I was walking through Murray Hill today and was stunned to see a conflagration unfold before my very eyes. At the intersection of 2nd Avenue and 26th Street, the air seemed a little smokey. I looked up and saw gray-brown smoke begin to billow out of the top of a four-story, red-brick tenement building anchored by the Sunflower Diner.
The smoke just wouldn't stop. It rippled up like quickly forming cumulous clouds. A crowd gathered. An exhaust pipe leading out of the Sunflower and snaking up the side of the building began to emit wisps of smoke. No flames yet, maybe owing to the light rain.
The sirens began. In five minutes, four long ladder trucks were there. In a couple more minutes, three ladders were propped against the building. A fireman was on the roof. Another, armed with a long metal pole, was smashing the large floor-to-ceiling windows of the Sunflower. Smash! Smash! Smash! Tongues of fire appeared around the exhaust pipe and elsewhere. It seems clear the fire had started somewhere inside the Sunflower.
I've never been inside the Sunflower, but it's clear it will be closed for the foreseeable future.
I've witnessed plenty of fires in New York, but never one in its first stages. The response was quite impressive in its speed and organization. Those firemen didn't seem fazed in the least.