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What a scary experience.

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

It was a normal night. I went through my nightly routine, and slept around the same time I always did.

Then, I woke up some time later to a lot of noise outside. This wasn't unusual. I lived in a big city after all. Walls and windows are thin as hell. Sirens went off on the streets and was audible in the middle of the night often. They would usually pass through and fade off into the distance. Except this time, it didn't.

The sirens were extremely close by the time I registered what was happening. I had a habit of wearing earplugs to sleep every once in awhile and that night was one of them. The sounds were quite muffled because of that, but even with earplugs on, I knew this was closer than usual.

I tried to look out the window to see if it was a building nearby. I pulled the curtains out and saw flashing red lights. Maybe the building across the street? I couldn't tell at that point.

So I finally pulled out my earplugs and went into the hallway of my apartment. It was then that I heard some voices outside. Like I said, thin walls. You could hear things off the streets a lot. At this point, I still thought it was a neighbouring building that was in trouble. So I wanted to open the door to see. I was awake anyway. Might as well see what all the commotion was.

So I opened the door.

I was greeted with smoke and firefighters all chaotic ally pulling hoses and shouting.

That was when I realized this was much closer to home then I'd like. I caught the attention of a firefighter that was closest to my door. It seemed like he was trying to evacuate the people. He saw me and immediately told me to go outside in Japanese. There was a fire in my building.

In my sleepy stupor, I was slow to react. But when it all clicked that danger was either just below my feet or above my head, panic set in almost immediately. I asked in Japanese where the fire was. Well, not quite in so many words. I literally just asked if "it was above".

The firefighter told me it was one floor below, a unit not under mine. Then he repeated for me to get my ID and go outside.

I simply said okay, and closed the door again. I felt relieved the fire wasn't directly under me. At least my things have a better chance of surviving before it spread too far. Though at that point I had no idea how big the fire was. All the smoke I saw didn't make it all look promising. But the positive thought of not having the fire directly below me helped me feel less panicked, as I quickly grabbed my wallet, a bag and my passport. Then headed outside.

I didn't think to change or wear a jacket. I was still in my light pajamas, and this was a late autumn night. I would slowly regret my decision as the night progressed...

When I got out of the building, the firefighters had already cocked up a temporary booth/station. For checking in and for firefighters to report to, I suppose. I was guided to the booth and told them my apartment number, and how many people lived in their for accountability. After that, the firefighters told me to find a place a safe distance away from my apartment complex and wait.

It was at this point where I finally saw the fire that had been brewing in question. Luckily there wasn't much of a fire at this point. Just a lot of smoke and soot. It looked like it had been under control.

Firefighters were still trying to evacuate the building and making sure everyone they evacuated was accounted for. Interestingly enough, not everyone in the building was evacuate. The people in the top floors were not evacuated at all. The sirens and fire alarm was still on, blaring through the night.

And this continued on for another hour. At some point during the night, I got quite cold, so I headed towards a nearby convenience store to warm up a little.

Thank goodness for convenience stores.

We were finally let back into the building. I took one last look at the fire, or where I thought it started. The unit that had caught on fire was totally pitch black. Clear sign that the flame had engulfed the unit whole.

And it was lucky that the fire was caught early and only contained in one unit. I later heard it was thanks to a neighbour unit with her windows open, catching all the smoke from the fire next door that alerted her to call the fire department and essentially saving everyone in the building from the worst.

But unlucky for the person in the unit where the fire started, it didn't seem he made it.

Before we ended the late night, police rang each of our doorbell to ask about the person living in the unit. I heard my asshole neighbour's doorbell ring, and the police eventually reached my unit too. They asked me if I knew the person living there (I didn't), and if I had heard anything unusual from that unit (again, I didn't). After that, I was thanked for cooperating and that... Was that.

I had made it out of a scary experience alive.

Least to say I barely got much sleep after that. The morning when I got up to go to work, there were still police officers at the lobby of my building.

I asked the officer what came of the person in the unit, but they were obviously pretty vague about it (doesn't mean I couldn't try).

As of now, the unit is still empty.

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