Friday, March 11, 2011

The Fire Part II

So there we were, surrounded by art, breathing in oxygen and staring at our neighbor pouring bottled water into a bowl for her cat. It was all very surreal.

Our building (and our apartment) has no smoke detector and no sprinkler system which is the norm in Paris. Although people assure me that there is a law in place that will require them to be installed by 2015... as an American that is accustomed to seeing fire detectors everyone it is hard for me to imagine that this law wasn't already in place years ago. It's like stepping back in time to an era when people thought cigarettes weren't bad for you and that seat-belts were a nuisance.

Given how densely populated Paris is and the abundance of wood staircases you would think that fire alarms and fire escapes would be everywhere. But no, they are few and far between. That said even when they are installed they are not always headed. The one person in our building who did had a smoke detector in her apartment (her landlord is a fireman) got up when she heard the alarm sounding, pulled over a stool and took out the battery mumbling about what a pain this contraption is, assuming that someone was simply smoking in the hallway again. As she was trying to fall back asleep she heard the sirens of the firetruck and quickly hopped back out of bed and out the door to safety.

We swapped these sorts of stories in the gallery for the next few hours as we waited for the EMTs to check everyone out. One of the good things that came out of this whole affaire was being able to meet all of our lovely neighbors! We chatted as the policemen, firemen and EMTs got to work. It was a highly organized affaire, we were each given a bracelet full of stickers that had a barcode on it corresponding to our personal information, then each person that came by to examine us plucked a sticker off and stuck it to the top of the form they were filling out to save time and confusion. One of these examines required us to blow into a smoke inhalation detection device to see how our lungs had fared. Greg and I each blew low numbers to our relief. The highest number blown of the evening was not the person who spent the most time exposed to the smoke but our neighbor on the third floor, a woman in her 60's and a life long smoker who laughed and said well something has to kill me I suppose!

The firemen then scooped Greg, Coco and I up and piled us in to their truck with the other family that has a young child and took us to the children's hospital for further observation. They could see we were all doing well but wanted to be extra sure.... when it comes to children in France they leave no stone uncovered. Upon arrival at the hospital we were poked, prodded, x-rayed and monitored until the following morning. At 7am we were deemed healthy and set free.

With our health and our family intact we felt blessed. We also felt a slight breeze go up our legs as I had put on shoes without socks and Gregoire was in his pyjama pants. When we hopped out the window we didn't grab our wallets so the father of the other family in our building who came to pick them up loaned us cab fare. The taxi dropped us in front of the building which was still swarming with police and firemen. Gregoire was escorted upstairs to gather a few things (our iphones, our wallet and some socks... funny the things you really need in life) then we started walking across town to our new temporary home at my sister in law's place.

It's been over a month since the fire and now that the soot has settled and the crime scene tape has been removed we know that the fire was started by three silly young men who were doing lord knows what in the basement of our building. The troublemakers didn't make it far before the police nabbed them, they confessed to setting the fire right then and there but the following morning their charge was elevated to arson and involuntary homicide because the elderly woman who lives below us died from smoke inhalation. What a terrible terrible decision those three made that night.


Kristin said...

Good lord, I'm so glad everyone was ok! Arson, unbelievable! are you settled back in now?

Anonymous said...

What is the deal with the lack of fire safety? My boyfriend's apartment is on the 8th floor (no elevator, of course) and if the day ever came that something like this happened to him, his only option would be to jump out the window. Oh Paris.

Kimberly said...

It's unbelieveable that the young men didn not realise the consequences of their actions and the poor lady and her family. It could have been much worse. So glad to know your family is doing well..