Sunday, June 17, 2007

Close Call

The building fire alarm went off before sunrise this morning, clanging bells. I was awake, in bed reading Nick Tosches' Dino, an appropriate hour for it, & about to take 1/2 an Ambien to hurry sleep along. We've had false alarms. I got up, stuck my head out in the hall, smelled nothing, but shut the PC down & put on my pants as a precaution. That alarm is supposedly connected to the fire dept, so I expected a three engine response with sirens screaming. I heard someone banging on doors. Looked out into hall again, this time smelled a familiar odor I couldn't quite place but knew was something overheating. So I threw on a shirt, made sure I had my wallet, locked up & went downstairs. almost immediately regretting I hadn't tossed my important documents files in a backpack. A few people standing in foyer, no sirens. The smell was definitely coming from 1A, but it wasn't really strong or visible smoke. That guy was blaring the Rolling Stones & obviously drinking with a pal when I'd come home before midnight. We pounded on his door. Nothing. A few more tenants wandered downstairs, but a few were not leaving their apartments. Dumb. In February, several apartments in a nicer building up the street burned out because of a toaster oven, the wall outside was charred, some windows boarded up; fortunately, the building remained habitable. Still no sirens. & the woman I thought was the resident building super didn't have apt keys. I suggested we not wait for fire dept & break down the door before whatever it was turned into an actual fire. Received no support. I went outside. 1A windows were all open, but too high up for easy access. Someone called 911 & the building owner, who showed up very agitated at the same time the fire engines did, four of them. It had to be 15 minutes from the alarm going off to the trucks pulling up, a very poor response. Fire Dept. headquarters is 4 blocks away.

The guy in 1A was in a drunken sleep. On his stove, a pot had boiled dry with the gas flame on high! Ah, that was it. Probably happened to all of us while we were awake, & scary enough then. Close call, I'd say. Firemen carried in a heavy duty fan, blew out the fumes, & as the eastern sky brightened, we were allowed to return. Some people had never left their apartments the whole time, despite several concerned tenants trying to rouse them. As for the guy in 1A, whose cat wandered the hallways crying in miserable abandonment all night two nights ago because he couldn't be bothered with chasing it down, "He's outta here," promised the landlord.

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