It was August of 1969. I was sleeping on my nine foot by seven foot waterbed when a friend, who had needed a place to crash that night and was staying in the front room, came running into the bedroom yelling, "The house is on fire! The house is on fire!"
I quickly jumped out of bed, stark naked, saying, "Well let's put it out!" and ran to the front room with my friend to survey the problem.
I could see flames coming out of the floor-grate heater and they had spread to the curtains and a large cushion.
I opened the front door, handed my three month old beagle, "Bagel", to my friend and instructed him to get the hell out of the apartment.
I grabbed the large, flaming cushion, and headed out the front door, tripping on the welcome mat outside the doorway. My neighbor, across the way in our court apartments, was coming out to retrieve his news paper just in time to see me tumbling naked with a flaming cushion down my front stairs.
Bruised, singed but undaunted, I headed back into the apartment. As I looked around the front room, I realized, putting out the fire was hopeless.
I quickly ran back to the bathroom where my girlfriend was taking a shower, completely unaware that the apartment was on fire.
I reached into the shower and grabbed her hand and said, "Come on baby, we have to get out of here, the place is on fire!"
"Yeah, right," she replied, in disbelief.
"You better believe it's right!" I said, pulling her out of the shower.
She quickly grabbed a robe off the door hook, as I pulled her into the hall. The fire had progressed to the hallway and was quickly heading toward the bedroom, our only way out!
I pulled her into the bedroom, ahead of the flames, and looked at the windows. "Oh crap!" I suddenly remember. Louvered windows!
I grabbed a wooden chair and started breaking the glass out of the window to allow our escape. I could feel the heat of the flames getting hotter as the fire made its way down the hall to where we were trying to escape.
After finally breaking away enough glass, I pushed my girlfriend out of the window, just as the flames reached the bedroom. I then dived out the window, head first. I could feel the flames burning the soles of my feet as I flew through the air, landing naked on the pavement, six feet below. As I looked up at the window, I could see flames, shooting out about three feet.
A small crowd of neighbors had gathered outside my apartment and one of them, noticing my nudity, brought me a pair of jeans. We all watched the apartment burn as the firemen, who had been called by the neighbor who had seen me rolling down the stairs with the burning cushion, fought the fire.
I noticed that my friend was no longer holding my puppy, Bagel. "Where's Bagel?" I asked.
"He jumped out of my arms and ran back into the front room; I guess he was looking for you!" He replied in a shaky, apologetic voice.
I knew he was a goner! Just then one of the paramedics, who had been applying a dressing to my girlfriend's forehead for a laceration she had received when she hit the pavement, said to me. "Those feet of yours look pretty bad!"
His partner applied a wet dressing to both of my feet and we were both transported by ambulance to Hollywood Emergency for medical care.
My girlfriend received eight stitches to her forehead, and they redressed my second degree burns after applying Silvadine Ointment to the soles of my feet.
We found ourselves standing outside the Emergency Room, she in her bathrobe, me in a pair of genes, hair all frizzled, smoke smudges on our face, her head and my feet in bandages, holding a bill for $500 for emergency treatment.
The Hollywood Police Department was across the street, where as it happened, my brother worked as a homicide detective.
We went into the police station and walked up to the information desk and I told the sergeant I would like to talk to Officer Kent, if he was available.
The sergeant gave us a startled look, noticing our appearance and said, "Hold on, I'll see if he's in." He then, after dialing an extension whispered something into the phone told us to, "Have a seat, he'll be right out."
My brother arrived quickly to where we were sitting and after taking one look at us, and knowing how I like to take recreational drugs, said, "What's the matter bro, are you on a bummer?"
"A bummer, a bummer? You bet I'm on a bummer! I replied, trying to keep my voice down.
After explaining the situation, we climbed into my brother's car and returned to scene of the fire.
My apartment's superstructure was still standing and the fire extinguished, and thanks to the fireman's efforts was contained to my apartment.
My puppy was dead and most of what I owned was in a smoking pile of ashes, in front of the apartment. The only thing that had made it through the fire was my waterbed. One of the fireman explained that as one man entered the front door with a hose, another had axed a hole in the bedroom ceiling and entered the bedroom.
He had noticed that the waterbed's content was at a rolling boil, inside the vinyl covering. He had reached down and unplugged the bed, causing the water to run out and help extinguish the fire. I was actually able to salvage it and used it for another three years.
It was later determined that the cause of the fire was, the floor grate heater was so old, the ignition temperature of the wood, containing it, had been lowered and had spontaneously started the fire.
The landlord, although mostly responsible, was not considered liable. I had no fire insurance but thanks to my friends was able to accumulate more stuff and found another apartment within a couple of weeks. Most of my clothes, although not burned, were too smoke damaged to be worn.
Of all the things I lost in the fire, I miss my puppy and the family photographs the most. They cannot be replaced.
Despite the loss of my puppy, I was thankful my girlfriend, my friend and I had survived. Had my friend not stayed that night, I am sure she and I would have perished in the flames.
Since that day, I have been very fire prevention cautious. I keep an escape latter, a pair of pants and a fire extinguisher in my bedroom. I have all my valuable papers in a fireproof safe and follow fire safety rules to the letter.