki said...

That's it, I'm donning something short and heading over to cheer my local fireman right now!

Glad to hear your apt. is still intact.

Craze said...

Wait, they never did find the source? It does take a special kind of bravery to be a fireman. Most of them are pretty damn cute too!

thailandchani said...

Your rotten neighbor is the first one who came to my mind.

NoRegrets said...

It does take a special type of person, but they also thrive on it too. I used to date a firefighter, and even almost became a volunteer one myself. It was funny how they'd drool when hearing the call about a good fire.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm a bit concerned that they couldn't find the source, but it's great to know they respond faster than the 911 operators.


Pass the Ambien, wouldya?

Your patient's story is terribly sad and beautiful. There are no words adequate to describe such heroes.


I've never thought life was dull.


I hoped they would try out their axes on her door but life is full of disappointments.

I have smelled grease outside her door many times, but assumed it was fast food that she'd brought home.


Me, too! IF I ever grow up.


Good for you! There is life after the D-word.


Well, that's the thing. She left right before this happened and missed the excitement, and I don't think she talks to anyone in the building. So yes, it will probably happen again.


There you go. Those good men need some cheering up. I was thinking of baking them cookies, but your idea is much better.


You noticed that, huh? Were you on our sidewalk too?

If they gave you a ride in the hook & ladder, I will have severe jealousy issues.


I'm almost sure of it.

No Regrets,

Then they must have been disappointed that ours didn't amount to anything. If so, they handled it well.

I felt kind of bad that I may have taken them away from a more serious situation, but it looked bad.

NoRegrets said...

The one thing they will ALWAYS say is that it is better to call. So, no need to feel bad.

Mariposa said...

At first look, I really thought it was just an ordinary fire drill, then reading down, it was something like a false alarm...after knowing you were all safe, then, the comedy sets making me LOL!

But honestly, I would still love to know who caused it, or how can you make sure it does not happen again?

Emperor Ropi said...

I meant you have a type of life and sometimes you need something new.

*~*Cece*~* said...

I'm glad you guys are safe. Didja ever find out where it was coming from?

Open Grove Claudia said...

They are so cute too. Sigh. Nothing's better than watching them wash the truck. So nice.

I'm glad everyone is safe and sound. I bet it must smell nasty today. Sorry. I'm with Squirrelly - it's unsettling that you don't know where the fire came from.

Oh I tagged you.

meno said...

"clitoris clatteris"

God, you have the best way with words, that is priceless.

Firemen, MMmmmmmm.

seventh sister said...

OK, I have to take you to task for taking so long to get out of the building and for both of you going back inside. You never know when a fire is going to flash and you could have both been....well, I don't guess I really have to say that part do I?

I would be concerned that if your wild neighbor did have anything to do with it, and nobody knows if that is the case or not, it may not have been grease and if you smell that smell again, just get the f*%# out of there and do it quickly. You don't know what someone is cooking up in there and there are stinky things that explode without warning, especially if whoever is cooking them up is too messed up to figure out that something is going wrong until it is too late.

There, I'm through with my mother hen routine for

RED MOJO said...

Has anyone ever heard the term fire-fighter? There are women who do that job as well. I'm just sayin.
Anyhoo, I'm glad it was a false alarm, and your life is still in tact.
How did you hear shoes go?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

No Regrets,

I'll call next time, too. And I fear there will be a next time since nothing was resolved.


I'm glad it was a false alarm, too, but there was so much smoke, and the alarm was so loud, that it seemed like a dangerous situation.


You're right. A little excitement is sometimes welcome as long as no one gets hurt.


Nope. Maybe next time it will be more obvious.


They couldn't have been nicer. I just hope we didn't keep them from a blazing fire with people to rescue.


If the stilettos fit, put them on.


Ok, Mom, we'll do better next time.

In my own defense, once Flip went back inside, I had to because I thought he was looking for the cat.

And I do worry that next-door Skankblossom might be cooking meth or something.


I noticed that there were no women among those who responded, but today we saw one driving a fire truck.

You are so right and I am embarrassed that I goofed so egregiously. I went back and changed the word "firemen" in the last graph to "firefighter."

Thanks for pointing that out.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love that!
Firemen are great, I am in business with a few of them, and they really are very unique and admirable individuals.

I think Katrice is on to something here, it's got to be the hoochie neighbor.

Scarlett & V.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Ohh... and, Open Grove Claudia...

*Firemen washing the truck*... that thought never occurred to me, but now that it's at the forefront of my mind, it will likely stay there for the afternoon, carefully balanced by the sly grin on my face...

Thank you VERY much!


heartinsanfrancisco said...


Katrice is absolutely right. I just got home and the same rank greasy smell is permeating the hall outside Hoochie's door again.

A dozen firemen came the other night, but none of the cute guys I see washing the trucks when I pass by. Do you think they have designated truck washers who don't go to fires?

Ang said...

So glad to hear and know that you're okay! (The cats, too.) And you are absolutely correct, as always. Anyone who would risk his or her life for another person is the most deserving of respect.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Absolutely. Few of us have that kind of courage and caring. They are the best!