Towering Inferno

I’m back for one final post before my week ends.

On Saturday night, I met a good friend of mine at a local foreigner bar here in town that his boyfriend works at tending bar.  This is a pretty regular spot for me to hang out because they atmosphere is nice, the food is good, the bar staff are friendly and I get to keep improving my dart skills.  I mention the food because it will play an integral in the ongoings of the night later on in this story.

So, I have been at this establishment for most of my night, talking with friends, having a few drinks, playing darts and of course dancing and singing every time a familiar song blares from the overhead speakers.

The crowd is now starting to get a little bigger, as a group of Koreans have come to celebrate a friends birthday with cake, bar food and of course beer.  It’s always fun to have locals in the foreigner bars because they treat us like royalty and don’t mind using the one or two English phrases they know on us over and over again.

So, as the drinks are flowing, the music is playing and the dancing is starting to pick up, the electricity at the bar suddenly goes out. At this point, I’m thinking it’s no big deal because the weather has been a little rainy the past couple of days, so maybe it’s just storming out and a line is out.

However, that thought quickly changed when Soon Young, the owner of the bar burst through the door of a random side entrance to the bar!  She looks terrified and is screaming something in Korean…. Finally I think she realizes that we foreigners aren’t understanding her so she shouts “FIRE!!”

At this point, no one is particularly concerned as we all look around the bar and things seems to be pretty normal.

“EVERYBODY OUT, PLEASE!! FIRE!! FIRE!!” The owner continues to shout.  So we all grab out things and head for the main entrance of the bar.  However, the herd of people are soon turned back by the wall of smoke we are met with in the adjoining room with the exit.

At this moment, a pit of panic ensues. The bar staff quickly start ushering people the other direction and calling 119 on the telephone.  The mass of patrons turn and rush toward the second side entrance, the one that the owner used to drop the bomb that the building was on fire.

The path through this entrance seems a bit clearer, so we start filing through.  However, the smoke quickly starts billowing out into this hallway as well.  My eyes and lungs fill with smoke and I’m paralyzed by fear for a few seconds.

I’m not sure if I should keep walking through the smoke, without knowing what’s on the other side, if I should turn and go back the way I just came, if I should start crawling on all fours to avoid the smoke, or if I should immediately stop, drop and roll just as a preventative measure!!! All I could think about was how I didn’t want to burn to death in Korea!

I decided my best option was to keep walking, or running, through the smoke and hope that there wasn’t a heap of flames waiting for me on the other side.  So, I did.  Luckily, there was no blaze at the end of the smoke filled trail, and I was able to escape unharmed.  However, when I reached the stairwell, I took a short glance back at where I had just come from, only to see the ceiling engulfed in flames and pieces of it start to fall to the ground.  What if I was under that when it fell?  Would I still be trapped under the inferno?

Luckily everyone made it out of the building, this bar and fire were on the 3rd floor, unharmed.  The fire department responded in a timely manner with not one but three fire trucks and an ambulance. The fire was extinguished and the bar was closed for the remainder of the night, obviously.

I’m not sure what happened exactly to start the fire, but I’m sure it had something to do with food that was cooking in the kitchen that was left unattended for a bit too long.  I’m not sure of the damage to the bar either.  Hopefully the damage is centralized to most just the kitchen and operation can resume soon as normal.

It’s times like these that it really makes you stop and think for a bit.  No, I wasn’t harmed nor was anyone else, but what if we weren’t able to escape!?  Thanks to the Changwon Fire Department for their quick response and help in this situation!  This has definitely been my scariest moment in Korea!