My first indication that something was going on was hearing the sound of emergency vehicles from the street outside my window. Not an entirely unusual thing, but normally they’ll pass on by — hearing the blast of sirens combined with the compression of air brakes got my attention. Going to my window, I looked down the four stories to the street and saw fire trucks all over the place — one heading down the street to the west of our building (the Park Seneca apartment), another diagonally across the intersection of 8th and Seneca, a Fire Department blazer parked on the lawn of Town Hall, and I could see reflections from another set of emergency lights in the window of the building across the street.
As I looked up across the street at the people looking out their windows, I realized that one window had three women in it, waving to get my attention and pointing towards the far end of my building. Leaning out to look that direction, I saw smoke pouring around the corner of the building — not a good sign. Waving my thanks, I tossed on a pair of pants and went out into the hallway — but nothing seemed to be terribly amiss. No smoke, and none of the doors seemed warm as I pressed my hand against them working my way down the hall.
Starting to wonder if it was the Jensonia Hotel next door, I tried to slide the window at the end of the hallway up, only to have it fall off in my hands. A little startling, and I almost lost my balance, but once I set it down and looked out the window, I saw the source of the smoke. An old chimney on the Jensonia was belching out wave after wave of thick, black smoke. Obviously something had caught fire next door — not a happy thought, but happier than if it had been my building. I wedged the window back into place, came back into my apartment and sat back down.
Then the fire alarm in our building went off.
My lord those things are loud.
Quickly I pulled on socks, shoes, and a sweater, tossed my coat on, and headed back out into the hall, just in time to be passed by three of the firemen. “Where’s the fire?” they asked.
“Here — there’s smoke pouring out of the chimney next door.” I and another tenant who’d come out of his apartment showed the firemen to the window, pulling it back out of the casement again so they could see the source of the smoke. They radioed down to the rest of their crew, some of whom were already investigating the building next door, and I headed downstairs to the street.
Heading down the stairs, I had to laugh a bit. Seeing the ladder from a fire truck extended to the roof of your building outside your hallway window just isn’t an everyday sight (thank goodness)!
Out on the street, I joined a small crowd of other tenants who’d also evacuated. Most of them didn’t know what was going on, so I filled them in on what little I knew while we waited. After a few minutes, the firemen were sufficiently convinced that our building was safe after all to give us all permission to head back in. Unfortunately, the fire alarm was still merrily wailing away — the switch to turn it off is behind a locked door, and our on-site property manager has a second job and wasn’t at the building, and nobody had her emergency contact number on them. We all stood around watching the firemen assigned to our building pack up and maneuver their equipment out of the street (ever seen a fire truck parallel park before?) while they decided what to do next.
Eventually, the simplest solution seemed the best, and a few of the firemen went down to the basement to force open the door to the sprinkler system. A few moments later, the alarm stopped, and we all started filtering back in.
Before going back in, another tenant and I asked the firemen just what had gone on. It turns out that there was a small (but very smoky) boiler fire next door that sent smoke right up the old chimney. Because of the rain and slight breeze, though, it sent the smoke nearly sideways over our building, so that as they were driving up the street towards us it looked like there was a huge blaze coming up right from our roof. They figure it was probably when they hooked their hose to our building’s standpipe and started pumping water into it that our alarm got triggered.
So. That was my morning. How was yours?