That Time Our Apartment In Bulgaria Caught On Fire


One of the things Brent and I have noticed during our stay here in Bansko, Bulgaria, is that regulations are … rather relaxed. Which is a draw for some people, including Germans who think Germany might be a tad over-regulated.

Somethings that would be strictly controlled in the United States — only electricians can do electrical work, apartments must have smoke alarms, and apartment buildings fire extinguishers and clearly marked emergency exits — are pretty much non-existent here in Bulgaria.

As we discovered one beautiful fall morning while eating breakfast.

Brent first noticed was the smell of plastic burning. We just thought it was folks burning trash, and I hopped up and closed the windows. 


No big deal.

But it got worse, so we started investigating. Brent opened the second bathroom door and flames flared up. Apparently, the fire had been smoldering. Black smoke billowed out.

He slammed the door shut, yelled fire, and I tried too call 112. Unfortunately, the call wouldn't go through.

Totally big deal. Huge, massive deal as the smoke kept pouring out of the now-closed door.

Brent ran down the stairs shouting, “Fire!” and trying to find someone to call 112 for us. But no one responded. The only person who responded was another American who heard the word “fire” and promptly got out of bed.


Knowing we needed the fire department ASAP, I used Facebook messenger to get in touch with our landlord. Thankfully, he’s online a lot and very responsive. He messaged me back that the fire department was on the way. He also suggested turning off the circuit breakers to cut off electricity.

This turned out to be an excellent idea.

Meanwhile, after determining the fire wasn’t spreading and I could breathe (relatively speaking), I triaged what to grab. First, passports, money, and laptops. All within relatively easy reach.

Second, I grabbed a few clothes from the bedroom, then slammed that door shut so the fire couldn’t spread if it escaped the bathroom.


It was about then the fire department arrived and did their thing. Turned out be shutting off the electricity, we’d cut off the source of the fire.

All in all, we got off very lightly. This happened at 9 AM and we were wide awake, getting ready for a hike. Had this happened at 4 AM, it’s pretty doubtful we would have smelled the smoke as soon. Consequently, we would have been in much worse circumstances as we tried to escape in the dark while choking on the thick, black smoke. And it probably would’ve taken the fire department a lot longer to respond.

Needless to say, we immediately went out and purchased a portable smoke detector that will now go with us everywhere.

P.P.S. Yes, our laptops are okay! After our personally being safe, that's what all our digital nomad friends want to know, right? It was my second thought too! 😏😏