October 02, 2005

Adventure at the Hilton

Perhaps you've seen this story. Or perhaps you've seen this picture (Brian's site).

Brian and I spent the weekend in New York. As you might have guessed, we experienced a bit more excitement than planned yesterday when our hotel caught fire.
A fire in an electrical shaft at the Hilton New York hotel yesterday afternoon forced the evacuation of the 45-story Midtown building, sent 33 people to the hospital with smoke inhalation and shut down traffic on Avenue of Americas between West 51st and 54th Streets for more than three hours, the Fire Department said. No one was seriously injured.

The fire started about 4 p.m. as welders were performing maintenance, according to firefighters on the scene. It was limited to a shaft running the length of the building.

The smoke spread rapidly through the 2,017-room hotel through the ventilation system.

Hotel guests from the 8th to the 33rd floors said that the hallways were thick with smoke.
We were on the 29th floor taking a break from a visit to Central Park and a bit of shopping. We heard a noise in the hallway that sounded like kids playing. Then we heard a sound that MIGHT have been a distant fire alarm. Brian then remarked, "are the stairs right next to us?" And then the first fire engine pulled up. And, you guessed it, right at that time, we smelled smoke. Out the door we went.

29 floors down is a piece of cake if you don't have people in front of you. But some of the these people were a bit freaked out, and the Hilton employee directing traffic, as it were, had a nice firm voice that reminded the folks to keep moving (mush, mush). Brian and I added our encouragement. It had the smell of an electrical fire, and some floors were worse than others. Had to cover the nose and mouth on a few. We counted 9 or so fire engines outside the building when we emerged, and traffic was shut down for quite some time.

So we wandered around New York for a while until we were hungry, and we stopped at a restaurant and had a good meal and shared a bottle of wine. When we returned, the hotel was letting guests back in, but the elevators were severely backed up. Brian and I looked at each other, and I said, "stairs?" And he said, "stairs."

And so there were stairs, 29 flights. Which is way too fun on half a bottle of good wine and a very full belly. Thank goodness for physical fitness. When we arrived back at the hotel room, it was not fully ventilated - smell was still pretty acrid. The phones were dead, and we decided to pack up and find alternate lodging. Yes, you guessed it, 29 flights down with full luggage, which is much more of an exercise in resistance training - I have some sore shoulders today (as does Brian, I believe) - I had fully worked upper body the day before.

We ended up at the Times Square Hilton - a bit of gentle but firm "we're not staying here" did the trick on that one. Previous to this little adventure we'd had a nice trip, but I'm afraid this experience is a bit hard to trump as far as blog stories go.


Posted by hln at October 2, 2005 08:45 PM | Anecdote | TrackBack

It's a different NY story, for sure ;~) We were at the Nats-Phillies game yesterday and a kettle corn cooker set the little stand on fire, on the concourse a section or two away from us. We didn't even have to evacuate, so it wasn't as exciting a story as yours.

Posted by: Victor at October 3, 2005 06:44 AM