Organisation - May 14, 2020

‘The flames leapt metres high from the roof’


A lovely spring day reminds Eugene van Meteren of a hot summer’s day in 2007. It was a Friday afternoon in June and Eugene was working peacefully in the office at Hoevestein. Until…

Diary of a caretaker: Eugene van Meteren works for Idealis as a caretaker. He writes about his experiences for Resource.

There was a thunderstorm brewing and big, dark clouds hung over Wageningen. Suddenly I heard an almighty bang. I jumped out of my skin and I realized lightning must have struck somewhere. Less than a minute later, I saw dozens of residents running out of the block in panic, pointing and looking up. I stood up and sprinted over to the crowd. One resident came up to me crying: ‘Eugene, look up, this is terrible, the roof is on fire.’ It was a scary sight – the flames leapt at least 15 metres into the air. Gas bottles exploded. They were standing there because of repair work on the roof. Lightning had struck the Hoevestein complex: that much was clear.

There I stood, knees knocking, in my summer clothes

Meanwhile, it was getting busier outside. The atmosphere was chaotic and panicky. In the distance I heard the loud sirens of fire engines and police cars rushing to the scene. The lifts were out of action because of the fire and the fire officers took the stairs up to the 16th floor. From there they would be able to get onto the roof to put out the fire. They had told me to go up with them so that we could see if there were any residents left in the building. We were on the 14th floor when there was another loud bang. That explosion blew out the windows in the stairway, and pieces of glass flew around us. I felt as though I was in the middle of a scene from an exciting action film, but I wasn’t enjoying it at all.

The fire officers were wearing protective clothing and there I stood, knees knocking, in my summer clothes. One of the fire officers shouted at me: ‘Go downstairs, it isn’t safe here!’

It took hours to extinguish the fire. Luckily none of the residents were harmed. The staff of Idealis worked all through the weekend to find everyone temporary accommodation elsewhere. And after one and a half weeks and some repairs to the building, all the residents could return. Peace returned to Hoevestein, just as though nothing had happened.