Not Quite a Yule Log
Christmas eve, my wife's family was here from Santa Cruz and Sacramento. Wig made a lovely vegetarian Holiday dinner, we opened presents and all went to bed.
At 2:30 I was awoken by "popping" sounds, almost like gunfire. I jumped out of bed and looked out our bedroom window to a horrifying sight: the house once removed from ours was bursting forth in flames. Being a tightly packed inner city area, I could tell we had maybe ten minutes before it would jump across to our house.
We leapt out of bed, threw on clothes, banged on all the doors to get everyone up, and Wig called the fire department while I ran downstairs to awaken our neighbors, who's house is even closer to where the fire was.
By the time I ran back upstairs, Wig was already hauling out our accordion metal ladder from the garage, and hoisting it up the back deck towards the neighbors house. This house we knew was packed with illegal immigrants; they were flooding out onto the rooftop, and it was three stories up and they were stuck. Women and kids, in their nightclothes and terrified, flames all around and billowing black smoke.
The fire department arrived amazingly fast, and ladders came up from the street side. Wig and a few firemen helped get folks down onto our neighbor's roof, and within minutes the firemen had controlled the blaze. Whew!!!
It was really quite traumatic. The firemen worked for much of the night chopping out the roof, breaking windows and spraying stuff down. The survivors were treated outside on the street and then put in a city bus which had been converted to a makeshift ambulance. By Xmas morning the neighborhood was swarming with tv crews and gawkers.
We had our Xmas breakfast together in an exhausted and thankful state. I was really proud of my wife -she had been a hero really. Outside, I talked to neighbors and learned, sadly, that a man had died in the blaze. A father of three, his children and wife had escaped.
Two of the news crews wanted to interview Wig (ended up on channel 7 news), and came into our house and filmed on our bedroom balcony, where the above photo was taken from my cell phone, as it had the most dramatic viewpoint. Not a great picture, but the whole inside is burnt out (for reference, this is all three stories up).
Anyway, we now have a new appreciation for fire around here. New Year's resolution: plan a fire escape route, make a complete list of neighbor's contact info, finish the inventory for the insurance company, reconsider fire code issues while re-building our back deck...