inferno.

Yesterday there was a huge fire in Oregon Hill.  I’m so used to sirens that I don’t really hear them anymore, even when they’re close.  I was cleaning the kitchen floor and I kept hearing people on the street saying things like “Oh my God,” so eventually I went out there and scanned the sky for smoke.  It was awful.  All the neighbors were outside, hanging out on the sidewalk next to the parking lot that separates our houses and the ones ablaze.  I had to go back inside after a few minutes because the smoke was killing my eyes.

I was told that a couch on the front porch of 712 Albemarle caught fire, and 911 was immediately called.  But within 5 minutes, all three houses were toast.  By the time I came outside, firefighters were storming into the house, busting out windows, etc.  My friend Bonnie who works at SynerGeo and was evacuated from their building (their garage is the one with the mural), was nice enough to send me the picture you see above, which was taken as the fire started to gain momentum.  Most of my pictures aren’t so great because the police had blocked off the street by the time I got outside.

The only casualty was one dog who didn’t make it out.  And of course everyone’s pictures, clothes, keepsakes, instruments…everything that makes a house a home.

All I kept thinking about was the scenario, what do you grab if you only have 30 seconds to get out of the house? It’s so humbling to think about how much value we place on our material things, which can disappear at any moment.  I  know I place way too much importance on them, on top of being (1) a packrat and (2) extremely sentimental.  You know how I’ve been urging everyone to scan in their old pics and post them to Flickr?  Guys, this is why.

A lot of people are wondering how to help out those who have been displaced.  According to a comment left on Oregonhill.net, you can drop off donations for them at Mojo’s:

Mojos (corner of laurel and cary) is a drop of spot for anything anyone wants to help with. Clothes (will update shortly with sizes), blankets, books, movies anything that can help is appreciated.

There will be a benefit show at mojos saturday evening where donations will be excepted

I’m planning on dropping off some stuff later today.

It breaks my heart to see 1880s-era houses destroyed like this.  We are very, very lucky this fire didn’t spread to all of our other matchstick houses in the Hill.  Sometimes it feels like there are tons of forces, including fire, that are out to swallow it up.  My neighborhood is like a precious object that is very, very flammable and fragile, and which I enjoy daily with some degree of joy, protectiveness, fear and trembling.

[Edit 3.12.09] Some local churches are getting together to give the displaced people credit cards!   So if you have only cash to donate, direct it here:

I know there are a couple of fund raisers going on for the folks displaced by the fire.  I wanted to let the community know that Pine Street Baptist Church, the Oregon Hill Baptist Center, and St. Andrews Episcopal Church will be giving VISA cards for each person affected by the fire.  The churches will be using their emergency funds.  Some people have brought monetary gifts to the church to be included with the VISA cards.  If you would like to donate to the cards, then please stop by the church on Thursday.  We would like to give the cards before the weekend.  Call me at church if you have any questions.  644-0339

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