There was a fire around the corner the other day. It was a four-alarm fire on Union Avenue, the major thoroughfare in my neighborhood. It is the street I take to work and just about everywhere I need to or want to go. The thing is, I had no idea that it happened. I was asleep at the time and apparently upwind so I did not smell any smoke. The idea that something happened so close to me without my knowledge is kind of spooky but a credit to this city’s firefighters. They took care of the blaze without any collateral damage to surrounding neighborhoods.
One thing that is also interesting is that I also did not hear the fire trucks or I did and they simply did not wake me up. I was born in Baltimore City and I was raised in that city as well. For most of my life, I have been a city slicker and that comes with accepting certain things. I used to live very close to University Parkway (and at one point on University Parkway) which brought with it certain realities. University Parkway is a major passage for emergency vehicles in that part of Baltimore. It is a wide, multi-lane road that is easy to navigate in a hurry. So we grew up hearing sirens more often than not. So it makes sense that I would not even notice extra sirens nearby.
Usually, when a fire happens it is a horrible tragedy. If you remember, Baltimore had a huge fire during the riots nearly two years ago. In that fire, senior housing was burned down. Thankfully, nobody had moved in yet because construction was not quite done. Still, housing for seniors is a very important thing to have burned down. The building that burned on Thursday night was not being used for anything at the time. It was an old brick building nearby that I had taken pictures of last year because I found the graffiti on it interesting. The building was slated for development which I imagine will be dramatically delayed but at least nobody was killed.
This also brought to mind how easy it is to get news, photographs and video of an event so soon after it happened. My brother asked me about the fire the morning after it happened and I had pictures of it on fire pulled up. I had the exact account of how it happened in minutes. It is extraordinary in this day and age that we get simple facts as wrong as we do when the real story is so close at hand. I suppose the problem comes in when so many people are seeing and saying different things. The truth should not be so complicated, should it?
I walked down to the building on Friday to have a look for myself, partly because I felt awkward about not knowing that the event happened. By the time I arrived in the afternoon, everything was obviously all calm. You can see the damage from smoke on the outside but if you did not know there had been a fire, you would not be able to learn that from a glance. Of course, the double doors were wide open and the shadows inside hid what must have been black scorch marks. The windows that had already been broken, looked a little more heat damaged. On Saturday, all the open windows and doors had been boarded up.