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FCW Insider: Fire, fire everywhere

With all the important news going on -- and I will get to Davis's departure at some point -- my Wednesday was filled with my a personal distraction: A fire in my house. Yes, a real fire -- a fire big enough to call a dozen or so fire trucks, a fire severe enough to all but destroy the top level of my row house in Northwest DC and cause severe damage throughout the rest of the building, including my neighbor's house. So I'm a still a tad bit in shock, so I hope you'll allow me a few moments of personal privilege.

I started my journalism career up in New Hampshire working for Foster's Daily Democrat, a newspaper in southern New Hampshire that is still owned by the Foster family. The paper's motto was that if it happened, it was in Foster's. So I spent my early days covering many car accidents (we called them 'fatals,' meaning it was a wreck that resulted in a death, which meant that it rose to the level that we needed to know about it) and... well, fires. I always remember the looks on families faces as they watched the flames whip their houses. Unfortunately today, I can sympathize.

I had stopped at my house after being at up at Federal News Radio to record Mark Amtower's weekly radio show. We have been undergoing a fairly significant renovation so I wanted to do a status check. We had our weekly news meeting to discuss what would fill the front three pages of the Feb. 4 issue of the magazine. I wanted to call in to that session from the house. I was in the front of the house. Suddenly, the contractors crew started scurrying up and down the stairs in the house yelling, 'Water, water.' I, frankly, was on the phone, so I mostly ignored them. But it got worse -- and then I looked outside and, in the shadow, I could see billowing smoke. As I went out, I could smell the smoke -- it was coming from inside the house -- and the workers were trying to bring a garden hose up the hall. I now understand that they were trying to put out a fire.

Just as I walked into the hall, the glass in the skylight over the hallway heated to a point that it shattered, sprinkling glass down the three hall stairway. I then heard the fire trucks and immediately instructed the workers to get out of the house because I could tell this was more then we were going to be able to handle.

Even still, it was a surreal experience to watch flames whip through my house and my neighbors. I would walk around to people trying to find out what was going on... what had happened... was the fire contained... and I called loved ones and friends to let them know what was going on.

We just got to my in-laws house, where we are staying until we can figure stuff out. They have been amazingly helpful. I'd also like to publicly thank the DC fire and police departments. As you know, I am a big believer in civil servants, and DC public servants are much maligned. I have had a lot of experience with them of late -- jury duty, and now this -- and I have to say that I am very impressed. Firefighters arrived quickly -- frankly, before I knew what was going on -- and were exceedingly professional and efficient. The police were courteous and carried out their duties. Both firefighters and police were honors to their professions. I am relieved that there was nobody injured. It allows me to sleep better tonight.

I have also received a number of calls from family and friends offering to help out. I can't thank you enough -- and, unfortunately, I don't know how one would help right now. There is a lot of damage, unfortunately. We were in the final phase of our renovations and we will largely have to start over. And I will be away from my house for some time.

Over all -- and I know it sounds trite -- but this does readjust your perspective. We tend to worry about stuff -- sometimes, or often, it is foolish stuff. In the end, it isn't the stuff that what matters. And, relating it to government work, I again recollect how much honor and respect I have for people who are so focused on the mission of protecting and of serving others.

That being said, I hope you'll give me a blogging day off tomorrow as I try to assess. I will post photos on my Facebook page when I get my computer up and working. (Yes, I was able to salvage my computer, thank goodness.) I have posted to some neighborhood lists to see if anybody has photos of the actual fire. My camera was in the house at the time and I wasn't quite brave enough to run in to get it. I do have aftermath photos -- and I'll have more on Thursday -- and I'll post those and links as soon as I can.

Finally, thanks for letting me go off-topic. 

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jan 30, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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