Losing your life in an hour

Today I witnessed and relived what it must be to lose your life. By life of course I am referring to this definition:

“the course of existence or sum of experiences and actions that constitute a person’s existence”

In this case it was taken by a house fire.

The following is my account, hopefully no one was injured.

7:15pm:  A large thunderstorm rolling through lashes the city with violent lighting.

7:29pm:  Sitting at the computer I smell something burning. I get up, and while closing the window, I notice a column of smoke less than a block away.

7:34pm:  The smoke drifts eastward from two houses, I run across the street to the park to find both roofs alight.  A boy on his bicycle is on the cell phone with a friend.  His voice is in a panic.  I overhear him say his friend is in one of the houses to the person he is talking to.  He dashes off in the direction of the house.

7:37pm:  Fire, EMS and police are on scene.  I can hear windows being smashed as firemen ensure the houses are clear.  Firemen already have water and foam on the neighboring houses for containment.

7:40pm:  I can see heavy heat damage on the sides of both houses, I realize a third house is taking fire damage.  Siding peels, smoke bellows from the roof of the center house.  The fire is in the trusses and the top floor has been consumed.

7:40pm:  I realize more than 300 people have shown up to witness this.  Nothing brings a community together like a good scene.  I am taking picture, and I am part of the crowd.  But this is a horrific sight.  Three families may be witnessing the burning of all of their worldly possessions.  Their memories may be among the casualties.

7:43pm:  The flames run along the ceiling of the main floor.  It creates a glow in the window at the back.

7:47pm:  The roofs of the two west-most houses ignite.  Three metre high flames blow smoke skyward.

7:49pm:  The flames get bigger and burn higher, feeding off the dry trusses in the roof.

7:51pm:  The flames on the main floor burst out the window, engulfing the siding of the house just above the deck.

7:54pm:  The fire now appears out of control.  Flames engulf half of the backside of the two-storey house.  The siding is in fire, and it burns upward towards the blazing roof.  The siding ont he west-most house falls to the ground in flames.  Five simultaneous streams of water from firefighters appear to do little to the blaze.

8:00pm:  Still no stopping it.  The best the firemen can hope for is containment.

8:03pm: I notice some stupid people have walked right to the back fence of the house to take a closer look.  Fucking idiots.  Don’t they realize there are still gas lines running through the basement that may be leaking right about now?  Crash!  The roof collapses onto the first floor.

8:05pm: Many more police cars and firetrucks are one scene.  Police have pulled over on the nearby curb, sine people are parking illegally on the main street to watch the blaze. “You can’t park there sir, please move your car now!” a policeman yells to a rubberneck.

8:08pm:  There are lots more people now.  Some casually sitting back on the grass watching the blaze raging onward.  I hear a little girl crying nearby.  “They don’t have anything left…” she moans to her mother through her tears.  There are less flames now.

8:09pm:  Firefighters on a crane blast the flames with a massive jet of water.  This seems to work much better, the flames curl and roll as if to avoid the water.  The flames go down in great balls of smoke, and quickly most of the large flames are doused in both houses.  Smoke everywhere.  You can’t see the firemen in the crane as the smoke swallows them.

8:15pm: Most of the flames have been put out. Firemen extinguish smoldering piles of ash and rubble. That’s all that’s left.  Shows over.  People start wandering back from whence they came.  Firemen and police will remain on scene for few more hours cleaning things up and securing the house.  Three houses burned.  i estimate roughly 1.5 million dollars in combined damage for these houses, in an hour.

My heart goes out to these families. Let’s help them rebuild.


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