I admit the title to this post is sensationalist. Technically, at no time today did any part of Black Box Studios actually catch on fire. There was, however, a real bonerfide fire in the office tower that houses Black Box studios. The fire happened below us… fourteen fours to be exact… in a second level underground parking garage… where a car caught fire. Let me start from the beginning.

Around 6pm today, we heard the sirens of emergency vehicles outside. Being downtown, this is not an uncommon occurrence, so I kinda ignored it at first. The sirens got real loud though so I noticed whatever vehicles these were had to very close by. I still didn’t get up from my desk to look outside though. One of the new guys did though and then my lead went to look. Pretty soon, everyone started looking.

Outside were already two fire engines and I could hear more vehicles coming. They had stopped outside the entrance to the underground parking garage which is surrounded by our tower, the Vancouver Sun building, and Waterfront Station. We couldn’t really see why they were here though, so most people just went back to work. About three minutes later, our building’s public address system crackled to life. A nervous voice came on to tell us that there was car on fire on P2, firefighters were on the scene, and that no one was to attempt to go down to P2.

From then on, every minute the same message was sent over the PA. This happened almost ten times. Near the end, people were sarcastically saying, “Wait, I’m still not clear which level I’m not supposed to go down to. Tell me again.”

Looking out the window, I saw some pretty casual firefighters if there was indeed a burning car in the garage. A lot of them were just standing around and one guy seemed to be filling out paperwork. Then the PA system came back on. Apparently, smoke had now been detected in our tower and they needed to check out if the source was indeed the car fire or something else. All tower occupants were to leave the building and go to the assembly area.

There was some real hesitation at first because we’ve got some deadlines to meet this week. Slowly, people realized that they probably should go, just in case. I actually went to the little boys’ room first because I didn’t know how long we’d be standing outside. When I got to the elevator area, there were people waiting for the next car. I said to everyone, “We should probably take the stairs.” Then an elevator arrived just as I finished my suggestion, so we naturally piled into the car.

The ride down to the lobby was uneventful but we did smell smoke even before the doors opened. It was unmistakable smell of burnt electronics, like when you apply too much juice to an op-amp. The smell was quite strong and it was then I realized it was probably good that we had left when we did.

After standing around for about five minutes in the cold, a group of about eight of us decided it’d be better to wait at the pub across the street. We actually sat out on the heated patio, which afforded us a great view of our building. While we drank and ate dinner, we watched a whole lot of nothing happen. The emergency vehicles eventually went away one by one.

By the time we paid our bill, it was just after 8pm. Crazily enough, out of our group of about eight, only one of us decided to go home. The rest of us went back up to 12 and continued to work. I left at 9pm after a productive hour of work, leaving my pub group behind. That’s dedication folks.

And that was my excitement for the day.

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