It smelled all campfire-y, like wood smoke, and the first thought I had was that we'd left one of our wooden cutting boards by something hot and it was burning. It seemed unlikely but there was no way I could go back to sleep without checking. So I got up, and looked, and there was nothing burning in the apartment. But it still smelled smoky.
And then I heard an alarm go off somewhere below, distant, maybe our building or maybe one nearby.
I tried to tell myself that if there was a fire in our building the alarms in the hall would be going off, but my imagination is far to creative to accept that as the only possible situation. So I woke Chris up and he decided he'd go out and see what was up. He got about two steps into the hall before he came back and told me to get dressed and come with him. It was even smokier smelling out there (no actual smoke, just smelled really strong). I grabbed my laptop (priorities!), stuffed it into my bag, and we went down the stairs and out front.
First we noticed one firetruck parked just around the corner. It seems the alarm I'd heard was from the building next door. As we wandered over, a fireman came out and announced that everything was fine to the people gathered around waiting. Chris and I headed back to our building, but I could still smell the smoke, and it looked like there was smoke drifting across the street at the other end of the block. I told Chris I wanted to have a look, and walked over. All we could see from where we were was a police car blocking off the street half a block down, and the red lights of various emergency vehicles a couple blocks further.
We didn't know until we went back in and turned on the news, but this is what we were seeing. (Well, the back end of it. The buildings with the fire are on the north side of the block and we could see the south side.)
Five hours later, it's still going. The whole apartment smells like smoke and periodically I hear a siren go by as another firetruck joins the fray. Thankfully, no one has been hurt--but wow. A whole block. One of my favorite independent clothing stores was in the middle of that. A video store Chris used to go to. I can't imagine what it's like for the people who lived in the apartments above. That's one of my biggest fears--losing everything like that.
We've walked by those buildings who knows how many times since we moved downtown a year and a half ago. It's hard to believe when we walk past next time, they'll be destroyed.