… very uncrowded, as in vacant, as in the apartment downstairs from me… vacant for a year now, so not surprising that in this sub-zero weather the pipes froze.
In an effort to avoid cracks in said pipes, the manager from the building called one of the maintenance folks to come in and thaw them. Even though he had a hair dryer handy, he decided he wanted the job done quicker, and pulled out his propane torch. Seems the end of the nozzle on the torch was faulty, because just after he lit it, the nozzle bent and fell off, leaving him with a propane tank with a fireball on top of it.
He dumped the tank into the sink and within a second the drapes on the kitchen window caught and within moments the ceiling and cabinets became involved.
All of this was happening below me, as I was innocently typing away in my living room. Then I heard raised voices, and poked my head out my apartment door to see what was happening. I went downstairs and poked my head in the apartment below and saw the orange glow of flames and thick black smoke in the kitchen. Bill, our resident manager, ran past me to his apartment across the hall to grab a fire extinguisher. Poor fellow, he ran right past the large one hanging in the hall; I grabbed it, and ran back into the apartment – by this time the smoke was thick and I had to stoop at the waist to get under it to breath and see.
I handed the extinguisher to the maintenance guy and he got the fire out. I the mean time, I rushed back to the hall, where the stairwell was quickly filling up with smoke. I opened the small window in the stairwell, and then rushed to my apartment; when I got to my doorway, I turned and looked back – the smoke was so thick behind me I could not see a thing.
All of this took maybe thirty seconds. I am absolutely humbled and stunned at how fast it all moved – the flames and the smoke. I’ve never been in a fire before (esp. one inside, and with accelerants). I will never look upon them in the same way.
This also meant, I had to open all my windows to air out my apartment – on one of the coldest days we’ve had all winter. That, and I had to re-vacuum the living room (which I had just vacuumed this morning) to get rid of some soot that floated in with the smoke.
Smoke alarms, smoke alarm batteries, fire extinguishers, a well-thought out escape plan, folks.