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FCW Insider: Ah, nothing like getting your priorities in perspective

FCW Insider: Ah, nothing like something to get your priorities in perspective

As I mentioned, I have been away from work -- on and off -- for just about a week now dealing with a significant fire at my house last week. (D.C.'s NBC 4 reported a story on my house fire and a slide show of the fire from the outside. Frankly, the outside photos don't look all that bad, but the inside is a disaster. My brother-in-law came over this weekend and took some photos of the inside, which you can view on my Facebook page. His photos are much better then the ones I've been taking with my iPhone. I had to get a new computer and get it up and running before I could get my iPhone photos uploaded, but I have posted a bunch of them here…and, finally, I have posted all sorts of links about the fire on my delicious site, which can be found here.)

2710 fire.. the upstairs bedroom

Just a few thoughts and then I'll move on and get back to why you actually visit this blog.

* Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have received scores of thoughtful and kind e-mail messages from many people in this community…Lurita Doan…IBM's Anne Altman…people from the Hill…some OMB people… .Just more people then you can possibly imagine. I haven't been able to get back to everyone, but it is a huge help to know people are thinking of you. I'm a big believer in positive thoughts, so… thanks.

* What we know so far:  We don't know what the cause of the fire is yet. There was some initial discussion that it could have been one of those compact fluorescent light bulbs, which spurred by sister and sister-in-law to go running through their house removing all of them. But worry not, Green People, you can save the Earth by changing all your bulbs. (More on CFLs at http://del.icio.us/cdorobek/cfl .) So what did cause the fire? Well, they are investigating. There are many great things about living in a 100-plus-year-old house. A not great thing: Some of the wiring is also old. Yes, we were doing renovations, but there is no indication that the fire was related to that. Interestingly enough, it seems that insurance companies care more about the cause of a fire then the fire department does. (Arson is an obvious exception.) So wiring is their initial guess, but we'll know more later, we hope.

* D.C. fire hydrants: One horrible part of all of this is that the fire hydrant closest to my house didn't have enough water pressure. So firefighters had to go down blocks away to find a hydrant that worked properly. And this is an ongoing problem in the District. There have been two major fires -- one in Georgetown and the other at an apartment building in Adams Morgan -- where hydrants didn't work. (A wonderful Web 2.0 mash-up -- this site shows how far the D.C. Fire Department had to go from the Adams Morgan fire to get to a working fire hydrant.) Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has called for hearings, and I'm going to make this something of a campaign. It is only a matter of time before somebody dies because of problems with hydrants and it needs to be assessed and fixed. (Various links about D.C.'s hydrant problems can be found at del.icio.us/cdorobek/dchydrants.)

* How bad was the fire? Again, it is still being determined, but we won't be living there for a very long time. The best guess -- and, with all due respect to contractors, we know that a 'best guess' is really a contradiction in terms -- but the best guess is that it will be anywhere from 9- to 14-months. So I have spent a good deal of time this week trying to find a place to live... buy new clothes... get simple things like toiletries... I believe I have found a new place. I'm just waiting on the lease at this point. If everything works out, I hope to be living in D.C.'s much revitalized Chinatown neighborhood, which has really become one of the most vibrant areas of the District. I'll be right near D.C.'s soon-to-open Newseum, a museum about news. With any luck, the entire experience will be almost like living in another city for a year, experiencing a whole new neighborhood. My neighborhood doesn't have the hustle and bustle feel of a big city. This new area does -- at least a D.C. version of it. So... it will be fun... or as fun as it can be.

* Lesson's learned: A bunch of them. First, check your insurance. This is why we have insurance. We have Chubb Insurance and they have been just remarkable so far. Yes, they were more expensive, but there have been almost no hassles so far -- and I can't imagine going through this and then having hassles. Two, fire alarms. Make sure you have 'em. And make sure the batteries work. This would have been beyond horrible if somebody had been badly injured or, God forbid, killed. Three, fire extinguishers. Make sure you have them on each floor of your house, that you know where they are, and that -- and this is important -- you know how to use them. You can't be reading directions when you are in an emergency. Finally, make a plan. Yes, we always say we are going to make a plan but we never do. It doesn't take long and it can be so important, especially if you have kids.

So, with all of this, I'm going to try to get back to normal as much as I can. I am going to take some time off around President's Day weekend. Not only do I desperately need it, but it is also our second anniversary on Feb. 19. So we're heading down to Florida for a few days. But…I'm going to try to get back to doing what we do. That being said, I'm filled with a whole lot of empathy these days. Even the stories about the tornadoes in the Midwest gave me chills. I hope that this makes me a better person…and a better reporter. I sure think that it will offer a whole lot of perspective.

So, thank you all. Everybody has been very kind.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Feb 08, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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