On Friday night, we were all gathered in the shul at 6:00 p.m.
The girls lit Shabbat candles and we davened Mincha and then Maariv, after which we sat down to eat the Shabbos meal.
Around 200 people were at the meal together, we ate and sang Shabbat songs. When everyone had finished eating, another 60 people sat down, for whom there was no room during the first meal, to enjoy a Shabbat meal.
We also sat with this second shift of guests, joining in their meal and singing songs together.
At around 11 p.m., the second meal finished, but a group of 20 people stayed on for an Oneg Shabbos which went on until midnight.
After the last guests left, we got ready to close up and go to bed.
At about 12:20 a.m two girls suddenly showed up, explaining that they had just arrived from a long trip and had missed candle-lighting. We let them into the Chabad House, where they made Kiddush, washed, and ate their Shabbos meal.
By the time they had finished and gone, it was already 12:50 a.m. Just as we went to close the doors, four young men suddenly arrived, full of energy, wanting to sing Shabbos songs.
We let them in, made a l’chaim together, and sang together for over an hour and a half. At 2:40 a.m. they said that they were going to sleep so that they could get up to listen to the Aseres Hadibros in the morning.
By the time they had gone, it was 3:00 a.m. The only people still here with me were my friend Yanky, and a young man who works here as a travel agent. The three of us sat down and started chatting. At one point, Yanky put his head down on the table and started falling asleep. At 3:30 a.m., he lifted his head and said that he was going to bed.
Suddenly, he shouted, “Fire! Fire!”
When I turned around I saw that there was a fire in the shul.
I ran to the Aron Kodesh as fast as I could to take out the sifrei Torah. The travel agent ran into the kitchen to see where the fire was coming from, while Yanky ran outside to find someone to put out the blaze. In the end, and with very little knowledge, the travel agent was the one who put out the fire.
We later asked a non-Jew to take a look around and try to see where the fire came from, and we saw that a wire in the fleishig refrigerator had overheated and started to burn. The fire had spread to the plastic next to it, and then to the chairs behind the Aron Kodesh.
It’s hard to know what would have happened if the girls hadn’t turned up unexpectedly for Kiddush, or if we hadn’t sat down to sing with the group of young men.
After all, only a few centimeters away from where the fire reached were five gas tanks that were to be used in the kitchen.