I’d been working at JAARS for just a few minutes after lunch. A huge racket started outside our Cave. It sounded like someone had dropped a bunch of metal CO2 containers and some of them were whooshing around the room knocking cubicles over. I couldn’t image there not being mangled bodies
Normally, I’d have been very concerned. But several times in the past month the crew building the new server room has made prolonged, startling, unholy noises with copper pipes. So I was just concerned.
Somebody in our room walked over to the door, opened it, looked out. After what seemed to be a minute he said, “Does anyone know where a fire extinguisher is?”
I went out the other door from our cave and turned four corners to look down into cubicalville.
There were multiple small fires in the room! The biggest fire’s flames reached from the carpet to desk height.
Four guys were standing in a semi-circle watching. People popping out of distant cubicals to have a look. Someone mentioned a laptop battery exploding.
I turned around and walked back to look for a fire extinguisher. I could feel that time was slowed down, and that my thinking seemed very impaired. I didn’t know where to find a fire extinguisher. I know they often had big red signs by them, so I stated looking for a red vertical sign. I found a red vertical sign almost immediately, but it was on the floor, resting against a wall. Beside it was a fire extinguisher. I grabbed it, and went back. The ring of people was bigger. I walked up. I didn’t seem to remember how to start a fire extinguisher. I said, “I’ve got a fire extinguisher. Anyone want to use it?” Nobody answered. Of course with my sense of time gone weird, I might have spoken too quietly, or not waited at all for someone to reply.
I looked down at the fire extinguisher. It had a pin. That would be the first step. I pulled the pin. It didn’t come out. I pulled again. It didn’t come out. The smallest fire was just in front of me. I stomped out with my right foot.
I looked down at the fire extinguisher again. The pin was held in by a plastic loop. I yanked. It came out. I stared stupidly at the extinguisher. There seemed to be two metal handles. I wasn’t sure which one to move.
One of the radio guys walked up through the through the people with an extinguisher. He sprayed out the big one, sprayed the gear on the desk where the burning and exploding had started, and flipped the power off on the hardware there.
Then I passed him my extinguisher and he went and put out the other fire by the coffee machine - quite some distance away.
The room was really smokey. It seemed like minutes before the fire alarms when off. The smoke was evil tasting.
I walked fifteen feet to my desk, grabbed my camera, and took a few photos of the damage. I still was not thinking properly - good thing the pictures turned out - the camera was set on manual mode.
Then people started leaving the building. When there’s a fire alarm, it turns out everyone is supposed to leave the building.
I stayed outside the exterior door into watching to see if any fires started up. A long time later the fire trucks showed up. I went and took more pictures.
In hindsight it probably took less than 50 seconds from the time explosion stopped to the time the fires were out.