TODAY -

E-Pao! Incidents - Andy - Flat on Fire

FLAT ON FIRE

I had a chance to see the US fire fighters live in action. Believe me, there is nothing that you are missing if you have not seen one especially if it's your building which is on fire. The flat below the one I was staying caught fire causing all inhabitants of the nearby flats, including my 2 flat-mates and me, to evacuate the building.
It was one suspense ridden tensing hour.

I have seen some fire in Imphal and have some vivid memories of the experience. The worst fire I saw was the one that happened to the erstwhile Hotel Prince near alu-galli. I ran there along with several others and saw the fire and black fumes coming out of the windows of the building - the same smoke I had seen from my home. I also saw how the Manipur Firefighters fought the fire along with so many other common people helping them with buckets of water.

This was a difference I noticed. During the fire that I experienced in Maryland USA, I saw no commoners helping out - that includes me again. It maybe partly be because the firefighters didn't allow anybody to come close. They had come fully prepared for any such crisis armed with all sorts of tools and covered with a big yellow fire-retardant suit making it look as if we are seeing them off on their trip to the Moon.

I learnt of the fire only when the fire alarm of the building was ringing loud triggered by the smokes. I opened the doors to see what could be wrong and a huge plume of black smoke rushed inside the flat. Immediately I closed the door and called out to my friends (flatmates) and ran out to the balcony to check out. People below were frantically waving out urging to come out fast and I could see the black smokes rising out of the balcony immediately below me. I thought, "shit! Gone now! Trapped". That "trapped" feeling was a pretty bad feeling.

One of my friends picked up the phone and punched 911. [He later tells me that was the first time he got to do that in his 3 years of stay in the US.] It was attended to immediately. When reported of the fire, the calm woman on the other side of the line assured that it has been reported just a minute ago and that help is already on the way.

I saw the other friend picking up a bag containing his documents and rushing out through the black smokes towards the stairs. I also picked up my executive bag, which has all my important documents and rushed out. I could not see a thing in the stairs as the black smoke has already encapsulated it. I held my breath and just kept rushing down. Thankfully our flat is on the 2nd floor and also I knew the stair quite like the proverbial back of my hand by this time. Once outside, I joined the friend who had rushed out earlier. Another tension gripped us as we realized our other friend is still inside. Not to worry! He too rushed out after a minute or so.

It was in the month of February 2001 and the East Coast was experiencing snowfalls. Luckily there was no snowfall that evening but it was too cold to be standing out only on pajamas. The first fire engine reached soon with a wail that could be heard from quite a distance. It was soon joined by other fire engines from the nearby counties.
Damn good network!
All the neighboring counties had sent their fire trucks in such short notices and the response time after the fire was reported till the first truck arriving was also quite fast especially for people like me who is born and brought up in the land of IST (Indian Stretchable Time).

This was another difference I experienced - fast response to emergencies.

All this while I was remembering the movie called "Backdraft" I had watched a long time back during my college days. They stopped the fire from getting passed on to the other flats. Thus ended an eventful day in the life of a US Fireman and an even more eventful day for a small town boy like me.

By: Marc


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