By Lisa Brunette
In late March, just a week or so into the quarantine lockdown due to the coronavirus, we had quite a scare here at Brunette Games HQ when a fire broke out just one building away.
Ours is a mixed-use neighborhood of businesses, apartment buildings, and established single-family homes. The town's roots go back to before the Civil War, when it was an outpost to growing St. Louis. Many of the buildings, like ours, are 115 years old, dating back to the World's Fair Era boom that established Maplewood as a destination.
Everyone who lived in the apartment building that caught fire escaped unharmed, but the fire gutted their apartments, destroying everything they owned, only the brick structure remaining. The fire blew out the windows in the building next door to us and melted the siding off the home on the other side. It blistered a wooden deck we worried would catch fire, bringing it closer to our building. Fortunately, the fire never touched us.
Here's a video taken by an eyewitness on the street behind Brunette Games HQ.
While the fire grew to an engulfing, raging size with alarming quickness, the fire departments were on scene and battling it before it could spread. Thanks to them, no one was hurt, and only one building was damaged.
Our sympathy goes out to the residents of the gutted apartment building, who've lost their homes during an already difficult time. We're glad to hear they received some emergency support from the Red Cross, and that all of them had a place in town they could go to stay.
In the middle of one apocalypse, they got another. After pandemic and then fire, what's left?
But it's always good to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are, and that goes for many of us in dealing with the pandemic. Here at Brunette Games, we are very lucky we can continue to work through the quarantine, and are relieved that no one we know has suffered from COVID-19. We're also grateful to live in a place and time in which a formidable fire foe can rear its fearsome fury, and a legion of water warriors arrives to vanquish it... just... like... that.
It's been reported the fire was started by an accident with a barbecue grill. The enclosed porch on the back of the flat was reduced to char. Once the blaze was extinguished, firefighters pulled down what remained of the porch, just skeletal, burnt debris. Here's how the back of the building looked the next morning.
It's worth taking a moment to recognize the people who put themselves in danger in order to help others. It's quite a calling to be a firefighter. The rest of us could only stand on the sidelines - trying our best to maintain social distancing - and watch in awe as they did their swift, expert work to squelch the fire.
As a business, we know our local community is just as important as the global gaming community we're very much a part of. We are members of our chamber of commerce and have been impressed by the ingenuity our fellow business leaders have shown to continue business despite the lockdown. Our local fire firefighters had actually been hoping to pass a measure this spring for increased funding for equipment, but the election has been delayed due to the shelter-in-place order. We reached out to the fire department to see if we could donate, and they suggested we give to The Backstoppers. We have made a donation in the name of Brunette Games LLC, to recognize our gratitude and support for firefighters and other first responders. The Backstoppers mission is to provide:
Ongoing needed financial assistance and support to the spouses and dependent children of all police officers, firefighters and volunteer firefighters, and publicly-funded paramedics and EMTs in our coverage area who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
We've been able to continue our business without interruption through the quarantine, and we emerged from this fire unscathed. We look with optimism and hope to the future and wish you all the same luck and fortune in your work and life.
Note: The fire was covered in 40 South News, and a local filmmaker created a short documentary of the event: