As some of you already know, there was a fire in my building several days ago. Here’s the full story…

It all started at around 9:30am. I had a friend crashing with me, and we were both asleep. She was on the couch in the living room, which is right near the front door, so when the doorbell rang unexpectedly and woke us both up, she was the one to answer it. In my state of half-sleep, I recognized the voice she was talking to. It was one of the guys that works in the building. I didn’t hear what he said — I figured he was bringing up a FedEx package or something — so I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep.


My friend walked into my bedroom.
“There’s a fire!” she yelled.
“What?!” I answered. I sat up. I didn’t smell any smoke or hear any noise. The only thing I noticed was that my bladder was ready to explode.
“There’s a FIRE!” she repeated. “We have to get OUT OF HERE!!!”
“Fire or no fire,” I said, “I gotta take a piss.”
Looking back on it, that was pretty stupid on my part, but what can I say? The alleged “fire” didn’t seem like a big deal at that point, and I seriously had to pee. I was about to pee all over myself — it was THAT bad — so I figured I’d spend an extra minute taking care of business and then head downstairs.
Well, wouldn’t you know it…it turned out to be one of those pisses that kept going and going and going. You know the kind, right? Just when I thought I was done, the stream rejuvenated itself — except it trickled out really slowly…and kept going…and going. If only there’d been an official from Guinness, I might have set a world record. Anyway, while I was standing there, I thought about the items I’d grab on my way out, and I came up with the following list: laptop, cell phone, camera, and a pair of disposable one-day contact lenses. (Hey, the lenses were right there on a shelf over the toilet. Why not?)
By the time I stepped out of the bathroom, the smell of smoke had seeped into my apartment, and I could hear the faint sound of firetrucks. This is when it first occurred to me that the fire might be serious — and closer to my apartment than I’d originally thought. I live on the eighth floor of a 15-story building. I mean, what are the odds?
I quickly packed up my computer and grabbed the other items.
“HURRY!!!” shouted my friend.
The smell of smoke was getting stronger. I grabbed my keys as we raced toward the front door, and when I opened it, we were blasted by thick black smoke. The hallway was filled with it. It was so strong that I couldn’t breathe and so thick that I couldn’t even see the lock from SIX INCHES AWAY when I pulled the door shut behind me. I was wearing a hoodie, so I yanked the cloth up over my nose and crouched down low. I heard lots of people shouting. The building’s fire alarms were wailing. Someone was holding the emergency staircase door open, and I darted toward it with my friend. While we were heading downstairs, at least a dozen firefighters were heading up. Those guys are incredible. My lungs hurt. My throat hurt. My eyes were stinging. I was running away from what felt like a near-death situation, and those men were racing toward it. Truly amazing.
By the time I got outside, the entire street was blocked off. There were firetrucks all over the place, and there was smoke pouring out of the building. I turned on my camera and started filming. Here’s a low-quality screen shot:
Thirty seconds later, I heard the sound of shattering glass. I was already (thankfully) standing at a safe distance from the building, so I looked up and saw the windows being smashed. Thousands of shards of glass rained down onto the sidewalk. Then two giant window screens were bashed out and plunged to the street.
With my camera still rolling, I moved across the street and got some footage of all the on-lookers:
Then I stopped filming and took some (high-quality) pics. Here’s one that shows some of the firetrucks:
I still had no idea where exactly the fire had started, so I started counting the floors: one, two, three, four, five, six…I started getting that awful sinking feeling in my gut…seven…EIGHT?!?!?!
The fire was ON MY FLOOR. The smoke had stopped pouring out of the windows, so I figured that was a good sign in terms of my own apartment being okay, but what about water damage? And how about the smoke?
There was an SUV parked nearby that had a large side mirror. I used it to put in my contact lenses, then took a few more pics and made some phone calls, and finally, after half an hour, I was allowed back into the building.
I had to walk back upstairs. On each floor, there was water pouring out onto the landing through a space in the service elevator door, and the smell of smoke kept getting stronger. At one point, I had to step aside to let some firefighters through:
There were so many of them that I lost count. Then came the moment of truth. I made it back to the eighth floor. There was sooty water everywhere (uh-oh) and the smell of smoke was so strong that it was still tough to breathe. Here’s a photo of the hallway, taken from just inside the doorway of my apartment. The open door at the far end (where a neighbor’s kid is standing) is the burnt-out apartment:
My apartment was not damaged at all, but it was VERY smoky. I opened all the windows and then went to check out the actual fire damage.
Here’s a pic of the broken windows in the burnt-out apartment:
Why is it so empty in there?
Because the place was under renovation. The theory about how the fire started is that the contractors were treating the wood floors with some chemicals, and they left a rag in a sealed plastic bag; the fumes from the rag were therefore trapped and somehow self-combusted.
Check out this toasted bed frame:
Here’s some semi-charred clutter…
…and here’s the more serious damage:
Look at the ceiling:
It’s rather unsettling (as you might imagine) to think that this happened less than 50 feet from me while I was sleeping.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze.
It still smells really strong in the hallway. This past weekend, there were three huge air-suction-purification machines out there:
I’ve had to place wet towels at the bottom of my front door to try to prevent the smoky smell from coming in, but it’s not really working.
That’s about it for now. I’m okay. Everything’s good. Just wanted to share this story. And I promise that my next entry will be baseball-related.


  1. goisles

    Smoke often kills before fire. You are very fortunate that your dawdling, which provided more details than we needed to know, did not carry a higher price.

    Thank those firemen again when you see them.

    On the lighter side, I’d like to hear from Big Glove Bob on Target Field. It looked like the dugouts inside the moat were indeed inacessible to the masses, and I wonder if that can be confirmed.

  2. redsox82696

    “Anyway, while I was standing there, I thought about the items I’d grab on my way out, and I came up with the following list: laptop, cell phone, camera, and a pair of disposable one-day contact lenses. (Hey, the lenses were right there on a shelf over the toilet. Why not?)”

    Zack-Where’s the book you’re working on? That wasn’t on your list of things to bring? You’ve been working on that for how long? :)

    In all seriousness, I’m glad to hear you’re alright. It’s a good thing the fire didn’t spread. You would’ve been in trouble for sure.

    On a side note, will you be heading over to Fenway some time this year? I think you did it last year or the year before. I’d love to “coincidentally” go to the same game as you.


    Glad to hear you made it out of the burning building alive! Oh and…I love the play-by-play of you emptying your bladder. Awesome details. I felt like I was right there with you. : D

  4. padreleigh

    Hi Zack….

    I have a question that’s been bothering me since September 11, 2001. The police department in New York City is known as NYPD, but the fire department in New York City is known as FDNY. Why isn’t the fire department NYFD? In Orlando we had OPD and OFD. In San Diego we have SDPD and SDFD. Why is it backwards in NYC? Do you know? If you don’t, could you find our and report back? I know that was random, but it seemed on topic to me. Thanks…


  5. padreleigh

    Wow, third comment. I also forgot to tell you that I checked out “Watching Baseball Smarter” from the San Diego County Library yesterday. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading it. Did you know it was in our library?


  6. Txbaseballfan

    Good to hear that you and everyone else is okay. What a scary experience. Aside from the breathing issues it could have been alot worse. Stay safe!

  7. redsfan101


    I’m glad you are ok! Amazing details though, it felt real reading it. Haha I laughed about the peeing part!


  8. wlarusso

    Hey Zack,
    I’m happy to hear you’re okay. Looking forward to you’re next post about the next game. I’m watching the mets game as I type this and there was a commercial advertising tickets to the Mets game on Monday, which is Jackie Robinson Day. So I did a google search and found out that they’re using commerative balls for this game. I thought that because you love gettting commerative balls, you would have a good chance getting one Monday, or the following games in BP. Anyway, just thought I’d let you know about these balls. Heading to the bronx friday for my first game of the season. Cant wait. Looking to add to my collection.


  9. sportzfreeka

    When I first saw the title “FIRE” I thought two things. 1: I thought that those haters set fire to your apartment out of rage. 2. I was worried about your baseballs! Glad to see everything worked out. Seattle has some really nice weather…….

  10. zackhample

    Glad you liked those details. And yes, I realize that I was fortunate. As for Target Field, I’m pretty sure those dugout seats are off-limits.

    The book is on the laptop, and it’s backed up and saved in other places, too. That’s one thing I will NOT be losing. Not sure about Fenway. That place is packed and expensive, so you know, I’m not in any rush to get there.

    Haha, excellent.

    Nice idea about the fire. As for the big glove, I still have it. Just haven’t brought it to any games lately.

    Well said. Thanks.

    Can you imagine how smelly it would’ve been if that 223-pound ball went down in flames?

    That never occurred to me, but you’re absolutely right. I’ll call my friend Mike (he’s the mayor) and get back to you. I was not aware that the book is in the library. Coolness.

    I will do my best to stay safe…


    Thanks. Glad you were entertained by my bathroom experience.

    I don’t know what source you found on Google, but I heard directly from MLB that the Jackie Robinson balls will NOT be used. Anyway, have fun on Friday at “The” Stadium.

    All of your Seattle comments are cracking me up. I’m really gonna try to make it out there soon. BTW, most of my baseballs are at my parents’ place.

  11. padreleigh

    Wow! You should have seen all the out of control Braves “fans” at the game tonight. BP was full contact. I got knocked down TWICE. Thank goodness it was on the “Beach”. I’m getting too old for this BLANK.


  12. bigglovebob

    Zack- A real man would have taken his overly full bladder down to the fire and put the thing out.

    As far as some Target Field chatter. The place is awesome…but not for ballhawks. I have gone down into those dugout box seats in BP so far without a hassle. It is the Champions Club seats that are off limits all the time.

    It is better than the dome in some ballhawking respects, but since it is a new ballpark it gets busy really early and that negates some of the advantages.

    You are too good to get shut out, but I would predict that reaching double digits would be tough and to set your sights modestly.

  13. gatheringbaseballs

    Glad your safe Zack…hope you had fun at Yankee stadium tonight cant wait to read the post.


  14. zackhample

    Wow, that sucks. I’ve found that anytime there’s an open space, it’s much easier to get knocked down and hurt. Be careful.

    I’m not predicting or expecting double digits for Target Field. It looks like a cool stadium, but like you said, not good for ballhawking. So…you can get down right into the front row behind the dugouts during BP? The guards let you down into and past the moat? That’s good news. So…it’s possible to get up close for third-out balls during the game?

    Thanks for letting me know.

    Yeah, and they want those ball GONE. Or at least some of them. Hmm…

    Thanks. I’m working on the entry right now. I hope to have it done this evening.

  15. bigappleblogger

    looks like you had an austin powers moment! also, I pass your building every day on my way home from school.

  16. jmac360099

    Hey Zack,
    Glad to hear all is well after the fire. I found something interesting relating to the fire, it is the run assignment for the fire department. Hopefully this will show that the chaos you might have seen by the firefighters, is actually organized chaos.

    Upper West Side, Manhattan, NY, 4/9/10

    Box 1086
    Engs. 74, 40, 76
    L25, TL35
    Battalion 11

    10-77-1086 – 09:57 hours
    Battalion 11: Box, transmit a 10-77. Fire’s on the 8th floor, apartment 8C. The attack stair will be the “A” stair.
    E44 (CFRD Engine)
    E47 (High-Rise Nozzle Co.)
    E3 w/ High-Rise 1
    TL22, TL13
    L16 (FAST Truck)
    Battalion 10
    Battalion 8 (Safety Officer)
    Safety, Rescue Battalion
    Rescue 1
    Squad 18
    FieldCom, Command Tactical Unit
    Division 1 S/C

    MD 15 story class 1. standpipe in a stair.

    10:00 hours – Duration 11 minutes
    BC11: Size up is approximately 100×75. We have 1 line stretched and in operation, water on the fire.

    10:02 hours – Duration 12 minutes
    BC11: Primary search in the fire apartment and hallway is negative.

    7-5-1086 – 10:04 hours
    BC11: All fire’s been knocked down and secondaries are in progress. Still Doubtful, All-Hands at this time.

    Exposures are:
    1 – street
    2 – similar
    3 – unknown
    4 – brownstone

    10:05 hours – Duration 16 minutes
    BC11: Probably Will Hold, and primaries in all stairways are negative. Return all special units.

    10:08 hours – Duration 18 minutes
    BC11: We’re going to go with Under Control.

  17. zackhample

    Cool. I know we’re going to run into each other soon.

    Whoa! Very cool. Thanks for posting this. Seriously…fascinating.

    Yes indeed.

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