Monday, January 19, 2009


One thing that scares the shit out of me is the idea of my house burning down.

Unfortunately that came true for a friend of mine today.

Got up, feeling a bit like hell (migraine, and another cold starting NOOOOOOOOOOO) and essentially considering going to work for a bit and coming home. In the morning after I take the 4 leggeds out, I usually look at the local news online, and did so, seeing that there was a huge apartment fire in the town next to me.

I'm looking at the address and thinking "geez that's familiar". And then I realize it's my friend M's apartment building.

So I call her cell, she doesn't answer. Then immediately calls me back, yes it was her building and yes, for now, she's homeless.

She got out with the clothes on her back, her computer, her purse, but because they have quite a few people pulling the alarm as a joke (or whatever reason someone would do that) she figured taking her hamster out into the cold wasn't a good idea. So, when she realized that it wasn't a false alarm she couldn't get back in the building to get her. I didn't know this at the time, so I of course asked how her hamster was...and she started to cry.

I told her I would take care of it for her.

So I went to work, got them to fix my VPN (so I can remotely get on the network), called my boss and told him my friend lost her home and I was going to try to get her pet so I was taking a vacation day, and started calling the police and fire departments to get info and get news there was a pet in the building (she's not supposed to have any, even small rodents - so I wanted to make sure they knew there was one inside). Police gave me a number that I called and I got the North fire department (for the northern part of the island of Montreal - again with the geography lesson) - it bounced there from the South, because it was a 5 alarm fire, they were all at the apartment building.

He was super helpful, called the commander of the fire, who said that they would go up and look, but someone needed to be on site. I had given my cell to the north fire department dude, but I had a feeling when he hadn't called me back that either he took it down wrong or I gave it to him wrong, called him back and sure enough....

The police didn't want to let me near the area, until I explained that I was going to collect an animal from the fire, had been in contact with the fire department, let me park illegally within the perimeter and off I went on foot (quite a hike I had today).

The North shore fireman had said to look for the site commander, or PC as they call him, so I got to speak to a whole whack of tired firemen, who directed me to the two guys in the white helmets. I explained, could see M's apartment, pointed to it (her part of the building only had slight fire damage, but the smoke and the water and broken out windows because the roof had been on fire and they had to, poor hammie would have died), so he sent some guys in to look, got a transmission back and another 2 firefighters took me up to her apartment.

We get there and I hear "we have her but she's biting us, what do we do?"

I get ushered to the door of the apartment, to see 3 big firemen kneeling down with grins on their faces trying to get this hamster out of her cage, to which I tell them "just give me the whole thing and that'll make it easier?".

They were thrilled that they saved something (a cat died in the bad part of the building, and unbeknownst to them, the man in the apartment that had exploded around 1:30 in the morning causing the fire) and asked what her name was (the hamster, not my friend) and off I went down the ice covered stairs back outside and to get the poor little confused thing to my place and change all her bedding/food/water etc before it killed her.

I called my friend and she started bawling. Been up all night and the stress of the situation....

My friend S and I went up to see her, S gave her a couple hundred dollars to go get some clothes etc that she needs. She was happy to hear her car was probably alright (there's a third part to the building that was unaffected and she parks near that), and I think personally that 80-90% of her stuff in her apartment will be ok after the insurance does their thing cleaning it. Water & smoke damage for the most part, but she's a caterer on the side from her real job, and has alot of expensive cooking implements, all that stuff from what I saw will be just fine, probably most of her furniture also.

She just won't have a home for quite a while. Time to find a new apartment.

So happy she's ok. And so happy I was able to be the pitt bull I tend to be and get her beloved pet for her (it's her first pet ever and she was having guilt because she left her behind). She went and got her car, unfortunately the windshield is broken, but the police on site wrote up a report saying it was due to the fire, so she won't have any problems with insurance.

I have to say, between the police and the fire department, we have some great guys in Montreal, I don't care what anyone says, they were ALL helpful, and all very kind, even when I told them that it was a hamster (I expected they wouldn't make any effort).

I was standing with wet feet for a while (feet of water everywhere and me in my little pull on running shoe boots), I smell like a fire still (can't use the tub until all the hamster cage is finished soaking), and I think inhaling it while in the building made me a bit ill....but she's happy and I hear the hamster in the cage, she is doing JUST fine, and that makes me happy.

And yeah. That's a photo of the fire itself. Scary shit. This time I stole it from CBC :)


Technodoll said...


You're my hero of the year, babe. And probably not just for me, from the sounds of it...

I feel horrible for your friend, what a terrible nightmare - I hope she'll be ok psychologically, now that she's alright physically.

What a lucky, lucky hamster - 8 more lives, eh?

Where will your friend be staying for the next while, until she finds another place to live? Is she OK on that front?

myself said...

Yeah what a nightmare is right, but my review of what her apartment looked like and that I think alot is salvageable made her feel better, getting her car made her feel a whole lot better, and knowing that little Miss is with me at the moment is even better, she thought for sure she was dead, either from smoke or the cold (she had been surrounded with water on the floor of the apartment).

She's staying with her parents, they're in town and no problem there. Tomorrow it seems they'll be letting people into the building to collect items/insurance people etc. May run out at lunch to help collect a box of stuff, it's close to work.

I'm just glad she's ok and that I could help. Everyone said I was the right person for the job, which is why I did it :D

Surfergrrl said...

wow that is something. you did a great job!!! you're a great friend. I'm sorry your friend lost a lot of her stuff. Even though she is safe, I would have a hard time with losing stuff in a fire as well.

myself said...

yeah when i was in the apartment the firemen asked me to call her and see if she needed meds or her ID whatever from the apartment, and she started to list things off I wasn't allowed to take with me (although they did go get the power cord for her laptop for me). the rest she has to deal with tomorrow with the Red Cross/fire department/cops & insurance.

The Red Cross were super too....she said they took good care of everyone when the fire happened.

prin said...

Crazy! What a lucky hammie. :)

myself said...

Yeah she's a lucky hammie, pissed off with me big time "ummmm, you're not my TOTALLY smell wrong, however I will still take the dried fruit you are offering me...", and she's going back to mom tonight or tomorrow night!