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29. The Street is Burning
Alvin was walking down 6th Street on a
sunny day when he saw smoke coming out
the street. He could smell the smoke, and
was getting thicker. It was coming out of
storm drain. Alvin used his cell phone to
the fire department.
“The storm drain is on
!” he said. The fire department asked for his
and he said he was near 6th and
. They said they’d be right there to investigate
situation. Alvin didn’t have to be anywhere, so
waited for the firemen to arrive. He was
himself as to what could possibly be burning
the street. As far as he knew, there
’t anything beneath the street except concrete. And everyone
that concrete doesn’t burn.
A fire truck arrived
few minutes later. “Are you the man who
?” asked the driver. Alvin said yes. By now
could hear crackling sounds, like wood burning. The
didn’t seem to consider it an emergency.
you think it could be?” Alvin asked the
“Oh, we know what it is. We have
take care of a problem like this every
months. It’s the homeless people in their houses.”
people have been living under the streets for
. Using their knowledge of the storm drain system,
set up their own “bunkers” beneath the streets.
living areas frequently contain tables, mattresses, chairs, and
. The residents often “borrow” electricity by connecting to
live wire above ground to power their own
and even TVs underground. Either this borrowed electricity
a discarded cigarette causes an occasional fire.
as a couple of firemen lifted a manhole
and descended beneath the street with a fire
. A few minutes later, the black smoke turned
. Shortly afterward, the firemen reappeared with a homeless
who seemed to have just been woken up.