Friday, October 28, 2011

I came home, and MY HOUSE WAS ON FIRE

Just so you know, when I say "fire," I mean it literally. This was not a "this party is so awesome, lets raise the roof [do people still say that?] and set this place on fire" type fire. Literal fire. The hot kind.

Okay, to be fair, my house wasn't exactly on fire -- that was a bit of a hook to reel you in, dear reader -- but I thought my house was on fire.

Story: After eating a scrumptious meal with out with friends (read: stuffing my face with mostly waffle fries), I was riding the bus back home. One of my best college buddies, who's in town for the week, accompanied me. As we pulled into my stop, we passed a cluster of firetrucks and policemen. Not unusual in the city -- there's always some yayhoo doin' somethin' stupid that requires firetrucks and police.

Like any good rubbernecker, I wanted the chance to shamelessly gawk without making it look like I was shamelessly gawking.  Fortunately for me the path home took me right up to the edge of the scene, so I could check things out while still being mostly out of the way.

Well, as I moved closer I discovered that my path home wasn't exactly "at the edge of the scene."

Oh, wow, these firetrucks are closer to my block than I realized, I thought, gradually transforming from trying-not-to-be-shameless gawker into concerned individual. Hmmm, they actually wrap around the corner and go onto my block...I wonder how far down the block -- OH SHIT THEY'RE ALL IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE. 

I went from concerned individual to slightly hysterical in about .3 seconds flat.

"SHIT!" I yelped, bounding forward, friend in tow. A policeman stopped us.

"Sorry, miss, but you can't go down this block."

"But that's my house!" I cried, peering around his shoulder to look at the knot of firemen on my stoop.

"I'm sorry," the officer repeated, "we can't let you go down this block. It's not safe." You must stand and watch as your life goes up in smoke.

I think I said something closely resembling "aaaarghsdnvolsnjkdhbvla!!!!" and then my friend and I moved to the other side of the street, where we had a better angle. There I finally realized -- THANK GOD -- my was house was not, in fact, on fire.

But my immediate neighbor's house was.

Or, at least, it had been. Black smoke was still flowing from the windows, which had all been smashed out by the firemen. Long ladders leaned against the brick face. The whine of a saw cutting through brick floated above the building. I could see shadows and flashlights moving around as the firemen worked inside. A bunch of them stood on my roof, another bunch on my stoop -- clearly using my place as an access point. Thus my initial and completely understandable confusion.

A little background: to be brutally honest, my neighbor's place has always been a little...janky.  (Read: sketchy. Apparently janky is a term DC-ers use.) Or as my roomie put it when I called her, "Oh, I'm not surprised it's that one." The people there have always been nice, and return my mail when the postman mis-delivers it. The place still kinda says, There may or may not be hard drugs here. Wink. That's all I'll say for now.

So I was standing on a corner watching the place smolder, silently thinking, Oh, it *would be* that one.

"Do you know what's going on?" multiple gawkers asked us, of whom I was a little resentful at this point. Yes, I actually DO know what's going on -- see that house on fire? Yeah, I live right next door. 

Their responses, while very kind and truly concerned, usually boiled down to, OMG really?? for you. Good luck with that.

(My proud moment of the evening: while I was explaining the situation to one person, another person leaned in and asked my friend, "Is she a journalist?" "An aspiring one," Friend responded. WIN.)

Seriously, though, some of these gawkers had missed the "try not to be shameless" directive -- when you pull out your Nikon camera and a digital recorder, it's time for you to leave.  Let the men do their job. Eventually a policeman found some POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS tape and cordoned off the block.

I called my landlord and my roommate (all of whom were safe), and then I called my parents and The Sis. And then we chatted with a fireman, were told the block would likely be inaccessible for a few more hours, and walked a block to the local bar. Aftan needed something to calm her nerves.

But our adventurous evening didn't end there. Oh no.

Stay tuned for Part II.


  1. so, the following FB post "Came back from a dinner out with friends to find MY NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE IS ON FIRE. 5 firetrucks on the street. Block evacuated. Not allowed back in my house. What to do? Go to the local bar and drink beer, tequila, and whiskey. Oh, and flirt with the firefighters." was viewed at 3 am by the friend's insomniac mother. Who started to get concerned. Was reassured by thinking, "well, if anything was seriously wrong, they'd surely call. Except, this thing about flirting with firefighters...but I digress. Went to sleep by repreating the mantra "They are adults. They are ok. They are adults. They are ok."
    Looking forward to reading the REST of the story. You have me seriously hooked.

  2. Oh, Mary Ann! I'm so sorry!!! I should have clarified my FB message - by the time I typed that, we were safely home, in bed, and falling asleep. :)

  3. A couple of things- that house was bringing down others' property value anyway so not a major loss. And CONGRATS on being asked if you were a journalist!


Hey guys! I'd love to have your feedback, so if you liked it, loved it, hated it, I want to know. Actually, if you hated it then don't bother. If you have to publish your comment as "Anonymous", please just type your name at the end of your message. Cheers!