Friday, July 22, 2005

Nee naw nee naw

The house over the road with the squatters in caught fire last night.

My mum was out, my sisters and I were watching a film (Big Fish, I quite liked it, didn't get to see the end though.) About 10.30, my mum came through the door shouting "The house over the road is on fire!" We went outside and could see flames in the hall and clouds of black smoke billowing out of the back. Then it all got a bit hectic. I called the fire brigade, but someone had already done that and they were on their way. About a minute after I called, they whooshed into our road, lights flashing, siren wailing. I ran over the road to move my car out of the way. My hands were shaking so I could hardly get the key in the ignition.

A small crowd gathered to watch as the firemen ran around with hoses, broke through the front door and doused the flames. Eventually the police turned up and cleared people away. We stood in our front garden and as they cordoned the road off with police tape, found ourselves stuck in the middle of it. Very exciting! My car was also taped off in a section of the road on its own. It was all pretty dramatic. We counted the emergency vehicles as they arrived and I think there were 4 fire engines, 2 police cars, at least 1 ambulance, 2 other white vans, I think one at least was police and a fire investigation unit car.

There was no-one in the house at the time. One guy who was living there told the firemen he'd gone out to get chips, leaving his friend in the house. When he got back the house was well ablaze. He was worried his friend was still inside, but he or she had scarpered. He disappeared too after a while. It's never been quite clear who owns the house or whether anyone is legitimately renting it. According to the police and firemen, the fire was probably started by a candle. There were many candles in the house as well as "more needles than a hospital". The only valuable thing inside seems to have been a mountain bike.

There was no point in us trying to go to sleep with all the noise from the fire engine, so we hung around and watched and then made the fire team mugs of tea. We got asked lots of questions, but I'm not sure how helpful our answers were. It's shocking how little you notice about people, even when they're right under your nose.

Eventually, the fire engines went away and just a few policemen were left. I was dimly aware of them banging things and making the house secure as I tried to get to sleep. It was a dramatic evening, and drama on your doorstep tends to eclipse drame elsewhere, so I think I will remember 21 July more for the fire over the road than for the explosions on the tube.

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