Whenever I see a red fire truck worming its way through Beirut traffic, sirens ablaze, I always think “Well, good luck with that. By the time they will actually make it to your place, you’re lucky if there’s anything left to hose down.”
Besides, how are they going to get to the 8th floor with those hoses? It’s not like the building code here actually takes fire hydrants into account. And even if, there will not be enough pressure on the water anyway. The water will leak, rather than burst out of the hose.
Uhuh. If your house is on fire in Beirut, you’re pretty much screwed.
|It burned the chalk right off the wall. My poor freezer. |
The aunt is all upset about her Tupperware collection gone up in smoke.
That thought, for a split second, went through my head as I stood in my skimpy pajamas and on my bare feet, at 6 AM, looking at two freezers, fully ablaze, in the hallway of my house, with flames reaching the ceiling, and thick black smoke billowing upwards.
It was the incredible noise, almost a roaring sound, that had caught my attention as I got up. At first I thought it was the washing machine. Seriously now, she (the old aunt in my house) is doing her laundry at 6 AM? But when I checked the laundry machine, it was empty. I opened the door to the hallway. Sweet mother on Earth! What a dreadful noise! The housekeeper must be vacuum cleaning upstairs. But what’s gotten into her at 6 AM? Why so early? And what’s wrong with that vacuum cleaner anyway? Must be getting old, it sounds as if there is an engine running upstairs.
|Try getting that stuff off the wall|
But I had to get ready for work so I went to the bathroom. From the bathroom window, I could hear the sound of the vacuum cleaner, as if it was about to disintegrate. Something did not quite sound right. I looked through the window of the bathroom and could see smoke coming out of the window upstairs. Ahhh, it must be the generator that kicked in. But wait?! Black smoke? Out of the window of the upper floor?
It went pretty fast from there. In my skimpy pajamas and on bare feet. The freezers in the hallway were burning. The floor above it is where the housekeeper lives. I had to get her down but she is a deep sleeper. I yelled and yelled, to warn her. When she opened her door, the black smoke had already completely filled her hallway, so here she is, standing in thick black acrid smoke, and no idea what is going on. She ran through the smoke, downstairs, and past burning freezers and then remembered that her passport with her Schengen visa was still in her room (She is scheduled to run the half marathon in Berlin this April) and had a nervous breakdown.
That’s when that picture of the fire truck went through my head.
"By the time these guys get to the 12th floor, hoses in hand, they can help me sweep the cinders of my house together", I am thinking.
I won’t bore you with the details. I didn’t know the number of the fire department. Actually no one in the house knew the number of the fire department. We called the janitor to cut off the electricity, and got the garden hose from the balcony, which – luckily – was long enough to make it to the hallway, an extinguished the fire ourselves.
And now we’re left with an incredible mess.
Two burnt-out freezers. Everything in the upstairs apartment is to be thrown away. Carpet, curtain, mattress, bedcovers, furniture, everything. The entire place needs to be scrubbed clean, before they can even begin painting, and the housekeeper's clothes are now going through the third washing cycle, and still there is a smell of burnt plastic.
And while we were busy spraying the freezers, the water, black and all, ran down the staircase and into the apartment below.
But we’re alive, and although the housekeeper has yet to recover from her near death experience, her passport is intact, so the Berlin Half marathon is going ahead as scheduled.
And the number for the fire department? It is 175.
But if I were you, get fire detectors and a looooong garden hose.