morning fire: part 1

I got a little run in this morning. I was about to cross 7th Street at the Gallery Place Metro, when I noticed fire trucks pouring into the block and gray smoke billowing up above the white row houses. As I continued down H, I could not tell the origins of the smoke, but I knew that it was in our block. Was it our building? The alley? A car? I picked up my pace and ran to 6th, constantly repeating “Oh no.”

The interesting thing about a fire scene is that you can pretty much just walk right through it. The trucks arrive. Someone is directing the traffic away from our block, but no one stopped me as I weaved my way through the trucks and went into our building.

By the time, I got to our unit, it was full of smoke. I left the window open, which coincidentally faced the burning unit. A guy had just made it down off of the roof thanks to one of the many firefighters in the alley. A couple of ladders were resting against the wall. The fire was out. But there was a lot of damage.

As the other units packed up and went home, I opened the window to try to hear what happened. I didn’t really learn much. Apparently, it was pretty easy. There was a lot of great camaraderie exhibited. No one was hurt and, as I mentioned earlier, another was rescued. That has to be considered a great success.

A couple of people from the fire department came around taking pictures. One showing the guys working together. Another seemed like it was more for the case file. Then some local folks were peeking into the back alley. Dr. Wu (above) got a few close-up shots. And I am pretty certain that Kyle took a pictures from the 5th floor.

I decided to go downstairs to take some pictures from the ground. I spoke to Dr. Wu and his wife. She told us that some of the people who were living in the building came to her and asked her to call 911. She mentioned a loud noise and the ladder, but a lot of this was derived from hand gestures and broken English. I really wanted to ask to take their picture, but I decided not to do so. It would have been an awesome shot with the fire truck, the spring tree and Wah Luck House in the background.

The rest of the morning, firemen took fire pokers and busted out the windows and pitched burnt wood from inside of the basement into the back of the alley. I feel terrible for the people who live there. The basement window is pitch black and several others are boarded up. The third floor seems to be the only floor with windows in tact. I am thankful that we had several days of rain, which had to prevent the fire from spreading to either of the really old row houses flanking it. Plus they cleaned out their back area a few months ago. If it had still been full of wood and trash like it was at one time, well… who knows.

The alley is probably the least glamorous part of living in Chinatown. On the upside, it is what makes it feel the most urban (other than that we only move our car every three or four weeks). I was showing the apartment next door today. Usually I would avoid the topic of the alley, but today I walked straight over and said, “We had a fire today, so it may smell a little smoky.” I was mentally kicking myself. But fortunately it didn’t dissuade her. I even let her have a little time in the apartment alone to think it over. After about five minutes, I thought maybe she left without telling me. But I checked back in and she was still there! She’s in! Or at least she promises to bring a check in the morning. It was so exciting that we hugged! A new neighbor. The alley promises to provide a lot of entertainment with a great view.

My favorite alley story involves my mother. On their first trip to DC, we were watching TV in our first apartment. My mom was sitting on the chair next to the window. One of Rocky’s friends was slightly intoxicated and decided to try to get his attention by throwing Twinkies at his window. He was off by one window. My mom, who was not keen to the alley, shot across the room to the safety of the couch. I missed this, but Henry loves to retell this story all the time. It took quite a few rain storms for a speck of Twinkie filling to finally disintegrate off of the screen. It was baked on from the summer sun for several months. Ahh… good times.

For more pictures of the action

My photos
Kyle’s Great Photos – including actual flames and rescue

If I had been back from my walk a little earlier, I probably would have had a full blown panic attack with the flames and dramatic rooftop rescue. Good thing Kyle captured it and not me. His pictures are the perfect intro to “morning fire: part 2,” the first in a series of pieces written for Sarah, who is home resting awaiting the birth of her first child.

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