Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chinatown Fire

I was lying in bed with the lights out when Grace said, "Hey there's a fire in Chinatown! You better tell your friend." But then I decided that might actually just be annoying instead of helpful, especially since I didn't have any real information. And I guess since I'm doing the Chinatown blog I should go in and try to find out what I could. After all I might not have time tomorrow.

The fire was at the building which has Ding Ho and two other businesses that are yet to open, Bao Bao Ting, and Double Chins.

By the time I got there the fire was put out thankfully. But you could still smell the smoke slightly.

Here is an article from Universal hub.

I walked over and saw a few of the fire fighters talking. I think I actually recognized one from that incident at the Chinatown park, I posted about on Kung Fu Dad with the title "Three Chinatown Adventures." But honestly I felt strange trying to ask them questions, like I was some sort of sick freak to want to know more. I figured I would just see if there was anyone I actually knew. It's not like I'm a real reporter.

One reason I didn't ask the firemen was  I didn't want to get in the way. Even though they were just talking, I would imagine that decompressing like that is important. You can be pretty proud of our Boston Fire Department for coming out in full force and blocking of the street and working together. Though I didn't see them in action, the photos on twitter seemed like a full on battle. When I arrived you could still smell smoke, but I would later find out that the fire never really got out of control, so this wasn't comparable to the Old Ming's fire (which I remember through the eyes of the small child I was then. I must have been my older son's age... or maybe my younger son's)

But any fire can be a huge problem to the whole Chinatown community if it isn't handled properly. The buildings are small and close together. So All I am saying we are lucky to have our Fire Department and Police Department.

I saw the President of the CCBA, and from him I learned that two people went to the hospital. I later picked up that they were an old couple in their 50's or 60's "a pau and a bak" and that they hadn't look too seriously injured. Though smoke inhalation can still be pretty serious. There was some confusion as to which dialect they spoke and someone was radioing the police officer for a translator.

The CCBA president jokingly pointed at me. "Cantonese only" I said, wishing I had learned Mandarin by now.

I heard from a couple of witnesses who said they had been there before the firetrucks even came that everyone seemed to have gotten out and were on the street. They all seemed fairly "normal" In other words it wasn't wide spread panic and mayhem. I overheard from others that the couple had to be taken out by fire fighters because they actually did not want to leave.

I saw a representative from the City, who said that the damage to the businesses was probably all water damage.  The fire had started on the second floor in the back somewhere and hadn't spread to much. (Though I also overheard some assessment people saying the floor had been burnt out and that the roof was also burnt out and of course to save lives, doors were kicked in and window broken.
So it would seem like a tragedy was averted.

Story over right?

Wrong.

There were still people who need a place to sleep tonight. And the  White Police Officer (who impressively spoke a bit of Cantonese) had to collect everyone's name addresses and phone number. People needed to go back in with the firefighters too so they could collect their identification documents or cards. Most of the people who were displaced seemed to be Mandarin Speakers.

The longer I stayed the more I realized how much of a hardship a fire really is. I mean even when it is put out and the building and lives are saved there is still a lot of trials and tribulation. Money, insurance, repairs headaches, all brought out onto the sidewalk and being shouted for everyone to hear. The details aren't that important to the story. But I did learn some things. There are emergency repairs like the boarding up of windows that have to happen right away. Why? Because if someone goes into the building because the window isn't boarded up and hurt themselves, they can now sue the landowner for a lot of money. But if you did board it up and do everything, insurance will pay for most of that and you are protected from a lawsuit. But who knew that being a landowner was so difficult? I felt like even though I am in my thirties, I am still a child when it comes to these sorts of grown up issues.

I saw the landowner, who I sort of know from the neighborhood and the bank dealing with this and that. She showed such strength of character, mental toughness,  and astute decision making as she handled this extremely well. What would I do in this situation? I would just throw my hands up and say, "yeah whatever you guys take care of it. I don't want to think about it. Let me crawl into a corner somewhere and hide."

This woman was tough as nails.

If she ran for something, I'd vote for her. She can clearly handle high pressure situations extremely well.

I over heard the police officer say that they were going to be out there till 8am easy and that they would need a detail. It's not like I hadn't seen a fire before. But I never bothered to watch. I mean once across from Moh Goon there was a fire so strong that I could see the flames through the thick smoke. But I thought, "Thank God nobody died." and that's it.

But I never thought how difficult and how much liability who have owning one of these buildings in Chinatown. So many things can go wrong. It's a lot of headache.
People often look at business owners and landowners in Chinatown and are envious of them. But look at all the hard work and risks that are taken, and effort and sacrifice. These people are really tough and have strong characters to make Chinatown what it is.

The landowner took a moment to comfort one of the displaced men. He had someplace else to stay for the night. "If you need to find a place to live, I can help you find one in the morning." She told him.

I went home to sleep. For all I know she's still out there.

The firemen earned their hero's wages and the firetrucks home. A fire like that, in these old buildings, could have easily spread to swallow up other buildings as well.

Oddly, someone was setting off fireworks down the street. It seemed weird and inappropriate, though of course those people probably didn't even know there was a fire a block away.

I saw some people who were on our lion dance team, hanging out with friends, carrying guitars. They just walked by, the same way I did when I lived in Chinatown, because in a way, this is all normal.

 The fire Chief and a couple fireman had to stay to pick up these pieces and for the small stuff, which when you just stop to look at it, is actually some pretty heavy and difficult stuff to deal with.

Like the cop said, they can all be out there till 8 am easy.


*Update:
The displaced people are now staying in the CCBA. The Red Cross is working with them. I find out more details later this week.

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