Monday, 16 January 2006

Today's brush with death

Ever heard the one about "always have a fire extinguisher to hand?" Well, that saying is for a reason.

I woke at 0700 this morning as J's flatmates were getting ready for work, J woke too and went to the bathroom. As we were about to drift back to sleep, I smelt smoke. A very plasticky kind of smell, like melting binbags or something.

The balcony after the drama was over

"What's that smell?" I said.

"It's probably just burnt toast," J said.

I knew it wasn't, but I was also really tired, so just went back to sleep.

At 0820, I was brutally awoken again by a very loud noise (ie. fire alarm) and a very hysterical flatmate who said "there's a fire in the kitchen, we have to get out".

We ran down the stairs, me dressed flatteringly in J's dressing gown (who says I only give useless presents) and wrapped in a blanket.

There were sirens. The flatmate had gone from light hysteria to silent shock. Fire engines came. They even extended the ladder on one of them. There were more firefighters than I've ever seen at once in real life.

It turned out the fire wasn't very big, and they put it out in about five minutes.

The fire had been started by other flatmate who was having a ciggie on the balcony, next to building materials left from a recent refurbishment. Apparently something had caught fire, they'd poured a bucket of water over it and thought it was out, but clearly not.

Coincidentally it was his birthday today. His girlfriend (once recovered from the shock) suggested he celebrate by giving up smoking.

The drama. J took me out for lunch to make up for us having missed out on morning cuddles, and then I spent the rest of the morning playing playstation while we waited for their landlord to come and assess the damage.

We were in hindsight lucky. Hysterical Flatmate could have gone to work earlier, and who knows if we would have woken when we did if she had. They live on the top floor, so there was no other balcony above theirs to catch fire. The kitchen, which is now very sooty, was the only room in the flat not to be done over in the past few weeks.

This doesn't hide the fact that it could have gone really badly. The flat has no fire extinguisher, no fire escape. Jumping down a handful of floors to land on concrete doesn't sound a very tempting idea.

And I urge all my dear readers to
a) give up smoking
b) get a fire extinguisher
c) not store flammables where they have their cigarette breaks

I am of course hoping this brush with death will make J realise that he has to get a move on and make up his mind, because suddenly it could be too late.

Especially since he immediately set to clean up the mess when the firefighters had left, as opposed to the firestarting birthday boy who spent the morning playing Pro Evolution Soccer 5. Husband material, I'm telling you.


  1. Glad it all ended well with no injuries. And , I just gave up smoking about two weeks ago :)

  2. Wow, that's crazy. I'm glad everyone's OK.

    My friends bought me a fire extinguisher for my birthday because they thought I would burn either my or their house down. =D

  3. Wow... glad you were all okay, and sensible words about smoking, particularly in the vicinity of combustible waste. Or directly over combustible waste.

    I had (almost) exactly the same thing happen to me quite a few years ago, so I can relate. While the firemen were evacuating the building, I was looking for a particular pair of Converse that matched my jumper. I was very young at the time, in my own defence.

  4. Yes, all OK now, although I suspect the Smoking Flatmate ended up buying his girlfriend his own birthday dinner as compensation, rather than the other way around!

  5. Nothing like a huge adrenaline rush to wake you up. Glad to hear everything turned out okay (well, as okay as possible in the circumstances).

    - Pie

  6. What a horrible way to start the day. Glad things are okay (for the most part).

  7. How Scary! Very good that everyone was ok.

    Thanks for stopping by my site, btw!


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