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Old 24.10.2021, 12:39
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There was a fire in our building last night

Last night, around 11:00 pm, I suddenly heard a swarm of sirens going down the main street in our neighborhood, so I went out into my garden to listen and try to see if I could tell what the problem was or where it was exactly. Then, all of a sudden, I heard about 15 firemen frantically running up the path right next to my garden, and I realize that the fire is in MY building!

They were scrambling to lay out huge, long fire hoses and had flood lights set up out there, etc. It was quite the scene.

As it turns out, the source of the fire was at the other end of our building, in the basement / keller area (not far from where people store their bikes). They evacuated all the families at that end of the building last night, and they were all sitting outside in the field, wrapped in blankets that the firemen had given them. (We offered to bring them inside into our homes, but they were told that they could return to their homes in about 1/2 an hour, once the smoke had cleared).

A neighbor told me today that the fire started due to an electrical cable down there that had caught fire (I have no idea if the cable was in someone's storage unit or in the shared area). They have that part of the keller blocked off now, with tape, so no one can access it. But another neighbor and I peeked inside, and it is all completely burnt in there, from floor to ceiling. An area of about 3 meters wide by 15 meters long. And it really stinks... like a chemical smoke smell.

Anyways... I'm sorry to unleash all that, but it was pretty crazy to experience. My neighbor friend was completely shaking last night when we didn't know what was going on exactly, and of course, we all had fear that we were going to be forced to evacuate in the middle of the night; or worse, that the entire building could catch fire.

I also learned this morning that it was the woman who lives directly above the fire that first smelled the smoke, sent her husband down to see what was going on, and then he immediately called the Feuerwehr (118) when he realized there was a fire down there. This couple has a tiny baby, too. I am forced to wonder now why the hallways and keller of our apartment building(s) do not have fire alarms. So one of my reasons for posting this is that perhaps more people should look to see if there are fire alarms installed in the hallways and kellers of their buildings.

I have a new appreciation and respect for firemen now, after seeing them in action so up close like that. Not that I ever lacked respect for them before, of course, but WOW.... They were practically moving at the speed of light, and I feel so thankful for them and all that they do.
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Old 24.10.2021, 12:42
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

What a shock, so glad youíre ok.
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Old 24.10.2021, 12:45
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

The quirky Swiss! No smoke alarms and our first apartment here we were locked in the building at night and could not get out without a key...
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Old 24.10.2021, 12:51
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

So sorry it gave you such a shock.

But yes, you need to work out an escape plan, for sure. When our eldest lived in a Victorian Conversion on top floor- we realised that in case of fire they would be in big trouble. We bought them one of those escape ladders that hooks onto the window sill, and they kept it near the window where they could hopefully then get onto the flat roofed loggia of the neighbour on ground floor and jump to safety.

One thing also is to look for a window that opens fully- many modern double glazed windows would not allow for someone to get through. Great to stop robbers- not so great in case of a fire.

So glad to hear everyone is safe.
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Old 24.10.2021, 12:58
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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So sorry it gave you such a shock.

But yes, you need to work out an escape plan, for sure. When our eldest lived in a Victorian Conversion on top floor- we realised that in case of fire they would be in big trouble. We bought them one of those escape ladders that hooks onto the window sill, and they kept it near the window where they could hopefully then get onto the flat roofed loggia of the neighbour on ground floor and jump to safety.

One thing also is to look for a window that opens fully- many modern double glazed windows would not allow for someone to get through. Great to stop robbers- not so great in case of a fire.

So glad to hear everyone is safe.
Thanks (to all).

That's so nice that you bought them an escape ladder! I have thought about that before, with people living on higher floors -- how would they get out? I think that if I lived on a higher floor, I would probably be in constant fear of a fire.

We do have smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in our home, but we had to purchase and install them ourselves. I had to look it up on youtube to see how exactly to use the fire extinguisher, so it's something I know in advance. The last thing I want to have to do if there is a fire in my home is to have to spend time trying to figure out how to use the dang thing.
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Old 24.10.2021, 13:09
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

What a horrible experience - glad all are safe. I live on the 4th floor of a 105 y.o building, with only the treppenhaus being the single escape route, and the electrics over the years have been well, wanting.

Last year the Vermieterin had to have a (I believe mandatory) inspection done of the entire house electrics. There were a few points that needed to be fixed.

I don’t worry about break-ins, but I do worry a bit about the possibility of a fire - and keep my household inventory up-to-date with receipts in the case of needing to claim on my household insurance (in-fact, having read your post I will probably increase the amount insured now).

Getting a fire extinguisher is a good idea - will also follow-up on that.
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Old 24.10.2021, 13:17
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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Thanks (to all).

That's so nice that you bought them an escape ladder! I have thought about that before, with people living on higher floors -- how would they get out? I think that if I lived on a higher floor, I would probably be in constant fear of a fire.

We do have smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in our home, but we had to purchase and install them ourselves. I had to look it up on youtube to see how exactly to use the fire extinguisher, so it's something I know in advance. The last thing I want to have to do if there is a fire in my home is to have to spend time trying to figure out how to use the dang thing.
Like a true EF'er - notice fire, log onto forum, ask how to use the darn fire extinguisher..

Joke aside, glad that nobody was hurt!

All those window grills that ppl have covering their windows always makes me wonder how they do in case of a fire & a quick way out is required..
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Old 24.10.2021, 13:21
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

What an experience... glad all are safe, and this is also a reminder to install both fire and smoke alarms in one's home.
Swiss regulations are not particularly advanced, and depend a fair bit on the size and use of the building. That makes it hard to tell what you can ask of the landlord or tenant association.
https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/dam/sbfi/e...incendie_e.pdf
There has been progress recently, though still little reliance on sprinklers (which might have limited this incident, but also caused shorting and more damage):
https://www.eurosprinkler.org/wp-con...rland-2015.pdf
That said, this can be put in perspective: Switzerland is not a country where deaths from fires are common. I put it down to the communal responsibility for fire fighting (in villages), with high awareness of the risk in barns and chalets. Plus, relatively limited risk of forest fires spreading to habitations.
https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/fire-death-rates
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Old 24.10.2021, 13:25
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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Like a true EF'er - notice fire, log onto forum, ask how to use the darn fire extinguisher..

Joke aside, glad that nobody was hurt!

All those window grills that ppl have covering their windows always makes me wonder how they do in case of a fire & a quick way out is required..
Yeah, it makes me glad that we have a ground-floor apartment with windows we could easily climb through, if needed.

I was just thinking that I might buy a few more of those long-life battery smoke alarms and put them up in the hallway outside our door and also in the keller in our side of the building.

That really shocks me that it's common for apartment buildings here to NOT have fire alarms in the hallways and keller areas.
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Old 24.10.2021, 14:47
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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Getting a fire extinguisher is a good idea - will also follow-up on that.
And a fire blanket. Also learn to be to get to the stairwell by touch - practice it with your eyes shut.

In the navy fire at sea is a major thing cause you canít exactly call the emergency services so you have to deal with it yourself. The big risk is people become disoriented, so we regularly practiced how to get to fire equipment and get out of our cabins and get up on deck by at least two routes by touch.

As a result I never sleep in a hotel without fully checking out the fire escape first.
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Old 24.10.2021, 15:16
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

If you are above the ground flow there is a chance you are going to have to jump. Rule#1 Protect your head! Land on your feet but donít lock your knees. Keep your arms in.

Lots of stuff on the internet on how to fall properly
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Old 24.10.2021, 15:22
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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And a fire blanket. Also learn to be to get to the stairwell by touch - practice it with your eyes shut.

In the navy fire at sea is a major thing cause you can’t exactly call the emergency services so you have to deal with it yourself. The big risk is people become disoriented, so we regularly practiced how to get to fire equipment and get out of our cabins and get up on deck by at least two routes by touch.

As a result I never sleep in a hotel without fully checking out the fire escape first.
Thank you for the tips. Following your suggestion, I just looked on Amazon.de for fire blankets, and I see that they're really not very expensive at all and that they can be used to try to put out a fire as well as to wrap yourself (or someone else) in if they have to walk through or near fire to get out.

Perhaps this is something that most people already know, but I'll mention it anyways... I once learned from a fireman that appliances that have heating elements (e.g. hair dryers, toasters, etc.) should not remain plugged in when they're not in use, as they can easily catch fire even without being turned on. I had a boss once who told me that her best friend's house burned down due to leaving her toaster plugged in.
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Old 24.10.2021, 15:54
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

I am not aware that fire blankets would be suited to walking through or near a fire. They are meant to extinguish stove fires or other localized fires, and the standard ones at least are not sufficiently large to cover a grown person.
https://www.ic-international.com/blo...-fire-blanket/
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Old 24.10.2021, 15:58
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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And a fire blanket. Also learn to be to get to the stairwell by touch - practice it with your eyes shut.

In the navy fire at sea is a major thing cause you can’t exactly call the emergency services so you have to deal with it yourself. The big risk is people become disoriented, so we regularly practiced how to get to fire equipment and get out of our cabins and get up on deck by at least two routes by touch.

As a result I never sleep in a hotel without fully checking out the fire escape first.
We were very happy to see that we’d been allocated to the top (“ gazillionth”) floor of a building in Vancouver, before going over to Vancouver Island a couple of years ago). Had wonderful views, we’d got it at a really cheap rate, and it was a wonderful experience.

Seconds after we occupied our room, the fire alarms went off, and our view below was of the fire-engines that had gathered outside the hotel. Using the lift was of course prohibited.

With young daughter in tow (on vacation), made fun of it and was not sure what to do. Luckily there came an announcement shortly after that an evacuation was no longer necessary.
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Old 24.10.2021, 16:57
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

That's a problem in Canada. Adolescent hockey teams. When they travel they just love pulling on the fire alarms ...
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Old 24.10.2021, 18:02
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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I am not aware that fire blankets would be suited to walking through or near a fire. They are meant to extinguish stove fires or other localized fires, and the standard ones at least are not sufficiently large to cover a grown person.
https://www.ic-international.com/blo...-fire-blanket/
Oh, okay. Well that's good to know. The amazon pages for the fire blankets that I looked at earlier said that it could also be used to wrap someone in, though the images did only show children wearing one. And you're right -- they do look rather small. Not large enough to really cover an adult.
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Old 24.10.2021, 18:54
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

Thatís so scary! Glad you are OK ... I was always surprised at the lack of fire alarms here too. In the Bern old town, we have them everywhere because fires here can be quite destructive/spread quickly. They even come to our apartments 1x a year to make sure they are working.

I would definitely request to the landlord to install something after such a close call. Hugs!!
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Old 24.10.2021, 19:09
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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Thatís so scary! Glad you are OK ... I was always surprised at the lack of fire alarms here too. In the Bern old town, we have them everywhere because fires here can be quite destructive/spread quickly. They even come to our apartments 1x a year to make sure they are working.

I would definitely request to the landlord to install something after such a close call. Hugs!!
Thanks, hon! Yeah, I was thinking about even getting everyone in our building (which is about 32 apartments) to sign something to give to our leasing company / landlord, requesting fire alarms in the hallways and keller areas. It's scary to think of them being non-existent in those areas, and especially in buildings such as ours where some people live quite high up. Maybe the event last night will be a wake-up call to the landlord, but I guess only time will tell... One thing I found scary about it is that the fire started so late (11:00 pm). If it had started in the middle of the night, how far would it have spread before anyone noticed? I think I'm still going to buy a few smoke detectors and put them up in our hallways and the keller area beneath us. Hugs!
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Old 24.10.2021, 19:15
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

Maybe also check if the fire brigade has advisors who come to your house and tell you where the best places are to get smoke alarms and how many?
You can forward that info then to your landlord
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Old 24.10.2021, 19:19
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Re: There was a fire in our building last night

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Maybe also check if the fire brigade has advisors who come to your house and tell you where the best places are to get smoke alarms and how many?
You can forward that info then to your landlord
That’s a great idea - will also do this for our house that has four apartments (am on the top floor), and the only escape routes have been blocked by 2/3rds in recent years by a neighbor blocking the treppenhuas with their balcony pots on two stories during winter.
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