Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Fire Part I

Just when I thought I might be running low on new and interesting Parisian experiences, the universe delivered us a doozy.

Two weeks ago our apartment building caught on fire!

It's was 2am and I was up feeding Colette. Laying in bed we heard our neighbor making noise through the incredibly thin wall that separates our bedroom from his living room. He often makes noise around this time as the bars close at 2am and he is young, silly and unemployed so hearing him shout and stumble around on a Tuesday at 2am was par for the course. But that night we detected a hint of panic in his voice and heard him shouting about a fire... at that point we assumed he drunkenly burnt his toast and maybe accidentally caught his sleeve on fire so Greg pulled on his pants to go next-door to see if he could be of help.

As Gregoire entered the living room he saw smoke streaming into our apartment through the gap between the front door and the floor...which is fairly large given our building is slowly sliding down hill.  He touched the door and it was hot so he hurried back to the bedroom and informed us that it was more than toast that was on fire!

I got dressed, grabbed some blankets for Coco and we all hunkered down in front of the window in our bedroom. We shut the door and stuffed clothes around it to minimize the smoke filtering in. We looked out of our window and saw that the police had arrived and a sizable crowd had gathered out front looking up at our building and looking worried. The neighbors across the street, who stare into our apartment all day, saw us and went flying outside to tell everyone that there was a bébé on the first floor and that they needed to get us down toute de suite!

I was worried, to say the least, but never truly frightened because we knew that people knew we were there and we could see that they were all trying to formulate a plan to get us to safety as soon as they possibly could. In the meantime Grégoire was working on a plan of his own, McGiver style, he began wrapping Coco in the carrying scarf and between clouds of smoke he opened the window and attempted to lower her down to safety. Our window isn't that far up so the plan was feasible, but even so, I wasn't a big fan of the idea. That particular point in time, however, it didn't seem like a very appropriate time to have a debate with my husband so I let it play out. As soon as he dangled Colette out the window à la Michael Jackson the crowd shouted back, "Non! Monsieur! Non!" as I am fairly certain they thought he was going to toss our little pumpkin out the window and simply hope someone caught her.

Greg then abandoned the idea, so we closed the window and sat there face to face hoping that the firemen would hurry. From the time we woke up to the time we saw top of the ladder at our window about 20 minutes had gone by and we were ready to get out of there. The firetruck either couldn't get down our narrow street or couldn't get it's ladder to work... the newspapers are still debating this... so it turns out that the ladder that saved us was a humble gardening ladder that a neighbor dug out of their shed. The guy that lives on our same floor simply jumped out the window to the sidewalk below, that was our previous plan of escape but jumping with a baby in your arms simply isn't possible and we hadn't revisited our emergency escape plan since her arrival. The rest of the building had to wait even longer to get out! The firemen eventually brought in some sort of giant fan that blew out the smoke from the one and only (wooden) stairway so the the residents could walk down to safety.

Then the incredibly organized team of fireman, medics and policemen took over. The owner of the art gallery across the street opened his doors and the residents were brought there one by one as they were evacuated from the building. So there were sat, on a blanket, with Coco giggling and trying to chew on the oxygen mask we were holding to her face while staring at a fascinating collection of modern art. A tiny dog was yapping in the corner, the old woman who lives below us was stroking her cat and the grande dame from the third floor walked in looking amazing in her fur coat...  And I thought... how French.

To be continued.


Jamie Vegan said...

WOW. I don't know how you kept your calm. I would've been uncontrollably, freaking out!

Kudos haha

Jamie Vegan said...

oh! also!
I am actually moving to Paris (well, technically Gennevilliers) in 29 days.

I think we should have lunch!

Madame Bouron said...

Exciting! Email me when you arrive Jamie! eatinginparis (at) gmail (dot) com

Michele said...

This is making me seriously rethinking my plan :) Glad you're all okay!

Kristin said...

Part deux s'il vous plait??!

Kimberly T. said...

Well I am glad you all made it out safely. I just found your blog today and started reading. I find them very interesting. I hope you keep posting. What may seem every day and mundane to you is interesting for us who do not live there. Thanks for sharinf your life.