Monday, November 14, 2005


So tonight, the TH arrived back from work with the usual 'hello honey I'm home', and I replied with the usual 'hello honey you're home'. Save the sickbags, because this is so not tonight's punch line.

So after a g&t we'd decided to go to the movie 'Prime' and then on to see Ari Hoenig at Smalls, and dutifully left the apartment. Now I have a particularly good sense of smell and have on many occasions summoned RFH firemen for suspicious odours, but on leaving our apartment it was obvious even to the TH (with his lack of olfactory awareness) that there was a FIRE of large proportions in our vicinity - the obvious clue being enormous amounts of smoke pouring through the air vent on our landing.

Right. Shark goes into 19 yrs of RFH fire training mode and starts ringing the bells on all the other apartments. Only Mr & Mrs N are in and Mrs N immediately goes into shrieking screaming panic mode.
The TH immediately goes into spiderman mode and runs into the stairwell to assess the situation, leaving me with smoke, a couple of panicking oap's and a neurotic dog/pig. There was much cross examination on this one later let me tell you, but the TH maintains that he was planning our escape route. Anyway, I immediately switched into fire marshall leadership mode (and I think I even shouted), but somehow I managed to get said three into our apartment (which is much bigger and airier than theirs), stash a load of damp cloths incase we had to escape and needed to breathe (which tai chi has taught me is essential to good health) and load towels against the door cracks. Smoke was nevertheless somehow seeping in, but we were basically okay with loads of open windows.

The TH arrives back coughing and spluttering with streaming eyes and had only managed to get down three floors before turning back. At this point all kinds of cinematic and real life alarm bells started ringing in my head and I got a little scared.

Outside it was all happening. 5 fire engines, 4 police cars, 4 ambulances. And the firemen were running - when do you ever see that? For at least half an hour we were in the apartment with major activity happening outside - road closures, ambulances taking at least 2 people away on stretchers (one of whom is critical it later transpired), and all the time Mrs N was having a total freak out that the dog/pig was suffering from smoke inhalation (poor little thing - am actually getting quite fond of the dog/pig...).

Amazingly, and really coming from London this is amazing - it occurred to me as all this was happening that not one fire alarm was going off (largely because there aren't any in the corridors) and even worse - there are no fire extinguishers anywhere here. Not in the corridors, not in the apartments, not anywhere. You actually never see them in NY. (Mental note for tomorrow's shopping list).
Eventually (as fire engines began to pack up) it seemed that the fire was out so we ventured into the corridor - still very smoky. Nobody had communicated anything to us throughout this entire episode, and if we hadn't an apartment on the street side we wouldn't have had any way of knowing what was happening.

It is a couple of hours later now and there are fire alarms going off all over the place as the residue smoke filters into people's apartments, even this long after the event.
We were 9 floors above the fire and I really wouldn't have wanted to be any closer. We were still choking in the corridor from smoke inhalation.

Believe me, it really makes you think when you're faced with a wall of smoke and no escape route. We have fire alarms, as everyone should, but please go out and buy yourself a fire extinguisher and fire blanket tomorrow, as I intend to do. Who knows, if the man lying in hospital in critical condition tonight had had some way of putting out the fire in the first place then maybe he'd be in a better place now.
We hope he's okay...


Blogger codenameLizzy said...


2:55 PM, November 15, 2005  
Anonymous australiapost said...

Well that looked like a fucking worry!! In the country where litigation is everyones middle name I am shocked that you have no smoke alarms etc in the building. Glad you are ok.


10:43 AM, November 16, 2005  

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