On the time it wasn’t a drill

Last night, my apartment building caught fire.

Sort of. They still don’t know what happened, which is honestly more discouraging than an observable fire.

I was rounding the corner to my building when I heard the sirens — and you know whenever you hear firetrucks you get the mini-est of mini sinking feelings but basically know it’s 99.9% likely they’re not for you? So, I had that, until I saw it slow down in front of the turn into my complex.

Now, the light-hearted part about this whole ordeal happened at this very beginning point when I neared the building and saw a weirdly spaced out group of people just outside the back door.

At first, I thought it was a group of friends waiting on someone or gathering at a meeting place, but with the context clue of the firetruck coupled with the fact that they were all standing at least 5 feet away from each other, I figured something was, unfortunately, up.

That was so weird to me. Like, our house is on fire!! Our HOUSE!! Talk to each other! Ask if everyone is okay!! Ask if anyone knows what’s going on!!!

Anyway, I, Tiffany Clark, walked up to the general area of the group and said, “Is something actually on fire or,” and thankfully the person I stood the closest to engaged with me with, “Maybe.”

I promptly announced that I did not have time for this, and that I needed to get my cat out of there, and went into the building now featuring an aggressively loud buzzer and that was also maybe on fire.

To accurately represent how frightened I was, I will tell you that I was able to run up 5 flights of stairs with a heavy bag without stopping or dry heaving after. The 3rd and 4th floor landings were hazy, and everything smelled like just-blown-out candles.

I did stop at the landing before touching the door handle — not because of fire drill training in school but because of that one scene in The Office — but my almost-adherence to fire safety protocol was quickly thrown aside as I heard what I assumed to be firemen bang the door to the landing above me and start clamoring down the stairs.

I, a small, frightened do-gooder knowing full well running inside a potentially burning building was way against the rules, flung the door to the 5th floor open and flew down my hall before the firemen who were just doing their job and would have been absolutely right to tell me to leave, what are you doing, go outside oh my god, could catch me.

I had to get my cat out safely, you see.

In retrospect, I should not have run at my cat when I got into my apartment. I know that now.

It took 7 nerve-wracking minutes of sectioning off my apartment into spots she could not hide under and tossing at least 20 treats into her carrier before she got near enough to me that I could get her into it, during which time the firemen came down the hall and banged on every door and yelled at us to get out, then made their clamoring way down to the next floor. Contrariwise, the aggressively loud buzzer was screaming at me the whole time.

Cat got outside unscathed, and while more cat scratches had been added to my collection I was otherwise fine.

I rushed down the stairs to see 3 firetrucks, an EMS vehicle, and a police cruiser near the front of the building, and the people by the side I came out were also spread apart like nothing was happening and they just thought they’d come outside and stand for a bit. I tried to talk to a girl near me using my cat as a cute approachable pet owner scheme, but she wasn’t really interested.

I literally do not get it. A) I am a treasure but B) connect with me in this frightening human experience we are having, Nicole (she was wearing purple and had dark hair and looked like a Nicole)!! This is a time for fellowship!! Do you know what is on fire, Nicole???? Are all of the dogs okay, Nicole????

After about 10 minutes of lonely anxiety, the buzzer shut off and the EMS truck and police cruiser left — I supposed that meant no one was hurt. But the 3 firetrucks were still there, so, do we go in?

I did, along with Nicole and a few others, but while they went up the stairs I went to the front of the building where the elevators are because my cat is weight and I was tired.

I got caught by the building manager, who said that I needed to come back outside.


We waited out front, where the bulk of the residents were, and it was nice to see little groups of worried people this time rather than indifferent stand-alones. It was NOT nice to hear that “smoke was spotted” but they didn’t know anything else, and though they let us go back in after a only a few minutes had passed, they had us promise that if the alarm went off again we’d come back out.


“It’s probably nothing but you’re maybe still in mortal danger” is what I got from that, which neither achieved the least by offering an explanation nor served a decent purpose in comforting us.

Whatever happened, it didn’t happen again, and after half an hour the firetrucks left and I let Cat out of her carrier. She was grateful and not vindictive, and stretched cutely and gave my hand a little boop with her head.

I collected myself and rushed to my car (but not while in my car, @CHPD) and got to go see the last 20 minutes of The Little Mermaid, Jr. put on by elementary schoolers and starring some of the kids that come to our after school program at Morehead, so that was a devastatingly adorable reward for surviving an almost fire.

Moral of the story even though everything worked out okay: absolutely Do Not go into a building that is maybe on fire. If someone is about to Do That, like I did, stop them. And talk to them if they are scared. 

And go follow my cat on Instagram: @andromedasadventures. ♥

Photo credit.


Published by

Tiffany Joy Clark

Assistant Coordinator for Education at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center B.A. Media and Journalism

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