Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Friday Early Morning Fire Fright and Other Choleric Discontents

Updated 6:45PM 8/12/2012: I altered this blog entry title (though the URL will stay the same) to change "Night" to "Early Morning" since that is, more properly speaking, when the Friday arson-related fire occurred.

A showery downpour at dusk moves across the city as seen from my 5th floor apartment window, Washington, D.C., 8:14PM, Aug. 11, 2012.

I'm just glad to have an intact window and building from which to see this summer shower -- see below for explanation.


I need to update this blog to discuss some noteworthy topics, most notably the arson attack in my building in the wee hours of Friday morning. In the end, the fire was quickly put out but it was briefly a very scary and disruptive.

Here is what happened ...

On Friday, August 10, 2012 in the wee hours of the morning between 3AM and 315AM, an as-yet-unknown person doused the door of apartment 315 in my building, the Hampton Court(s)* in some sort of kerosene or flammable substance and set it on fire. A roaring fire erupted.

*The building is called the Hampton Court but sometimes it is referred to in the plural, even in documents by the property management company. It also says "Hampton Courts" on the lettering outside the building. I suspect that was its original name.

Front image of the Hampton Court as seen from New Hampshire Avenue. This is on the William C. Smith webpage for it. This image is relatively new since I can see my little air conditioner in it on the 5th floor.


My building has a sort of block "C" shape to it (sort of like an old horseshoe magnet). I live on the fifth floor on the opposite side of the *15 and *16 "stack." I live on the side that fronts onto New Hampshire Avenue.

Fire engines respond to the fire at the Hampton Court, Washington, D.C., 3:58AM, Aug. 10, 2012.

At first, I didn't hear the alarm because I sleep with a box fan and a window a/c humming away. By the time I realized the alarm was going off and I got up and dressed and out, it must've been about 320AM. By that point, about 7 firetrucks had pulled up to the building along with ambulances and even gurneys at the ready. That's when I knew it was serious.

More of the armada of fire engines that responded quickly and effectively to the arson fire in the Hampton Court, Washington, D.C., 3:59AM, Aug. 10, 2012.

In my groggy state -- already running a sleep deficit from the previous few nights -- I put some underwear, t-shirts, and socks into my green duffle bag along with my cellphone charger, checkbook and, yes, Flippo. (I didn't take the others -- I hope they aren't mad at me.)



In the hallway, I saw one stairwell choked in smoke, so I rushed to the second stairwell. It too was choked in smoke -- it was at this point that I felt real panic. I ran back to my apartment, trying to find my keys to open the door. But suddenly a fireman appeared, savior-like and reassuring, and he told me what had happened and that the fire was already out. He said it was just a matter of waiting for the smoke to clear using the industrial-strength fans being set up. He told me to put a wet towel on the floor by my door.

The Hampton Court, my apartment building, as seen from New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 8:05PM, Aug. 11, 2012.

I returned to my apartment, and even with the fireman's reassurance, I was wildly pacing and looking outside. I tried to call Kristof and texted him. I also called my mother. No one answered their phones. I also pondered whether I could jump out the window -- wrapped in a bunch of quilts -- into the top boughs of a small-to-medium sized magnolia tree that grows directly underneath my bathroom window, ending about 18 feet below it.

Here is a close up of the picture directly above (yes, I know it's blurry).

My apartment windows are in the yellow rectangular box. My window a/c and lamp are visible in the light orange circle. The magnolia tree in question is circled in light green. The roughly drawn light green arrow shows the distance / drop in question.


The fact that the main hook-and-ladder fire truck with the giant extendable ladder - one of the two stationed at the nearby fire house on U Street -- was not being used to evacuate the upper floors suggested the firefighters had things under control. Its ladder can probably reach the 8th (top) floor. This is one of the good things about the D.C. building height restriction. As for me, I would never live higher than the 6th floor.

After about 20 minutes, the smoke was clearing and -- when the alarm briefly stopped -- I went down to the second floor where there were about 10 firefighters and the building manager. Industrial strength fans had been set up and were roaring away to remove the smoke.

I made it outside by about 350AM and there were maybe 30 people milling around on the sidewalk including one lady in a bathrobe and slippers. It was 4AM. It turned out that the second, third, and fourth floors were evacuated while the others were not. While outside I texted about 8 or 9 friends and co-workers.

The fire hydrant outside the building was connected to a hose and overflowing water into the curb.

This is not the fire hydrant. I just found this image online. The fire hydrant outside my building is a sort of dark green color.

At this point, I saw a news crew there (WRC - NBC 4, I think). My neighbor (right next to me) was being interviewed and I stood next to the camera and basically volunteered to be interviewed as well. That was not a good idea since I don't belong NEAR a TV camera.

I don't know if the interview was ever aired -- I didn't look for it on TV as I figured I was just gibbering into the dazzling bright camera lights and looking and sounding like a zombie -- but my boss e-mailed me the next day to say she saw me on TV and asked if I was OK. I'm not sure if she just saw me outside the building with the others or actually interviewed.

The fire was mentioned in the The Washington Post's online "The Crime Scene" blog and also on channel 9 WUSA and channel 7 WJLA and/or channel 8 local news (I can't find the link for that one).

By this point, everything was winding down. The firemen were quite clear it was an arson attack on apt. 315. Before heading to my apartment, I went to the third floor and peeked down the corridor to apt. 315.

Though blurry, this shows the aftermath of the arson fire shortly after it was doused. The door of the apartment was totally gone. The interior of the apartment actually looked like it wasn't too badly damaged.

As you can see, it was quite a terrible sight to behold with the door completely gone and a powerful smell of smoke and possibly kerosene. There were wires, soot, and water in the hallway (although the power never went out). And the realization of how much worse it would have been and what the arsonist intended.

There were firemen investigators inside and police cruisers soon arrived. It was at that point a crime scene. No one in the building was badly injured -- just some smoke inhalation.

I got back to my apartment by 420AM but could not fall asleep. I didn't get to sleep until about 6AM or so and had an uncomfortable, restless 3 hours or so in bed. I didn't get into work until very nearly 1230PM and I felt dreadful most of the day with a headache and tired.

Nevertheless, I still went out last night -- to the upstairs bar of Stoney's, where I met Gary, because Howie was bartending. I finally got a full night's sleep last night, but I have had a headache and felt lousy much of the day. I actually think I may have developed a sinus infection or head cold.

So that's what happened on Friday.


The Airy View, 2415 20th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:00PM, Aug. 10, 2012. I walked past this place on Friday evening heading home from the Woodley Cafe. It looks serene yet a bit mysterious, like a 1970s supernatural / thriller movie could be set there.


As for today, I cleaned the apartment (no, there was no smoke damage or anything like that) and threw out a bunch of papers and some books I no longer wanted and that were just collecting massive amounts of dust.

This evening, I went with Wendy to Mr. Smith's in Georgetown for dinner (after going to the Rivers at the Watergate, except the place was empty and the kitchen closed and the piano guy was not there). We took a cab to Georgetown. We then walked back into Dupont to Larry's Lounge after dinner, where we met Gary. I'm home now at this late now, nearing 3AM, watching reruns of The Golden Girls on Hallmark.

Updated at posting time: Actually, by the time I posted this entry at 6AM (!), I was watching an old movie from 1945 on Antenna TV called The Adventures of Rusty. Apparently, the dog is Ace the Wonder Dog and the child actor, Ted Donaldson, is still alive at age 78.

We had some very needed rainfall the past two days but are still running a sizable deficit. It also continues to be horrendously humid. Officially for Aug. 10th and 11th, National Airport (KDCA) had 0.69" of rainfall while BWI Airport (KBWI) had 1.00" exactly (including 0.71" earlier tonight -- my mom in Millersville texted me to say it was pouring) and Dulles Airport (KIAD) had 0.81".

A map showing significant weather events in the U.S. in July 2012. Click on image for larger version.

Speaking of weather and climate / climate change, July 2012 was the hottest July and hottest month of ANY month on record across the Lower 48, surpassing even July 1936 at the height of the Dust Bowl. The average temp. was 77.6F or +3.3F above the 20th Century average and +0.2F above the 77.4F set in July 1936, which was the previous all-time warmest July and month overall in the U.S.

The Teabaggers, the "bribed tools of reactionary intrigue" of the Koch Brothers / corporate oligarchical overclass, are still yowling about "global cooling" -- especially in Oklahoma despite all that searing 112F heat and drought.

Speaking of things poltitical, I should note that Mitt "Gordon Gekko" Romney's selection of Eddie Munster as his running mate and the foaming at the mouth glee by the Teabaggers and Fox News rabid animals and zombies, although I don't particularly see it as -- in vapid media whore-speak --  a "game-changer" or anything like that.

Paul Krugman's take on Paul Ryan is quite good. In short, Ryan is a complete, total, and utter fraud of the nth degree and naturally will fit right in with the R-money / GOP campaign. I also recommend his blog posting on the "Culture of Fraud" around the Romney campaign, specifically, the Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor economic whitepaper.

Despite -- or maybe because of -- that the Beltway pundit media-whores / imperial court scribes including The WaHoPo and the nihilistic POLITICO political reporter types, not to mention Wolf the Vapid Whore on CNN, are in a frenzy.

Obama's poll numbers vis-a-vis Romney have risen somewhat in the past few weeks, but I'm drawing no conclusions on this.

Showery evening looking into the leafy greenery of Meridian Hill Park as seen from 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 7:35PM, Aug. 11, 2012. I was heading to the Harris - Teeter grocery store on Kalorama Road.


OK, that's all for now. At this point, I'm not sure I will ever be posting that entry about my Florida fiasco trip with all the pictures I took.

My next planned update will be late Tuesday or Wednesday.



Anonymous said...

I created a Facebook for the building.

Please spread the work, and join if you are on FB.

Regulus said...

Thank you for the invite, mstebbins6, but I am not on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

okay - thanks for the blog post and pics!