View Full Version : ANOTHER fire story

04-13-2009, 02:27 AM
You know, after that second thread in less than week about a fire in a store, I starting getting this bad feeling.....

My aunt and her family just got back from a week in Orlando last night, and at the family Easter get together today, they had one hell of a story to tell.

The condo they were staying in (a time share her mother-in-law has) caught fire!! :eek:

First off, they are all right. No one was hurt, and their property loss was very minimal (my aunt lost one of her favorite gold earrings, and my cousin lost his orthodontic headgear). But the whole thing could have been MUCH worse because the condo association botched the whole affair from end to end.

Here's the story as best I can put together (I heard it in bits and pieces as my uncle re-told it several times).

6:30AM, the ALL the smoke alarms in their unit go off and there's a smokey smell, but no visible evidence of a fire. My uncle is a professional, career firefighter so he knew what to look for, and suspected that it was dust in the heat ducts. Obviously, in Florida, heat isn't often needed, and apparently the heaters in this particular unit hadn't been run in two years. But it got cold that morning (low 40s) so the heat came on automatically.

He quickly called the complex's front office and asked how to disable the heat. They walked him through it, and he told them someone from maintenance needed to come over right away to check the system.

Desk Guy: I'll make a note of that and have our guy check it out later today.

Uncle: I don't think you understand me. This was serious enough to set off the smoke detectors; this isn't just an unpleasant smell I'm complaining about. It needs to be checked NOW for our safety and the safety of the other units.

Desk Guy: Like I said sir, I'll make it a priority for the maintenance crew.

Uncle: I don't think you understand me. I am a professional firefighter, and I am TELLING YOU that this is a more serious issue than you seem to think it is. I need someone over here NOW. Not tomorrow, not "later," NOW.

Desk Guy: OK, some one will be right over.

15 minutes later and no one has come to the unit. In the meantime, my uncle opened all the windows to vent the smell, but it wasn't going away.

He calls the front desk again.

Uncle: Where's the maintenance guy?

Desk Guy: Someone will be there as soon as possible.

Uncle: Look, this is more serious than even I thought it was. I need someone over here immediately.

He made a more thorough check of the unit and could clearly smell smoke coming from air vents, this AFTER the power to the heat had been cut. Then he actualyl started to SEE smoke coming out of the vents, rather than just smelling it. :eek:

(By the way, for some odd reason, the heat was up in the attic, rather than in the basement).

So this time he picked up the phone and pressed the EMERGENCY button on it, but nothing happened! He tried dialing 911, but could not get through!

So then he got the family out (he and my aunt have 4 kids, who at this point are scared to death) and into their rental van, which he moved away from the unit.

He spotted one of the neighbors heading out and screamed at them to call the fire department, then ran up to the units adjacent to his and pounded on the doors yelling for them to get OUT, THE BUILDING IS ON FIRE!

Neither of them leave!

Uncle: What are you idiots doing?! The BUILDING'S ON FIRE!!! GET OUT!!!!

He then went back into his unit to try and collect as much stuff as possible before the fire spread out of the ducts and into the unit itself.

By now it's 7AM, and the complex day manager (who had just arrived for his shift and heard of a "possible" fire in their unit) can running up. He grabbed a dry powder extinguisher and tried spraying it into the air vents.

Uncle: That's not gonna do jack shit, buddy! The fire is IN the ducts! Probably right up right at the heater itself! You'll never reach it with that thing!

He was right. The smoke was now collecting thickly at the ceiling and he and the manager had to get the hell out.

By this time, the fire department had showed up, and my uncle - after identifying himself as a brother firefighter - directed to them to where they needed to focus their attention, then huddled in the van with his family while they waited for things to settle down.

He was exactly right. Dust and debris in the ducts right near the heater had started to smolder, and eventually burst into a full fledged fire. They had to rip down the ceilings to get at the duct work to extinguish the blaze, which burned a four foot hole around where the heating unit was and destroyed the unit itself. :eek:

Afterwards, in talking with the manager and the other personnel working for the complex who showed up to assist, he discovered a few things he didn't like. For one thing, it seems that somehow, the front office was blocking his attempts to reach 911. How that's even possible is beyond me, and it sure as hell isn't legal. I don't even know WHY they would do such a thing. Apparently they want their guests to call the front desk first, and then THEY will call for help if needed. Fucking idiots.

Second, the fire had been caused mainly because a couple years ago, while servicing the units, the condo association maintenance crew had somehow damaged the duct work in that unit, causing a lot of debris to enter in to it, but neither cleaned it out nor properly repaired the damage. Nor had anyone bothered to test the heaters in that unit since then, apparently thinking there was no point since it was Florida and they "don't really need heat" so they only tested the A/C.

My uncle wound up reading their LP manager the riot act after learning that.

They did end up getting a free upgrade to the nicest available unit for the remainder of their stay, and the association is going to pay for what they lost in the hubbub.

Like I said, no one was hurt, but this whole situation was one big Charlie Foxtrot that could have been much MUCH worse.

lupo pazzesco
04-13-2009, 03:30 AM
Holy cripes, what is it with people not believing in fire?

Sorry to threadjack, but that story reminded me of my own fire tale that happened last year.

I come home, hear my neighbor's smoke alarm going off. No big deal, so i think. But it never shuts off. So, at that point, I'm going to knock on the door, touch it first to see if it feels warm. When it doesn't, I pound on it, ask if everything's ok. Don't get an answer. I call the leasing office, and explain the situation, they say someone will check it out.

Twenty minutes later...

I go to the leasing office in person, explain AGAIN the alarm is STILL going off. Lady says ok, she'll call the manager, see what they want to do. I suggest calling the fire department. she says no, not until she knows for sure.

I go back to my apartment, irritated and pissy because if there IS a fire next door, I'M at risk! I see another resident standing there. I ask her if she can hear the alarm, too. She says she lives in the unit behind my neighbor, and there's smoke pouring into her kitchen.

I curse, grab my cell, call the fire department, and tear off for the leasing office, while asking the lady to knock on the doors to the other two units and tell those people to get out. the leasing office lady is casually walking towards the unit at this point, on her cell phone, and I explain the situation again, adding that there is smoke! She repeats this into the phone and I'm assuming the other person on the line is the manager.

I go back to my apartment, run inside and grab the fire extinguisher. Leasing office lady is unlocking the door when I get out and pushing it open! I yank her into my doorway as the door swings open and ask if she's a fucking moron naturally, or does she work at it? She glares at me, until I point out if there WAS a fire, she'd've been roasted in the backdraft because she's a flaming imbecile! I only point out right now that she was black because she paled so quickly I was startled and wondering if I needed to catch her. I've never seen anyone of African American descent go THAT pale and ashen.

I hear the sirens by that point, and go out to flag down the FD, and point them in the right direction, explaining what happened. Then, after they got the all clear, got to watch the guy in charge rip the leasing office lady a new one, both for ignoring my calls, and trying to open the door like a moron. It was funny.

Turns out there was debris in the venting hood above the stove where the fan is. Neighbor lady had left the fan on for some reason, and the debris had drifted into the wiring and smoldered, then sparked. They had to shut power off to the whole building and get an emergency inspection done before they could put it back on. Ugh

What an asshat, on all counts, really. And there I am, holding my fire extinguisher and phone, and being talked to like I'm the one in charge, while the leasing office lady gets yelled at. I think she was let go, as I didn't realy see her around after that.