Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I resolved last night to finally get to bed at a reasonable time. I've been staying up until nearly 1:00 in the morning lately, for various reasons. My first alarm goes off at 5:00 and even on my most snoozebarific morning I am up no later than 6:00. But last night would be different: after a blog update and a bit of online chatting, I was headed for bed by about 11:00 for six to seven hours of glorious sleep.

I was wrong.

It was 1:00 in the morning when my mom called to me: "We have a fire in the neighborhood!"


The Babblings of Whimsicalbrainpan came flooding back to me. The story of The Fire and its aftermath. The lessons I took away from it. The deep depression that Tiffany warned would settle upon any reader - not because you feel sorry for the blog's author, which she explicitly does not want you to do, but because you are disgusted at yourself for ever having thought any burdens in your own life were too difficult to bear, and because you know that no amount of justice served against the arsonists that hurt her and maimed another and killed a third and destroyed and affected so many lives like waves rippling out from a stone thrown into a pond, no measure of justice will ever undo the damage they have done, ever. Ever.

And for a timeless infinity it was my house that was on fire, and my brain did something like this:


"Where?" I said.

"Around the block," she replied.

I fumbled with my slippers. Too long, too long. In an emergency, heel spur be damned, let my full weight crash onto my uncushioned right heel. Pain is nothing without damage. But this was not an emergency.

I levitated up the steps - in total darkness, I would learn an hour later when I was heading back to bed and was confronted with an unlit stairwell. "Call it in?" I asked.

"Heard it on the scanner. Three injured." (It would turn out to be only one injured, out of two in the house, though a firefighter was also injured later.)

The orange glow came in through our front window. The house on fire was across the street, but not directly; it was the first house in from the far corner. But you could see bits of the house between the houses directly across the street. Now, of course, it was easy to infer the location of the house from the flames and glowing smoke.

"Evacuate the premises! Evacuate the premises! Evacuate the premises!" the scanner screamed. Evacuate who? Are there still people in there? Are they ordering the firefighters out?

More trucks were rolling up. A second alarm was called in. The fire hydrant outside our house was tapped.

The firefighters made quick work of the fire, with one complication. I watched the glow dim from a bright whitish-orange to a paler shade of the same color. Suddenly, the fire brightened. What the hell? Then I watched flames appear in the sky, hanging several feet above a large pine tree next to the house.

"That tree is on fire," I observed.

The firefighters noticed, too, as the secondary fire was quickly doused.

One of the firefighters was burned. How seriously, I do not know, though - let us call it "WhimB's blog" has made me aware of the seriousness of any burn.

The house, we learned this morning, had burned once before fairly recently, in August 2003. It was also Condemned then, though apparently that's not so immediate a thing in Nanticoke. The owner had allegedly been renovating it, and he and his girlfriend had been sleeping over several nights a week. With no utilities to the house, they had been using candles and kerosene* fuel for heat and light. A burning candle fell on the kerosene and ignited the fire, resulting in serious burns to the owner. He and his girlfriend were able to get out to a neighboring house to call for help.

So this wasn't arson. Neither, apparently, was the fire on Saturday night that destroyed a row house about two blocks from my new house, killing one resident. (I slept over at my new house Saturday night and slept through the whole thing, including the helicopter landing a block from my bed.) The fire just outside of Nanticoke last week that also killed a man is also not considered suspicious. This time, we don't have a firebug running around town. On the other hand, the fire last Wednesday in a nearby community that destroyed the home, offices, and film studio of a local producer of gay porn videos who was later determined to have been stabbed 28 times before the fire started...well, that one is considered suspicious.

So there is a great and disturbing convergence of fire events in my life. To this should be added the recent maddeningly lenient verdict in the case of a Seton Hall fire that resulted in several deaths and many injuries - see Bill's Industrial Blog post for his take and some links. Compare and contrast this to WhimB's account of the trial and punishment of the arsonists responsible for the fire that changed and destroyed so many lives. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

Tomorrow I have the day off so I can take my mom for a periodic procedure. I can sleep late. Still, I plan to get to bed early and get as much sleep as I can.

We have had enough of fires for now. Let this night be one of pleasant dreams and uninterrupted sleep.

*This was originally reported as propane, not kerosene. The fire was reportedly caused by a candle falling onto the fuel. Kerosene makes more sense, since propane is not liquid at room temperature and pressure, and a fire involving a propane canister would be something like having a small unguided rocket going off indoors.

1 comment:

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Wow! That's a lot of fires and some a little too close.

Read Bill's post. I can not believe what those assholes got away with.