We parked the car on Prince Street near the corner of Sydney, and went to church.
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Afterwards, we had lunch at Peakes as we often do on Sundays after church, and then, while our visitor from Toronto took the boys down to the Pier to embark on the much-anticipated Harbour Hippo tour, I returned to the car to have an equally-much-anticipated nap before heading over to Beanz to enjoy a little mate and do some work.
Neither the nap nor the work were in the cards, alas.
A smoke alarm went off somewhere in the building, but this looked (and was beginning to smell) a little bigger than a burning frying pan.
In the few seconds it took me to decide to move the car so that I wouldn't get charged by the rental company for smoking inside the rental car or something ridiculous, it was clear that the building was burning... and fast! I pulled over at the next block and called 911. While the fellow at the other end tried to clarify which CITY the "Prince Street" I was calling about was in (consider that I was calling from a 416 area code on my cell phone!), I noticed that several people were beginning to run towards the building to see what help they could offer, and a number of others had their phones out as well, to call for help.
"Fire department is on their way!", I yelled out the window, and then drove off to park the car out of reach out of the ever-growing, vicious, orange flames.
Turns out moving the car way from a burning building was a wise move: By the time I walked back to the scene about 6 minutes later, the Fire Dept was audibly on their way, and a large crowd of onlookers had gathered to stare in awe and horror at the evolving drama: The fire had spread quickly, and smoke was pouring out through the roof all the way to the end of the street corner. I could feel the burning in my throat and in my eyes.
Two fire trucks had arrived on the scene, including one with a ladder, and local bystanders were helping to get things moving: "Stay with Mom", shouted one man to his youngster, and ran into the street to help haul the heavy, HEAVY hose out of the truck and onto the street so that it could be more easily accessed by the fire fighters, who seemed to be multiplying on the scene, and were in turns standing in small groups to discuss strategy and entering in the building in twos and threes to begin what would surely be a courageous and difficult fight.
What is she doing??! wondered the crowd.
Within seconds, she was into her boots and suited up to join the fight: She was a firefighter.
A young onlooker turned to her friends... "I wonder if there were any pets in the building".
I shuddered from the relative safety of my spot in the midst of the crowd. My own pet is safe at home in a non-burning building in Toronto. I was fairly certain that no people had been left in the burning building when it began to blaze. But I was also certain that everyone who lived there was now homeless.
Soon, my children and our houseguest arrived: The land part of their Harbour Hippo tour had been cut short, the money refunded. Traffic in the whole downtown core had been affected by the massive blaze; certainly no giant tour bus was going to be able to do business as usual in the already congested streets.