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gwen
gwenix
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April 2011
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gwen [userpic]
Larkins Way Fire!

I live at the very end of Larkins Way, an alleyway between two major streets in the Southside (between Sarah and Jane). Because this is a dead end alleyway, we actually have a nice little pocket of neighborhood that's quiet and where all of us who live on the street know each other. I really love it!

Sadly, one of the houses on the street burned last night, taking two more roofs with it.

But, I should back up a bit, because there's a story here.

I leave for work between 7am and 8am daily. I walk to my bus stop at 28th and E Carson (about a block and a half's worth of walking), which takes me past all of the houses on our block. Yesterday morning, I was walking down around 7:45am, and about halfway through the block I smelled smoke. I walked back and forth a little bit trying to pinpoint the scent. I did accurately figure out what area, but at that point could see no evidence of anything awry, so assumed it was the remnants of a barbeque grill leftover from late night Memorial Day festivities. I continued my walk to work.

I got home around 8:15 from my French lesson, the UB was cooking dinner for us and a couple of friends. The smell of smoke was very strong in our house; it was so strong, that when I first got home, I asked him if he was running the grill, "No, but I think some neighbors are." This answer only satisfied me for five minutes, the smell was too strong, so I ventured into the basement to insure that we were OK. "What are you doing?" the UB asked of me, I responded, "Being paranoid!"

Our friends arrived, and we set up for dinner on the back deck. Soon after we started our dinner, we heard loud noises, and our friend asked, "So who would run a weed whacker at 8:30 at night??" (It was probably a bit later than that, even.) After some joking about how we would, being busy people, we continued with our meal. Then we heard loud banging noises, and wondered if someone might be trying to break into a car. "Oh, it's just someone trying to close a trunk lid, I'm sure," but the UB went to check on his car anyway.

He came back a few minutes later, "Well, so, it seems something is going on. There's a lot of water on the street, and all of our neighbors are outside." I then wandered downstairs and out the front door, and found this:

From Larkins Way Fire


Huh, fire engines. And sure enough, all of the neighbors were outside, most talking about how they had smelled the smoke all day long.

From Larkins Way Fire


I wandered down the street towards the action, and found a tremendous mess of firemen walking in and out of the row houses across the street from my house.

From Larkins Way Fire


After talking to many of my neighbors, including the poor post-college kids whose house burned, I got a good picture of what happened. They had left the ceiling fan on when they left the house for work at 6:30am. Shortly thereafter, it shorted out and started smoldering. When I passed by, it had already started its slow burn towards the roof. The smoldering stayed steady and slow all day, but since it never really turned to flame nor did it even give much evidence of smoke, everyone assumed that it was someone barbequeing. The kids returned after visiting their friends' place around 8:30pm and noticed the ceiling fan was not working. They decided to try to fix it, so pulled it down from the ceiling to get a look at it... that's when the smoke started to billow from their roof, and they saw the scorch marks around the fan. They called 911 at that point.

When the fire company came, they started looking through it, and realized that this had been smoldering into the adjoining roofs next door to the Fire House (this is what my neighbors now call that unit); so they had to cut holes into the roof of the Fire House and its two immediate neighbors.

And here is one of the saddest elements of this story: the guy (a very nice young guy too) living in one of the adjoining houses had just bought that house a mere 2 weeks ago. The other house belongs to one of our most steadfast neighbors, always out in the street no matter the weather to keep an eye on things. Tonight it is storming with hail and tremendous rain; I am hoping the tarps put up by their insurance companies are keeping their house relatively safe. But I also know the water damage from the fire hoses last night was already a factor. With luck, we don't lose either of these two great neighbors. Obviously, we have already lost the post-college kids; they were rentals on the street, but quiet and very nice. We like that sort!

At this point, the Fire House clearly has no roof left, and much of the second floor's ceiling is a mess of holes and material falling to the floor. The water damage is clearly visible on the first floor too. With luck, they do not have to tear down this place, but can rebuild, because it is a nice property.

From Larkins Way Fire


But alas, there may be too much damage. I will see as the days go on.

On a happier note, it was nice to talk to my neighbors, and find out they are on the same page as I am: we love our little block because it's so utterly convenient to everything, and yet we're usually quite quiet on this particular block (internally enforced, too), but best part is that we all love that we have great neighbors who like to know each other and .. well .. be neighborly!

So, lesson learned: Turn off your ceiling fans when you are not home, or you could come home to this.

From Larkins Way Fire

Comments

Terrifying. I live in a part of town with vintage electrical systems """upgraded""" by handyman-owners over the years. I could totally see this happening.

(In fact it happens quite frequently, but usually the firemen show up, put out the fire, and sic the cops on the grow-op that caused it. The landlady lives in this building, so grow-ops are unlikely.)

Yah, one of my neighbors tonight told me that they found an original fusebox in the basement of the Fire House.

The one good part is that apparently nobody was physically hurt. I hope the rest works itself out.

I'm very happy that everyone is okay.

I seem to recall bad wiring as one of the top reasons for house fires in Pgh.

I don't remember the exact statistics, but it was enough for me to pony up for a full rewiring of our house. (3 generations of wiring technology all connected, and all live.)

Scary and sad.

The view of Larkins Way from Dish is one of my favorites. It just goes on forever.