Yesterday I went to the hair salon to get my nails and hair done. The weather was beautiful and sunny. Everyone looked happy.
While I was sitting there, all of a sudden, smoke started coming out from the back of the salon. All of us sat there for a bit, wondering what was happening. One of the family owners ran to the back. Yellow, mustardy smoke began wafting through the store.
After some moments, I stretched my head forward enough to see that the back of the salon was entirely dark with large, orange flickers of light. The smoke had turned black and poisonous. All of us started leaving. The owner’s brother, however, stayed in the back, and the girl who was doing my nails didn’t come out either. She had gone back to try to help him put out the fire.
The immediate question was whether there was a fire extinguisher. I gathered that there wasn’t one. As we stood outside, smoke started filling the entire inside of the store and began to pour out the open glass doors.
The firetrucks were there in about two minutes and blocked off the entire street and intersections. There were at least 7 firetrucks and one ambulance that I counted. I wondered why they needed so many trucks, but now I realize you need to surround the streets in case the fire spreads.
Before they arrived, I had already moved farther away, mostly because I was afraid that there might be an explosion. As I stood there, I saw at least two firemen and one firewoman put on their gas masks, then their helmets, and walk in. Visibility was poor. Several firemen went into adjacent buildings.
The girl who was doing my nails had come running out earlier, coughing. We didn’t see the brother of the owner come out. I hope he’s ok. A few of us from the salon were quite worried about him. Crowds of people now stood outside watching. The firemen quickly got the hoses in place, and, very soon after, the black plumes of smoke stopped pouring out.
Now, it’s quite incredible to me that there are people who run towards a fire. Of course, these people are trained to do that. And it’s not just fire, which is very scary, but all kinds of danger. Firemen and EMT’s literally put their lives on the line to save other people’s lives and even our pets and property.
That evening, my eyes and sinuses hurt. Firemen have gas masks with a tank of oxygen. I have since learned that if their oxygen runs out, the worst thing they can do is take off their mask to try to get air. (The smoke will deprive them of even more oxygen). If this happens, they are trained to hold their breath for as long as 2 minutes and pass out while one of their colleagues try to reach them. But firemen inevitably breathe in lots of toxic smoke because it’s a hazard of what they do.
Frankly, I don’t think these people get paid enough (along with teachers and many other public servants). There’s a lot of talk these days of cutting pensions for people who give their lives for protecting us and our children. Now, I actually see how quickly fire can spread. Every second counts. So please support your local fire departments. And please be sure to always keep a fire extinguisher handy.
(This piece is back-dated.)