Chris and I came home from a wedding on Saturday night sometime after 1am. The house smelt like smoke but we didn't think much of it at first; we figured the neighbours must have burnt their dinner or something and the smell had stuck around because all the windows were closed.
We opened the windows and started to get ready for bed but, instead of dissipating, the smell kept getting worse. Smoke seemed to be coming up from the vents so I decided to go outside, just to check that everything was okay in the apartment below us.
From the street, even with the lights off, I could see the downstairs kitchen was filled with smoke. I knocked on the door and rang the bell but no one answered
I grabbed our phone and called 911 while Chris managed to get the pets out of the house.
I had never called 911 before but I'm glad I didn't hesitate to do it when I did. Minutes after my call, 3 firetrucks, 3 cop cars and an ambulance were on our corner. When the firemen broke into the apartment they found one of the tenants and his 15 year old son had fallen asleep with a pot on the stove - the unit had a smoke detector but there were no batteries in it.
When thinking of all the what-ifs, I can't help but feel incredibly fortunate for the following things:
How cool Chris can be under pressure. He managed to get Simone into her carrier and carry her, the rats and our laptops to safety. He had the presence of mind to also grab his keys and wallet on the way out the door.
That we came home when we did. Had we come home earlier, we may have gone to sleep before noticing the smoke, had we spent the night in a hotel, we might not have had a house to come home to (and who knows what would have happened to the people downstairs).
The cat carrier was in one piece and on hand. Holding a squirming, snarling Simone would not have been easy.
I'm posting this on my blog because I want to share what I learned from this experience. While I hope I'll never be scared like that again, if there is a next time, I want to be more prepared.
Always keep the cat carrier assembled in an easy to reach location. We often store ours in pieces since it takes up less space - we won't do that again. We were lucky that we didn't have to search for it and put it together when we needed it.
When neglecting the housekeeping, be wary that you never know when firemen will need to march through your home. Piles of laundry can be a safety hazard, on top of a huge embarrassment when your apartment is suddenly filled with strangers in uniform.
Back up important documents and photos online. If our home had burned down, the back up hard drive wouldn't have done us much good if it went up in flames along with our laptops.