Our directly-across-the-road neighbours’ house burnt down tonight. We heard thuds… people talking on the usually pretty quiet street. Then sirens stopped right outside our place, so we decided it was time to open the door and see what was going on.
When I opened the door, a loud expletive came out of my mouth before I had time to think whether there could be small children about. The whole top floor of their terrace was engulfed by flames, and as we stood on our verandah with our jaws dropped open, a fireball erupted, windows were smashing, and their roof caught on fire as well. The terrace next to theirs almost caught alight too, but luckily the fire brigade were there in time to stop it spreading.
I don’t know much about the across the road neighbours. They are a female couple, and they like sitting on their balcony with their laptop computer watching the street pass by. I often think they are laughing at my terrible reverse parking attempts. They have a cat and two dogs, and they like to wear black t shirts. Their house looked nice, it looked like it was recently renovated. The older woman who lives next to us looked after their rescued cat and dogs in her house and thankfully no animals or humans were hurt in the fire. All the neighbours in the street stood around watching, and there were three fire trucks. Firemen dashed inside with hoses and gas masks, and smoke billowed from every crevice of the building and filled the street in a red and blue illuminated haze.
Nobody talked much though. Not many people know each other in this street. That’s the Sydney way I guess. We all know little details about each other, like what time people come home from work, who rides bicycles, who has pets or kids, that I’m the worst reverse-parker in the street, and that the couple whose house burnt down had Valentine’s dinner at the weird little restaurant down the road that never seems to have any customers, but we don’t know each other.
But everyone was standing out there watching the flames, and feeling really sorry for these people they don’t really know.
It was very unsettling, but like a car crash, one can’t drag their eyes away.
When the fire was put out, we could see (because the firemen were up there with torches and the glass balcony doors no longer existed) that there was pretty much nothing left upstairs at their house. It looked like the downstairs was damaged too. I don’t know what caused it. I don’t think they were home when it started.
Poor ladies, how terrible.
When we got inside, my housemate started running a flame around the hob, because she swears it smells like gas is leaking sometimes. I decided that I will ring the real estate agent tomorrow to get him to replace the smoke alarm batteries. And while I was outside watching the fire, I noticed that even though the agent had come and hacked the absolute crap out of the tree which used to shade the front of our house without giving us any notice that he was coming or sending a tree massacrer around, he had neglected to trim the part that comes in close contact with the electricity lines. I will be chasing that up.