Friday, August 07, 2015

Bowling Alley Fire

Not the most productive Thursday morning... yesterday afternoon a bowling alley a few blocks away caught fire.

I heard the sirens, and after about the forth, I looked around on Twitter and saw the local TV station's tweet about the bowling alley.  I had though the sirens were heading south, but it was really the echo off our neighbor's big house.  When I looked out the front porch, I saw a large black and white plume of smoke rising.

It was a two-alarm fire that sent smoke billowing all around the neighborhood.  The smoke was not so bad if there was no wind, but when the wind blew, the smoke enveloped our house.  Several times the sun was blotted out and our house smelled like a beach fire built with pier pilings.  Of course, the first time, I had all the windows open to cool down the house and the smoke blew in.

People were walking through our neighborhood and toward the fire.  Nobody really knew what was burning.  Traffic on Willamette Street had been rerouted, so we had extra cars and trucks going by.

I figured this was a perfect Writer Research! opportunity.  I mean, if I ever have to write a cathedral burning or the barbarians sacking a city, now I can put in various details.
  • The wind against the neighbor's taller house swirls the smoke down into our yard where it rolls like fog.
  • Checked in on frightened neighbor. She's OK, but not happy -- bunkering down with coffee and wine.
  • Our house smells like a camping grill. Grey-white smoke blotting out sun again.
  • Three types of people at fire: responders, rubber-neckers holding aloft their mobile devices, and folks walking away saying, "You don't want to breathe this."
  • Closer to the fire, the scent of plastic and sulphur was stronger. I realized the fire could spread to the next-door gardening store, which might have been storing fertilizer. Then the wind shifted and I really wished I had worn a mask over my mouth and nose.  
  • My lungs--which felt tight--did not like whatever was in that smoke. Neither did my watering eyes.
  • Black smoke turns white when hit by water, but still blots out the sun. The air smells like 100 struck matches.
  • The smoke blew away from the fire like a column of dark angels, which shifted and marched toward us, suddenly dark and gigantic.
  • The deck under my bare feet was gritty, and I realized that it must be ash from the fire.
When Mark drove home, he parked several blocks away to avoid having the car enveloped by the fumes.  He said you could see the plume from his work from several miles away.  When he walked in, he said that it smelled like plastic had been burned inside the house.

We went out for dinner (so did our neighbors), but when we came back, the house still smelled like burnt plastic and the bowling alley was still smoldering.  The fire department had the fire contained, but the building was made of old wood and they figured the fire would burn through the night.

We tried to air the house out as well as we could and went to sleep... at some point I woke up and wandered out into the cooler living room, and I woke up with a headache.

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