Apparently the elderly gentleman across the hall left a space heater on beside his bed while he was out. The bedding smoldered and when he came home around 11 pm the draft when he opened the front door really got things going. Laurent smelled and saw smoke in our front entry hall and opened the door to find a hall filled with smoke and our Portere (Building Super) stepping out of the elevator (DUH! rule #1 - In case of fire do not - repeat - do not use the elevator) carrying a small and totally inadequate fire extinguisher. Fortunately he had called the Fire Department.
Then the real fun began - can you say farce?
- The fire trucks went roaring by the complex, missing the entrance and the Super's son had to go chasing after them.
- Someone forgot to open the front gate to let the trucks in and it wasn't responding to the remote.
- Once they got the gate open they had trouble maneuvering the trucks in because of the number of cars parked in the fire lane.
- They didn't bother evacuating the building or doing a head count and the old fart on the first floor who has given us so much grief refused to leave his apartment. Instead he and his wife hung out the windows watching everything.
- The firemen, policemen and ambulance drivers all arrived, exchanged warm greetings - much kissing of cheeks and old acquaintances renewed - niceties first, fire second.
- Ironically the gentleman operating the cherry picker sat at the controls- much shouting, tooing, frowing and lurching to the delight of the crowd and the discomfort of the gentleman in the cherry picker - sat puffing a cigarette as smoke poured out of the apartment windows.
- Two of the firefighters came out of the building oxygen tanks in one hand, burning cigarettes in the other. My buddy Stephen said the interplay as they attempted to smoke and turn off the tank controls was worthy of a Three Stooges movie.
- The gentleman from across the hall was in a heated (sorry) discussion with his son and the police, denying that it was his fault.
Having said all this, the fire was contained to one apartment (it was gutted), no one was hurt and we have sustained moderate smoke damage. Is it possible that Beppe Severgnini is right when he says that in an Italian crisis all looks chaos but out of that chaos comes order???? As my friends are fond of saying: Relax. It's Rome
22 genaio - San Vincenzo Martiri