Fire on Elsie Avenue Last Night; We Got Out Alive

Fire on Elsie Ave last night. I was there.

My little Jack Russell wouldn't stop barking this morning around 1 a.m. He hears people walk by sometimes and we had gone to bed late so we didn't pay too much attention to it. 

I can't hear so well these days anyway, but my wife thought she heard some sort of crackling noise and opened the hallway door to the living and dining room. "There's a fire, there's a fire" she screamed. (Related story: No Injuries in Fire on Elsie Avenue)

I assumed she meant down the street so I got up and walked to the hallway door but as I peered in to the dining room I saw that the side of the house was ablaze along with the three huge shrubs that border it.

For a fleeting moment it entered my head to rush out the back and get a hold of the garden hose or the extinguisher that was in the laundry room, but I could see that the blaze was advancing rapidly; this was serious. 

The dogs were beginning to panic and headed toward the back into the den.  But the back door was locked and even if we left it would be difficult to get out to the street. 

We called the dogs but they wouldn't come; they just stood at the back door.  The glass was beginning to melt or break out and the smoke was making it more difficult to breathe so we rushed back and grabbed the dogs and headed for the door.  My wife called 9-1-1 as we headed out.

The flames were reaching over the roof by now and as I looked at it I felt sure that our home was going to burn to the ground.  But the fire department arrived and managed to subdue the fire, it didn't burn the house to the ground, but our home is unlivable at this point, and we have yet to figure out exactly what we have lost.

This is the third time in my life I have had personal connections to firefighters in the course of their work.  Once was when a tanker truck turned over and I was on the trouble truck working the midnight shift for my employer, the East Bay Municipal Utility District.  The firefighters were dousing this ticking time bomb with foam and flame retardant. Before I left they were sending for a welder to cut into the thing. It was hard to believe but there are welders that can do that apparently.

I worked alongside them during the Oakland Hills fire that destroyed some 4,000 homes back in the early '90s, and firefighters died during that catastrophe. I worked alongside them on other occasions when vehicles hit fire hydrants or during emergencies. 

Imagine where we would be if such a service was left to market forces.  It is fashionable to attack firefighters and blame them for the economic crisis.  Right wing toadies often make remarks about them sitting around all day doing nothing etc. etc. These same people bootlick the likes of Rush Limbaugh and wasters like Donald Trump. 

But firefighters provide a great public service and when they go out they more often than not risk their lives for our safety.  As we ran out they came to run in.

After they subdued the fire they walked us through our burnt out home, showed us what had been done and advised us on what we should be doing in the immediate term. They didn't ask us what our price range was or what options we had, which plan would we like. They made sure they didn't leave until we had somewhere to go and felt totally comfortable with it.  They would stay with us if need be.

I never dreamed we would be victims of a house fire; it's a bit overwhelming.When I was still active in my Union, I wrote two letters that the membership passed to the firefighter locals in NYC whose members responded to the attacks on the Twin Towers; we also sent a donation. 

Next time you hear these toadies attack firefighters, come to their defense; they are dedicated workers that provide a crucial public service; like the USPS, they are very efficient if you don't judge efficiency by how much profit the coupon clippers make.

I am grateful to the San Leandro fire department for their help last night. A friend from London who sent me an email pointed out that firefighters over there are facing the same attacks under the guise of austerity in hard times and the need for "shared sacrifice". An attack on public sector workers like the attacks on all workers is an attack on our communities and our well being. They bailed out bankers at our expense — we don't need to cut services.

My neighbors also came out and stood with us as we watched this unpleasant event and, like the firefighters, you don't know how good neighbors really are until something like this happens.  The collective human spirit is a hard thing to suppress.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael Allen February 27, 2013 at 12:40 AM
It's easy to champion common sense, Sir, I lose no sleep over it. No housing market players or auto industry people should've been bailed out. They should've been able to fail- Bad deals, from horrible union contracts to stated income loans and forced lending by congressional order. It should've collapsed without "bailouts". You'd find those smart enough to avoid that crap would've picked up the markets after a hard-crash-correction, and life would've gone on. Not this lingering, painful recovery that only an idiot would prolong. The recovery takes place in 2-4 years instead of 8-10. It was simple vote-buying, Sir, with taxpayer dollars. Not rocket science. Voters traded self-respect and dignity for a handout. Glad I'm not among them. Speaking of unpopular terms- Socialism/communism can't be marketed to the masses at all. Yet a capitalist can hold their head high and say, "Yes, it's OK to hire my time as I see fit to help fulfill my desires. A family, an iPad, a bike, a car, a trip to Cabo..." Communism can't fulfill human desire because it requires that desire be destroyed. Just do as you're told. Toe the line. We don't have computers because of happy thoughts. We don't have indoor plumbing because it's free to build. We don't have thousands of MD's in the bay area because the pay sucks. You hire your time and trade it in the form of money for other people's time and energy. Again, not complicated.
Michael Allen February 27, 2013 at 12:46 AM
It was Bush's fault, Jessica. Duh.
George Evans February 27, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Richard, Yes it will take take time for the post fire depression to pass as well as the lingering smells of the smoke to pass. Like your fire, no lives were lost in the fire that my family endured. Seeing your story brought back memories of our fire and the photo(s) that were taken by the Daily Review of the back of our house and the story that they ran. As for me I actually read your story and posted my note while I am at work. Yes there is a difference between Murfreesboro, my new home, and San Leandro. As much as I loved growing up and living in San Leandro for some 41 years. Life and relocations due to job opportunities with my employer of 25 years now, have shown me that there are other nice places to live. One thing I don't miss from the Bay Area is the traffic and the commute, I live some 35+ miles from my job in Nashville and my commute is about 45 minutes one way. Of course working second shift originally when I came here and now third shift have somethings to do with that. There are two things that I had to get used to and they are that there are actually four seasons in the year as well as the white stuff called snow that does fall a few times a year. George Evans, Murfreesboro TN
Richard Mellor February 27, 2013 at 04:11 PM
I miss the seasons as we don't really have them and and I miss London or the English/Irish countryside when I go back there but after a while if I'm away too long I miss the proximity we have to nature here too, the hills, the ocean, Yosemite. But the world is a beautiful place, that's why the super rich have homes dotted all over the place.
Stephen Carbonaro June 26, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Richard, I am thankful you and yours got out OK. You must have heard I was going to be your neighbor. ;>) One interesting fact from the ALCOFD: there is ONE engine for every 11,000 citizens served. Who thinks that is sufficient?


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