Tenants burning after high-rise fire
By Andrea Freedman
This past weekend, one of my worst fears came true when a raging fire broke out only three floors above us in our apartment building.
Trouble began earlier that afternoon, starting with a power shut-down and subsequent elevator malfunctions that left some tenants stranded who were physically unable to take the stairs, while others were forced to spend much of the day trapped in their suites.
I forgot how much we take simple conveniences and necessities for granted. When the power first went off, it took a minute for me to clue in and remember that it meant we also had no water, heat or cable.
After being out of our home for several hours, once word got out that power had been restored to our individual units, we were anxious to get back home. Imagine our disappointment when we realized that our elevators were still out of service, despite that the rest of the power was back on!
Although we live on one of the highest floors of the building, my husband and I felt that we had had enough of being forced to leave our home for one day and decided to bite the bullet and take the stairs, not knowing if or when the elevators would be operational into that evening.
No sooner did we trek up the stairwell and were gratefully ensconced back at home on the couch, when all of a sudden the fire alarm went off. At first all I could do was burst out laughing, as I thought this day was turning into one big joke. However, I quickly realized it was no laughing matter when the fire department announced that there was indeed a real fire. In all my many years of living in the building, I had never experienced anything quite like this.
There are conflicting stories about how the fire got started, some residents saying that it was at the hand of someone carelessly using what used to be our sauna, with others claiming it was set deliberately in protest to the frequent elevator breakdowns. As the building is grossly lacking in security cameras, we may never know the whole story.
We did not even have a moment’s break from the alarm for almost two hours while the fire department worked to contain the raging flames. As we were told to stay in our units, we followed instructions and tried to remain calm, our heads pounding and ear drums ringing.
When it was finally over, it was not lost on me how lucky we really were. The outcome could have been so much worse. Luckily no one was injured and our building was not entirely destroyed, although it will take an unspecified amount of time before we can use some of the amenities we pay to enjoy.
Unfortunately, some people suffered water damage as a result of the fire and had to have appliances replaced and in some cases throw furniture and other valuables in the garbage. That being said, when I woke up the next morning in my own bed, I was thankful that we had not been forced to evacuate and find other accommodations.
As I tried to relax with my morning coffee, as I was reflecting on what had transpired, the fire alarm went off yet again, just as the headache I had developed the night before had finally begun to subside. Luckily this was only a false alarm, but it set the tone for what would follow that day.
In a way the fire turned into a bonding experience; some people reported hanging out in the lobby drinking a couple of beers with some of the neighbors rather than wait it out alone in their apartments.
While most of us were anxious to compare notes and happy to see one another unscathed, there were others who decided to take their anger out on building management by vandalising our hallways and common areas of the residence.
When something occurs which affects an entire building, it is only exacerbated when angry tenants take out their frustration by defacing our home. Although I am not always happy either with the way things are run or the frequent elevator shut-downs, acting out in such a disgusting manner only makes things worse for everyone.
I felt a bit out of sorts for a couple of days after the fire; regardless of the outcome, it was a very traumatic experience and I suspect it will take a little while before things are completely back to normal in our building.
Turning our home into something resembling a dump achieves nothing besides fuelling anger and negativity. Who knows what further atrocities we will be faced with next time we go out into our hallways, but I would love for someone to catch the culprit of the vandalism in the act. Instead of fanning the proverbial flames, I wish people would take a moment to appreciate how tragic things could have been.
As much as I too would like to see our property manager step things up in regards to us having regularly functioning elevators and prevent such chaos in the future, and to take steps to install proper security cameras, the uncivilized behaviour which resulted from this past weekend’s events really burns me up!♦
Copyright © by Andrea Freedman, 2016