Monday, June 26, 2017
At 3:45 am last Tuesday, the house we lived in caught on fire. Last Monday was a good day for me. I had planned to work some overtime to catch up on things before taking two days off to move the next week. I was very focused at work and got a lot done. I walked home and did yoga immediately. I helped with dinner and with washing up. I took Kiki for a walk and I went to bed at a decent time. I was happy that I had finally fallen into a good routine. I knew that I would need to have that good routine in the 10 days leading up to moving in order for things to go smoothly and to not feel stressed about it.
I had taken allergy medicine the night before and was sleeping more soundly than I usually do. I woke up to Brian going downstairs from our loft. I thought that he was going to the bathroom, but he was opening doors and walking around a bit. I was still half asleep at this time. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me that he smelled smoke and went downstairs to check it out. I hadn't realized that he had left the apartment. I told him that it was probably nothing, that Denver often smelled like smoke. Then I lay down to go back to sleep.
Brian said that he was going to check again. He went downstairs and I started smelling the smoke get stronger. I sat up and looked out our skylight window. The smoke was billowing up behind our house. I didn't know where it was coming from. I thought maybe it was a nearby house or something in the parking lot or alley. I knew that it was time to leave, but I was still telling myself that I would just go downstairs to check. I climbed down our loft stairs in a hurry and turned around to see Kiki looking up at me. I threw on whatever clothes I could find the quickest, picked Kiki up and rushed down the stairs.
As I was going down the stairs, Brian was coming up. I heard him and yelled his name. He yelled mine and said that it's a fire. He kept going up the stairs. I asked him what he was doing, but he kept going and went back in to grab our passports. We also locked our door. I would love to say that I kept my cool and did everything right, but in the moment it's hard not to just do the first thing that comes to mind.
I went to the back parking lot and saw that the house was on fire. I think at that point I was still wondering if it was really our house. I regret that I didn't knock on everyone's door while going down, but I was still in shock and wasn't sure what was happening. Brian came back out and I told him to yell to wake everyone up. Our hallway carries sound very easily to all apartments. He went in and yelled that it was a fire. By that time some of our neighbors were also up and out of the house. I knocked on the front neighbors' door. The firefighters were already there and going into the house. It all happened very fast.
We all gathered outside. I didn't see my friends from the apartment in the back on the second story or our neighbor that lived on the third story behind us. For a few minutes I couldn't help but think the worse. Thankfully, they just took a little longer to wake up before they realized what was happening. The neighbor behind us had climbed onto the roof and was rescued by the firefighters.
We stood outside waiting and waiting for five hours. The news crew came, and the firefighters did their work. We were asked questions, and we kept waiting. It started to get light out. I went down the street to St. Mark's, a coffee shop and bar, to get scones and coffee. We barely ate the scones, but we needed the coffee. We didn't know how bad it was for a long time. We were just thankful that everyone was okay.
The back apartments on the second and third floor were the worst. They both had some fire damage along with some water and smoke damage. Our apartment had some water and smoke damage, but not much. They chopped some holes in our ceiling to make sure that the fire hadn't spread and wasn't still smoldering in the walls. I was able to take my Octavia Butler book from the loft. It was a bit wet, but still readable.
After the five hours of waiting, we went down the street to get some breakfast. We didn't even think of sunscreen and got horribly burnt as it was the third day of intense heat in Denver, which is probably part of the reason that we had a fire in the first place. Looking back on that day, everything seemed strange, and it still does. We ate our breakfast and walked back to the house. We were still waiting to hear if we could stay in our apartment. We went back to St. Mark's and had a couple of beers.
After hearing that we couldn't stay in the apartment, I found a motel that allowed dogs. It wasn't easy to find something so last minute. We went back to grab some clothes and went to find our motel. Kiki was calm throughout this entire ordeal. We hadn't thought to grab her collar or leash when we first left the house, so we held her while we waited for the fire to be put out. Once we were settled in at the motel, she started barking at any sound outside our door. She barked more that day than in the entire 5 months that we have had her.
We decided to get an Airbnb. I woke up at 5:30 am and started looking for one that would allow dogs, wasn't extremely expensive, and would be within walking distance of my work. This was a very stressful experience. Once I found one, something went wrong with my verification and after a lot of hassle, I had to call customer service. In the end, it worked out very well for us. Our Airbnb is only a 30-minute walk from my work. It's an entire apartment, and it's very comfortable.
Throughout this whole ordeal, we kept thinking about how lucky we are to already have another apartment lined up. We were told that we would be able to get back into our apartment to start packing up our belongings on both Saturday and Sunday. However, each time we went back, the entire house was still sealed up for asbestos cleaning. Hopefully they'll have it opened by Thursday, which is when I scheduled a day off for the move.
The past week has been stressful and strange, but we are so thankful that everyone in the house got out in time and that one of our neighbors had woken up before us and called the fire department. It could have been a lot worse if they had arrived just a few minutes later. Most of our belongings are fine, other than our futon mattress in the loft and possibly our bedding. We are now focused on just getting through the week and getting ready to move into our new apartment.
I keep replaying that morning in my head. The moment that stands out to me the most is when I got down the loft stairs, turned around, and saw Kiki standing there looking at me with a quizzical expression on her face. I think I talked to her and told her that it was going to be okay, and that I was going to get her out of the house. We were all very lucky that the fire wasn't worse and that we were all able to get out without getting hurt. I don't think I will feel completely normal until we're settled into our new apartment and have been living there for a few weeks, but we're safe and we have a place to stay, and right now that's all that matters.