Saturday, December 12, 2009

If possible, I love Rescue Me even more now

I've always been a bit vague on the details of my financial life, which means long-time readers have been a little confused as to whether I live in the suburbs or the city.

The answer, of course, is both. We live in the suburbs during the week, but we have a weekend/vacation apartment in the city. It's a wonderful luxury. It makes it possible for us to enjoy city pleasures like fine dining, opera, ballet, the symphony, and drinking cocktails while gazing awestruck at views of Lake Michigan and the city.

It also comes in handy when BlogHer decides to hold its conference in Chicago. As many of my blogging buddies can testify.

So yes, I live in Newtopia, but I also live in Chicago. In a high rise. That just had a fire.


See that black smudge? That's our bedroom window.

Are you feeling me when I say THANK GOD THE APARTMENT WAS EMPTY? Good. Because if your home ever burns, I hope you find out the way I did--by email. Email puts what I consider to be the appropriate amount of distance between you and physical danger.

Now, I don't know whether you've ever thought about it, but a fire in a high-rise is a complicated thing--what pretentious smarty-pants like me call "hydra-headed." Because everyone who lives under the fire has to deal with water damage--the after effects of the hundreds of gallons of water that were used to put out the fire. And because like heat, smoke rises, everyone who lives above the fire has to deal with smoke damage.

Fire at Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

On top of which, even assessing the damage is difficult because getting in and out of the building is extremely complicated. There are 250 units, all with people who need to get in and out, and the elevators create a huge bottleneck. Especially when the freight elevator is flooded and the high rise elevator stops working.

So when we got there, the sidewalk was cordoned off. Fire department, police, insurance and contractors' trucks were parked and double parked around the block. The lobby was filled with dozens of men and women in hard hats. Some were trying to bring rolling carts of specialized cleaning equipment upstairs. Some had pressboard or sheet rock. Insurance adjusters were talking on cell phones. Building management employees were trying to prevent "chasers" from buttonholing unit owners. And unit owners, dressed every which way, were leaving the building with rolling suitcases and bags of clothes.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

The high-rise elevator wasn't working, so we had to take the low-rise elevator to the 23rd floor, then walk up to our apartment. I was afraid my husband would take off up the stairs and I'd be huffing and puffing all the way up, but we actually had to walk up very slowly because workers were carrying huge sheets of particle board to board up the windows on the 36th floor.

Around the 36 floor, we passed this

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

It's a rescue plan written on the wall by the firefighters.

Our hallway didn't look that bad, but our front door was broken in. All the front doors were broken in, actually, because the firefighters had to check every single unit in the building to make sure they had accounted for everyone in the building.

The first bedroom we saw was my son's. Here's the floor going into his room

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Somewhere under that mess is his blue striped wall to wall carpet.

Here's the vent above his door.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

To give an idea of the mess, I picked up this little robot guy

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

and moved him.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Then there is the matter of his walls

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

and ceiling.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

My daughter's room was showered in ash, but her walls and windows are intact

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Here's her ancient rummage sale Babar lamp with the scotch-taped shade which is supposed to be white, but is now covered so in soot that its shade looks like it was made of tweed.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Last but not least, our bedroom. The door was closed, probably because the windows were broken

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

This will give you an idea of the soot.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

The whole thing was complicated by the fact that it was zero degrees outside.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

See the water coming out of the bathroom faucet?

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

That's actually ice.

Our "white" ceiling

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Apparently the fire snaked out of the apartment where it started, crawled up the outside of the building, and tried to get back in through my bedroom window.

Fire at Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Amazingly enough, the only evidence of this is the shades, which were pulled down from the windows. You can't really tell from the picture, but they're charred, and in some places, they melted.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

We stayed in the condo for about five hours until we'd had the chance to go through everything with the insurance adjuster and the contractors who'll be doing the restoration. And then, finally, they told us we could go.

On the way out, I snapped this picture of the hallway below mine.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

This? Is as close as I ever want to get to hell.

Then we checked in with the management company to make sure they knew to board up our bedroom windows. And I fell in love with them because they had coffee and doughnuts, bless them.

Fire at the Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

I'm not blogging this because I want you to feel sorry for me. If you feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for the 84-year-old woman who called 911 because there was smoke in her unit. She died in the fire. And now they're saying they think the fire was caused by a faulty toaster oven.

Just think--a $25 kitchen appliance caused all this.

Fire at Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

I'm blogging this for two reasons. First of all, a similar fire broke out in 2002 when a unit owner fell asleep with a lit cigarette. I'm outraged that the building didn't install a sprinkler system in each unit. They decided to install sprinkler systems in the common areas, and a PA system in the halls, because individual sprinklers would be too expensive.

I will not implode with rage. I won't. I'll just say that the saying "penny wise/pound foolish" comes to mind.

But the second reason I'm blogging is that I feel so blessed. At the time of the fire, our apartment was uninhabited. If you watch the videos of the fire when it was burning, you can see my neighbor looking out of his window to see what's going on. Our windows are right next door, and they're dark.

We lived in the condo full time in 2007 when we were having some renovations done in our house in Newtopia. I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up with my building turning into the towering inferno. Imagine having to evacuate in the middle of the night when it's zero degrees.

Fire at Deluxe Apartment in the Sky

Or, as could easily have been the case, not waking up at all.

And when we're not there, we frequently put up guests. The Jokes have stayed there. My in-laws stay there all the time. My friend Liz jokes that our place is a bed & breakfast for her overflow guests. My BlogHer buddies have stayed there several times. Hell, I threw a cocktail party on our roof deck during BlogHer09. You were all invited. Some of you came.

My 87-year old mother stayed there last month. And partied! With her 87-year-old cronies!

No, I'm not whining about a thing. I'm walking on air.

Smoky, stinky, thick air that's full of particulate matter--but air, nonetheless.

32 comments:

  1. I am so sorry that one of your neighbors lost her life and that you and the rest of your neighbors have to go through this. I'm glad no one was in your place that night.

    It is incredibly shocking for me, since I was at the BlogHer party and all. Puts a face on it, you know? When I saw it on our local news (yes in Denver), it was just devastating to see.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Those pictures are truly frightening. I'm so glad no one was in your apartment. It looked and sounded terrifying in the news reports. That poor woman. Are your kids completely freaked?

    ReplyDelete
  3. omg Poppy I am SO SORRY!! I am THANKING God that your family managed to escape, but will say a prayer for the woman who perished in the fire.

    May she rest in peace.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My God, it's amazing there weren't even MORE deaths. Horrible! SO glad you guys weren't there, nor any of your loved ones. *shudder*

    ReplyDelete
  5. OMG- fire is one of the most traumatic experiences one can go through. A friend of mine did and it took a huge toll on her family. I'm so sorry to hear about that woman but grateful you are all okay

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm so glad you guys are okay and my heart goes out to that woman's family.
    This sure puts all the holiday craziness in perspective. Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Relieved your family was spared.
    Absolutely a miracle more lives weren't lost
    The apartment & building damage is incredibly scary
    Happy Birthday Mrs. Buxom and many more returns
    God keep you safe

    ReplyDelete
  8. Poppy -

    I'm SO GLAD you and your family weren't there. And I'm so, so sorry this happened to you.

    Are there still people living on the affected floors? What.A.Mess.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dear All,

    As someone who has, with some frequency, enjoyed staying at what I like to call MY APARTMENT IN CHICAGO, I can only say that I thank heaven that Poppy and her family are safe and sound and that I look forward to staying there again!

    After speaking with Poppy this evening I'll tell you that she is handling this incident with her usual grace, bless her buxom heart.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Poppy, I am so glad that you and your family and your frequent guests are all okay. I am so sorry about the lady who died.

    Hugs to you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm literally quaking with fear. What a horrible tragic accident. Here's hoping that the aftermath, dealing with the insurance agencies, the contractors, etc. goes smoothly and quickly so you can once again be Chicago's premier bed and breakfast.

    I'm so sorry this happened, and I hope that your deceased neighbor was the only death or injury.

    Take care, Poppy. And maybe have a drinkie-poo and thank your lucky stars that you weren't there to actually experience the fire firsthand.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Incredible pictures. Wow, I hope you have good insurance.

    Terrible story about the neighbor and the cause of the fire.

    Glad you and your family weren't there!

    ReplyDelete
  13. A few days ago, I said to a good friend, "I talked to a Chicago firefighter today!" He said, "So? What's so special about firefighters?" I said, "Do you literally put your life on the line every single time you go out on a job?"

    All of your photos are terrible to see but the one of the rescue plan chills me to the core.

    Most of all, thank God your apartment was empty!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This was plain scary.
    Happy to hear nobody was in your apartment. Of course it saddens me that the older lady lost her life but in such s tragic fire it's miracle that no more people died.
    Paola

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank goodness that almost everyone was safe. I'm so sorry about the mess and loss and all--that was some HEAT.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My heart sank when I heard the news that morning...so relieved that you weren't there. I can't imagine the terror of being in that situation.
    Lots to be thankful for this season.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Poppy -- I don't know if you remember me (we met via Sophie DuBrul Cue), but I happened to visit your blog for the first time in ages tonight. My prayers go out to the woman who died in the fire, and I'm very, very glad that you and your family were in Newtopia at the time. If the rest of your holidays are eventful, I hope it's only in a good way! -- Dante

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh my gosh...I can't even imagine all that you are going through right now. My thoughts are with your and your family...thank goodness it was empty at the time!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ree emailed me the link to your post. Thank God you and your family are all right! And that? is Merry Christmas worthy!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Very happy to hear that your apartment was vacant and that you all are okay. What a horror for anyone to go through, especially right before the holidays. Been through a major house fire at my parents and know how disorienting it is both during and in the aftermath.

    May your neighbor rest in peace.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry for your neighbor, so relieved that you were all gone, so bewildered that sprinklers aren't required in a building so large, and most of all, sad that something so tragic came so close to your family.

    This also reconfirms my love for firefighters. And people with donuts when you need them.

    Take care, P. And happy birthday. So glad you are here.

    ReplyDelete
  22. So glad you and yours are okay, but sad to hear about the poor neighbor.

    Scary, scary, scary stuff... but glad more people weren't lost and that it is mostly just "stuff" to be dealt with now. :(

    ReplyDelete
  23. Poppy, I'm so sorry. I had a similar situation in 1998, in our one and only dwelling. I got a call from the fire department while at work that our house was on fire - we lost most everything. The house was gutted. Fortunately, no one was home, so the really important things - my family - were safe. I'm here to fell you you get through it. It's really scary, but it's not the end of the world. Our place looked like the unit below yours, and we got through it.

    A piece of advice - save every receipt!!!

    Hang tight....

    ReplyDelete
  24. oh.
    bb's blog informed me of this.
    I too, am thankful that none of you were home at the time and my thoughts go out to the people who were.

    I shall pray for you and yours.

    pax to you all.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Poppy:

    I'm speechless. It's so sad. I'm glad there wasn't more loss of life.

    Thinking of you.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Holy crap dude. Thank goodness on so many levels.

    Now, onto the next stage, I am presuming you will be bringing in your Tuvaluvan interior designer Blackbird?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Poppy! I was totally watching the live coverage of this on the news while I was awake in the stupid middle of the night nursing the baby and thought to myself, "Is that Poppy's building?" But in the haze of sleeplessness, forgot to check.

    So glad you were not there and your family is safe. Stuff can all be replaced. People can't. And I hope they install the damn sprinklers now.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Poppy,
    Awful that your neighbor died, so sad. Thankful your place was empty. Had a fire at the house once, everything salvageable retained the smoke smell. It was exhausting but we got through it, grateful that no one was harmed..
    Maria G.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I cannot get over the damage in those pictures. Hell, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  30. it is just a miracle that you weren't there and that more people didn't die. when you tweeted this photo i was just horrified. wow. just wow.

    i do find it insanely frustrating that all high rise buildings aren't sprinklered. it is so cheap! people have whined to me (i'm an architect) "but if the sprinkler goes off everything is ruined." yes, but you will be ALIVE DUMMY! you can buy a new couch, you can't buy a new you.

    on your personal living note--don't most people live in the city during the week and "escape" on the weekends to somewhere else? i think i like that you are the other way around.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Glad glad glad glad GLAD you were not in that apt. when it burned, Poppy. I would so miss you if you died.

    T.

    ReplyDelete

Gentle Readers:

For the time being, I've turned off comment moderation. Please don't spam; it's not nice.

xxx, Poppy.