That’s the view from the back yard of my apartment building this past Sunday as a fire tore through multiple homes, gutting at least ten apartments and doing serious damage to several others. I somehow managed to mostly sleep through the commotion, despite it taking place literally right outside my window (I took a blurry photograph from my own apartment later on, which can show you just how close I was to this fire).
By the time I woke up and checked on what was happening, things were pretty much under control. They were spraying more water over the wreckage as I watched from my window, but the flames were out.
This is the second time in the past eight years that there’s been a fire at my apartment complex. The previous one wasn’t anywhere near as bad (only one apartment was destroyed, and rumor was the tenant (who was being evicted) set the fire on purpose to get back at the landlord). But as you can see here, this fire got seriously out of control. For the past few days, whenever I leave the house or come home, the first thing I see is the gaping hole where several families used to live.
According to the news, four people were hospitalized, and almost a dozen families were displaced from their homes.
I could say that the fire has made me really think about fate, and mortality, and all of that. But that’s not really true. Sure, I’m slightly worried in a “if that had been my building…” sort of way, but I wouldn’t really say that I’m concerned. I feel bad for the people who have lost all their stuff and their homes, but at the very least no one was killed.
My biggest thought during all of this was how it started in one apartment and spread. While these pictures might not show it, I can tell when looking at the damage that it all started in the middle apartment. That’s the one with the most severe damage, and the only one where the fire spread enough to eat completely through the roof. The apartments to either side were then destroyed as the fire spread, and the apartments on the far sides were hit after that. All in a span of about an hour, from the time the first alarm sounded until the time the fire department had it under control.
Setting aside the “what if this had happened to my apartment” type of fears, I keep thinking how unfair it is to the neighbors who lost their homes as well because of something that started in one person’s apartment. The news reports don’t say what started the fire yet, but it could have been anything as simple as a stray cigarette, an unattended candle, or an oven that was left on. I know that I, personally, am always careful enough to avoid making such a mistake and burning my own apartment down. But if my neighbors (who, frankly, aren’t the most responsible people) do something stupid, I could end up paying the consequences. Just like almost a dozen families are losing everything because of something that started with just one.
It makes you think. Not just about danger and damage and all that, but about how one event can spread to affect others. A chain reaction, so to speak, affecting all of these people who have no other direction connection in their lives than where they all happen to live.
I wonder who I live next to, and what they might be doing that could someday affect my life.