These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the fire

i went to the scene of a fire for the first time in ages. it was an apartmetn building. i arrived yestrday afternoon to find part of the builidng on fire and it spread up to the top floor (eventually destroying three units).

it wasn't chaotic as i expected, which is usually the case with fire scenes, with fire engines pumping water, motors running, people are a blur, lights flashing, and smoke and flames distracting. the victims were standing together behind yellow tape and i made my way towards them. they watched as their homes burned. one girl, only 17, was on her way to work in fifteen minutes, when she saw the flames. all she had left was a plastic bag containing a change of clothes and some money. in the other hand she had a cordless phone she used to call 911, the connection no longer working.

there were quite a bit of latinos and i was able to talk with them easily enough. they were forthcoming with information. but i always feel like a buzzard swooping in to get comments. it's my job and it's expected but i still feel crappy about it.

but the human spirit amazing me. some of the people were talking quietly, some laughing and chatting with each other. the one girl i talked to gave me the most emotonal reaction when she saw a firefighter being pulled out of the fire and placed on a tarp and his equipment yanked off his face. he was Ok.

the fire was cut down but after 30 minutes flared up again. it took almost two hours before it was stamped out. the fire departmetns were there until nearly 11 p.m. the fire started at 5 p.m.

when i left the scene at neary 7, i was penetrated with smoke. i dunno if it was wind coming our way or simply the fire being put out, but the smoke was as thick as fog.

sad stories at the scene. the young girl i talked to lost her fish, computer and pretty much everything. another lady said she's diabetic and lost her meds. a man said this was the second fire for him in less than a year. everyone has a different story to tell at the scene. none is good.

the story, after having talked to residents, the apt. owner and the fire chief, was writen fairly quickly. i was happy with it. got a thumbs up from jh. that's always cool.


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