Monday, June 12, 2006


We spent a hellish few days pricing the items Anthony owned. After the day of sorting, we each spent another 6 hours or so typing up the items into an excel spreadsheet. Every single item, down to the nuts and bolts and extention cords. In order for Anthony to get the 40,000 dollars the insurance company owes him we had to make this list and price every single one of those items. We went to at least a dozen stores and spent three full days writing down prices, and at least two of those days were 10 hours each day. At the end of each day we collapsed into bed and slept really deeply, but I don't think either of us got more than 6 hours of sleep a night for at least a week and a half after the fire. Anthony missed an entire week of work, but the insurance should pay him for his time out of his displacement costs.

The grand total of the pricing of every item came to 68,000 dollars. Obviously, substantially more than his 40,000 dollar insurance policy. Granted, some of that doesn't include the items that we salvaged, but he may also have to sue the landlord for the difference that still remains. That probably won't happen until he gets done with dealing with the insurance. Aside from the several thousands of dollars they've given him to replace the basics and live on temporarily, it'll take at least another 2 weeks to a month to get the final check from them. It's going to be one hell of a summer for us.


One of the most stressful days was when we sorted through the entire apartment. It took six hours for a crew of about 8 or 10 people to get through everything. Anthony and I each took a room and half of the crew. We had notepads and pens and wrote down every single item. There was a gigantic dumpster parked under the living room window and everything being tossed went out that way. A few things got packed up in boxes. Most of the dishes and glasses and silverware were salvageable. I had a bit of a fight at first to get them to carefully pack the cookware set. We have a very nice stainless steel Cuisinart set, and two Calphalon One pans with lids. They are way too expensive to be treated like shit. They were going to just put them in a box loose, without any wrapping. I had to strenuously object and tell them that they HAD to put paper between each item, and wrap it carefully. I had a similar fight when it came to the Beaujolais glasses. The appliances sitting out had to get trashed, gallons of water tend to create problems for electronics. The immersion blender, and panini maker actually survived, since they weren't drenched with water. I was in charge of sorting through the kitchen and bathroom. Nothing from the bathroom survived, except for the very nice shower curtain hooks. Anthony had the living room, which was completely trashed, and the bedroom, which had a few salvageable items. Amazingly enough the desktop computer he built himself survived and so did the monitor and the LCD tv and dvd recorder. There was one piece of luck in our favor, because we got them all when they were on sale for ridiculously great prices, and would be very hard to come across again.

It's incredibly depressing to see all of the things you hand picked so carefully be tossed away. We spent so much time making that apartment ours, even though I hadn't moved in yet. We shopped carefully for great deals and things we really loved. I'll admit there were a few things I wanted to replace, but not this way.

A few days after the sorting, the cleaning company and insurance tried to pull some bullshit about charging for the cleaning out of the apartment. Despite the fact that Anthony hadn't been told that he would have to pay, he was given the impression that it was a service the insurance offered. He knew he would have to pay for the salvageable items that the company cleaned, but never that he would have to pay for the crew, their labor and a dumpster. They claimed they were going to charge him 6,000 dollars. That money would come out of his 40,000 dollar item replacement fund. After some negotiation, they backed down to charging him 1,000, and he may go after his landlord for it, since it is technically his responsibility to clean out the apartment because the fire was his fault.

Instead of paying them to clean the few salvageable things, we took them back to Anthony's new place and did a quick rinse in the sink and then sterilized them in the dishwasher. It's comforting to have the same plates to eat off of, and the pots and pans we love.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Second Fire

Tuesday morning after we wandered around the apartment trying to comprehend the damage, we went and check on the fish. Despite the tank full of ash in the bedroom, they were all alive, in both the 29 gallon tank and the 55. We made a quick run to the store for large buckets and aerators and spent several hours making sure every last fish was in the buckets. We even managed to get four of the little tiny baby fish that had been born several months before. We took them to my place and they stayed in buckets on the dining room floor for about four days. I also managed to grab a few of my clothes from the closet that didn't smell like smoke, a few sentimental items and a couple other random things, like the box set of Firefly DVDs that had been in the duffle bag in the bedroom. One of the items of clothing was a gorgeous dress my mom bought me last summer. I wore it to a wedding Anthony was in, and it was (originally) a 250 dollar dress. She didn't pay that much for it, of course, it was on sale, but I would have been devastated if it had been destroyed. We also rescued the irreplaceable antique diamond ring my parents bought me and the necklace Anthony bought me for our first Valentine's Day together. Plus, my medication. All very important things to save.

On wednesday Anthony tried to go to work. Partway through the day he got a call from the field agent from his insurance. He went to the apartment and discussed what was salvageable and what wasn't with her. The bedroom was in fairly good shape, the ceiling was still intact and there hadn't been too much water sprayed around. Shortly after she left, while he was sorting through a few things in the room, he smelled smoke. He could see it coming down from the ceiling above the closet, got out, and called the fire department again. They arrived very quickly, but the closet ceiling collapsed and almost everything in the closet was completely soaked. The bedroom got an additional soaking, and what had been completely salvageable, was now damaged.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Living Room

Table and chairs.

Missing ceiling.

Chair and insulation on top of the table.

The firefighters tried to cover the tv in a tarp, unfortunately, it didn't save it.

The couch turned on end.


The microwave that used to be on the wall.

Pots and pans still on the wall and the hole in the ceiling.

Appliances covered in water and insulation.

Kitchen shelves and the hole in the ceiling again.

The final shot of the missing roof and ceiling.


The bathroom ceiling.

A closeup of the aquarium and yes, the fish are alive in there.

The aquarium in the bathroom.

The bathroom sink and the cabinet.

The top of the bathroom cabinet.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The morning after the fire we woke up at 8:45 to the sounds of torrential rains. Anything that hadn't been messed because of the fire and the water from the firefighters, was now getting poured on. I think both of us were tempted to just crawl under the covers and never get out of bed. But, there were fish that needed our help, so we got up and got ready. It stopped raining as we left and we got to the apartment just as the landlord was about to open it up for us. Anthony had seen it the night before, but I hadn't and I was absolutely amazed at the damage. My first thought was that it looked like a cross between the hurricaine Katrina disaster and Pompeii.

The actual fire was pretty much contained to the crawl space between the ceilings and the roof. In huge sections there was no ceiling anymore and giant holes in the roof. The beams were blackened and in the bathroom, kitchen and living room there were huge chunks of ceiling on the floor and everything was coated with soggy insulation. I'll do a few separate posts with the pictures from each room.


I have been trying to write this post for a week. I haven't really had the time or even known exactly what to say. The short version of this story is that last monday Anthony's apartment burned down. The long version begins here...

Last monday was incredibly hot. When Anthony got home from work the apartment was really warm, despite the window air conditioner he had put in the living room the day before. Plus, it was interfering with the tv reception. He switched it to a different outlet and was talking about putting in a second air conditioner in the bedroom. We sat on the couch for a while relaxing, and all of a sudden about 20 minutes later, the power went out. It wasn't any huge surprise. For the year he's lived there, we've had issues with the power. Anytime anyone ran more than one appliance at a time, the circuit breaker tripped. Plus, the breaker included his apartment, and the guy's next door. If Guido used the microwave, while we used something, the power went out. He complained a million times, and all the landlord did was get a bigger breaker...which didn't solve much of anything. What really needed to be done was to re-wire the entire building.

He ran downstairs to flip the breaker, and it failed again. He went down again and this time, half of the power went back on, but not all of it. There was no power in the bathroom, kitchen or half of the living room, but it was fine in the other half of the living room and the bedroom. Since we couldn't figure out what was going on, he called the landlord. The landlord eventually came over, and didn't know what was wrong either, but promised to call an electrician in the morning. We ran an extention cord to the fridge, so we wouldn't have all of our food spoil, and hung out in the bedroom with the fan on and tried to stay cool. He decided to put the other air conditioner in the bedroom window so we would be able to sleep that night. He was halfway done when we both noticed that we smelled smoke, I asked him about it and he said "oh, it's probably someone in the park using a grill". At the time, it was a perfectly plausible explanation, his place is right across the street from a park, and it was Memorial Day. Lots of people all over the city were grilling. A few minutes later I went to the kitchen to shut the window because he was almost done with the air conditioner. I noticed that I could smell smoke too, and thought it was odd that it had blown all the way around the building, but again, didn't think too much about it.

Within a few minutes, the downstairs neighbor was pounding on the door and yelling "get out of the building, it's on fire." I don't think I've ever moved so fast in my life. I grabbed a robe and threw it on, and we shoved the rabbits in their travel cage. On the way out, I grabbed my purse and phone and Anthony got his wallet and keys and phone. We ran down the stairs and outside. There were already at least five or six fire trucks there. The next few hours were a very surreal experience. We sat in the parking lot across the street and watched the fire. Everyone who lived there got out without any injury and got their pets out too. One of the girls wasn't home, but the firefighters got her dogs out. I ran out of the house wearing only a bra, underwear and a robe. I did manage to grab my pajama pants and a tshirt on the way out, so with the help of a neighbor, I changed in the parking lot. I wasn't able to grab any shoes, so I walked around barefoot. It was hard to tell where exactly the fire was coming from, but it was definitely near Anthony's apartment, and since he was on the top floor, shooting out the roof. The firefighters went up on the roof and cut holes in it and broke windows out to try to let the smoke out and get access to the actual fire. They got to the apartment around 8:30 at night, and didn't leave until around 12:30 or 1 am. We had no way of telling how bad it was, or if Anthony had lost everything.

We talked to the fire marshall and told him what happened, but for the most part, all we could do was wait. By the time they left that night, they had told us that it had probably started due to faulty wiring, and it appeared to start over the bathroom. Once the fire was out, and things had settled down some Anthony asked the firefighters to check on his fish. He has two big aquariums, one is a 55 gallon, the other is a 29 gallon. They are very nice fish and he's incredibly attached to them, so it would have been heartbreaking if they had died. Amazingly enough, they were still swimming around in their tanks. Once most of the firetrucks had left, we were able to run to the store to try to find portable battery powered aerators for the tanks. Of course, they didn't have any, so we just grabbed some extra batteries and went back. He still had to talk to the fire marshall so I took his car and brought the rabbits back to my place. They were incredibly stressed out because of the chaos and noise around them. Driving a stick shift with bare feet was an interesting experience. At my place, I got the rabbits situated with fresh food and water, grabbed some shoes and went to the bathroom. I laughed when I finally slowed down long enough to glance in a mirror. My lipstick was still on and looked great. The claims that Lipfinity lipstick is longwearing isn't an exaggeration. It really does stay on through EVERYTHING.

I drove back to Lansing to pick Anthony up. He had finished with the fish and the fire marshall. He had an aerator that survived, and he managed to get it running for the 55 gallon tank. The smaller tank just had to fend for itself. We were both pretty much in shock as we headed back to my place. Anthony was sick to his stomach, but realized that it was at least partly due to the fact that he hadn't really eaten that night. We stopped at the Beaners coffee shop that's open 24 hours. It was the place where we had our first date, so it was a comforting place to be. He had a bite to eat and I had some chai. We headed back to my apartment and crawled into bed around 3 am still in shock.