There was a fire in my building last night!

I woke up this morning with the smell of burning leaves in my nostrils. It took me a second to realize that: a) I was in bed, 2) it was 3:00 in the morning, and iii) you shouldn’t be smelling burning leaves in your own apartment. I rolled over and peeked through the blinds to see fire trucks all up and down my street. Only then, finally penetrating through my sleep fog, did I hear a smoke alarm that sounded like it was coming from the apartment below mine.

Oh shit.

I think I must have levitated out of bed and somehow jammed on all my clothes and my shoes before I even hit the floor. Okay, got my wallet and my check book in my pants pockets, grab the closest jacket and get out the back door! I walked down the back stairs just in time to greet the firemen coming up. There was thick grey smoke coming out of the back door of the apartment below mine. From the fireman’s comments, looks like there was a fire around the stove somewhere (such supposition borne out by the somewhat charred stove sitting outside on the back stoop this morning as I left for work).

The firemen directed us to a spot away from the building – he indicated that it appeared the fire was under control but they had to make sure it was out and wasn’t spreading before they let us back in the building. We stood outside till about 4:30, then they let us back in. It was an eerie scene – the street blocked off by fire trucks with flashing lights everywhere but otherwise strangely silent.

When I got back in my apartment it was still a little hazy and stank of smoke but otherwise no problems. I got some fans going to get as much smoke as I could out and settled in with a computer game (Rise of Nations) 'cuz I knew at that point, there wasn’t no going back to sleep.

So I’m pretty hazy and tired this morning but I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse than it was. I would also like to hand out a ‘thank you’ to the Oak Park fire department and rescue squad. The firefighters were all very professional, did a great job of communicating what was going on and were (at least as far as I saw) efficient and thorough. I’ll be sending them a letter later today telling them thank you.

That made me think, though – thank God for smoke detectors! How often do we take 'em for granted or consider 'em a pain in the butt because we have to change the batteries? I guess it’s a lot like insurance – you don’t know how important it is till you really need it. After last night, I know darn sure I’m going to be more diligent about making sure those batteries are fresh! I’m just glad I’m only tired and exhausted this morning – it could have been much worse than it was.

Glad all worked out. From the time and other information, this was a classic ‘careless cooking’ incident, usually caused by someone coming in shortly after the bars closed, wanting a snack, and starting same prior to passing out on the couch.

If you’d like to avoid the battery changing issue, buy one of the newer units that has a 10 year lithium cell built in. The NFPA recommends that detectors 10 years old or older be tossed anyway owing to loss of sensitivity, so that solves both problems.

Wow, you shouldn’t turn on your computer with all that sooty smoke hanging around. Pick up a can of compressed air on your way home tonight and blow that sucker out, k?

Good thinkin’, NC – I hadn’t thought of that!

And dwc, I was surprised at how smoky my apartment was when I got back inside – that detector DARN well should have gone off. I made sure it had batteries a few weeks ago and it went off when I tested it last night. What that says to me is that the detector needs to be replaced. I’ve already put in a not-too-gentle call into my landlord suggesting they take care of it.

Zanshin, if it’s not one of those “wired-into-a-system” types of detectors, you might want to consider getting your own and seeing if he’ll reimburse you. That way you can be sure it’s decent. I was certain to go out and buy a smoke detector that detects both kinds of fires, both the slow smoldering ones, and the ones that flame up quick - if you check the packages, you’ll find one that describes this. I think I paid $25 or so, I’m not sure.

It goes off whenever I fry food, so I guess it’ll go off if there’s ever any smoke in there. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m very glad you’re ok.

Something very similar happened to me last year - fire in the unit downstairs and across from mine. You may have more damage than you think - I know I did. There was a fine layer of soot on everything, including the walls and ceilings. Everything had to be professionally cleaned. My insurance covered everything. If you have renters insurance (I hope you do), you should definitely call them and they’ll come out and assess the damage.

Thanks, guys. Good advice from both FH and porc. It’ll probably be easier for me to pick up a smoke detector rather than have to bug my landlord into doing it (heck, it took 'em two weeks to get me a key for the back door!). And whether there was any soot in my apartment, good question – this morning I wasn’t in any condition to see whether there was any there or not. :slight_smile: I’ll have to check it out tonight.