Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin: Waking Up to a Fire Next Door
It’s still going on, as I write: big black smoke billowing out almost as thick as fog. The odor, as Richard Pryor used to say, is an oh-dear.
I was kind of half asleep, but I was concerned. Where was that burning coming from? My windows in my bathroom and in my room were open. Bleary-eyed, I put on my glasses and looked at all my electric cords, wondering whether something was wrong on my end. Nothing. I rolled over in bed.
But the smell of smoke was stronger than a mere electrical cord fizzout. Then came the announcement on the YWCA intercom that residents should close their windows, that there was a fire several doors down on Mifflin and Webster that was burning and smoking. So I got up and did that, and the smell abated somewhat. I thought about turning on the air conditioning to dispel some more of it, and then came another announcement, that the residents should evacuate because of the smell of smoke.
I was outside on Mifflin and Pinckney for about 10 minutes. Women and children and some men were on each corner, some still dressed in pajamas or nightgowns but with a sweater or robe thrown on; others in sweats and teeshirts and jeans drawn on in a hurry. Those with limited mobility were taking it easy and carefully downstairs. Some did not even bother to come down. Then the cops informed our night crew that it was alright to go back to our rooms.
Later, I went out to Walgreens to pick up a drink for a colonoscopy test that I’m taking tomorrow. (Ugh!) And then I ventured over to East Washington, which would be the rear of both the Y and the Capitol Hill Apartments, which was the source of the fire. It was a veritable cop convention there, along with firemen, and a Metro bus commandeered for the moment. I wondered about the residents and how they were faring. There were 24 apartments in that building.
It was the roof that caught.
I had visited the Capitol Hill Apartments at least once. Someone was selling me an Apple computer, which is still in storage. There were hardwood floors, nice windows; it was just interesting. Never got to see what the kitchen was like, though. I thought that it would be a nice place to settle when I got a job and could have my own apartment again.
Not any more. There’s a rumor that it will take more than a while to quell this fire; that it seemed to be growing stronger, possibly finding other avenues and sources to burn. It’s close to 9 a.m. now, and they’ve been fighting this fire since about five this morning. And of course, the smell of burning is going to hang tough in our rooms and the neighborhood for some time. We’ve just been advised that if the smoke is too overwhelming, that the eleventh floor is available to residents until the smoke becomes bearable or when the fire is under control.
Naturally, people trying to drive downtown to work are fresh out of luck. The 100 block of East Washington is closed. The 100 block of Mifflin Street is also closed. Webster Street is closed. Be patient.