Prattle on
Thursday, March 22, 2007

So, last night yet another building burned down in my neighbourhood. Burning buildings are a fairly regular occurrence in my large corner of Montreal. Last night’s inferno happened a couple blocks away from my place.* A friend and I were on our way to the neighbourhood posh bar when we noticed that the air was kind of smoky and it smelled like a gigantic BBQ. We looked into the distance and noticed a smoky orange glow in the sky. We also noticed the ash falling to the ground. Whatever was burning, it was big. It rained last night, but no torrential downpour (if there was a down-pour, my power would have surely gone out).

I remember as a kid learning about Quebec and learning French. Some of the lessons really stood out for me. One of them was the “snow roofs” in Quebec City. They give that city a distinctive look. Of course we learned all about carnival and the Bonhomme de Neige. The other lesson that stood out was about the firewalls and firemen. Of course, that could just be me looking back on those lessons in the light of what feels like Montreal burning down around me.

*The last neighbourhood fire that I’ve seen happened on the night of an ice storm. The power went out (another regular occurrence in Montreal) and as is often the case, something burns down as a result. That night the building destined for cinders was standing right behind mine. I was asleep and woke up to the loud crashing sound of a building falling apart and firemen yelling information to one another. It was about 6:00am and flames went shooting into the sky out of the top of that building. Flames also reached out of the windows while firefighters stood on the balcony and roof of the neighbouring building. I had never seen anything like it. I don’t know if it was someone’s home that burned down, but I do know people were living next door. They were obviously evacuated. A few days later I saw a guy with a plastic bag picking his way through his kitchen, which I think was damaged from smoke and water. I think – I am not sure – but I think that they are back as I always see the lights on. Also, work has started on the shell that was once a building. Loud crashing has again woken me up this week. This time it is not nearly as dramatic. There is a clean-up effort, but who knows when it will be done.

A friend of mine, who lives down the street, told me that a building just down the street from her had also burned down recently. I have also been told that the insurance for business in the plateau area of Montreal is really high due to the fire risk (which is connected to the frequent power outages). The whole city isn’t like this, just my neighbourhood. I am also one of the lucky people who got a letter explaining that due to old pipes, my water may be contaminated with led. Awesome.

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