a three-alarm fire

three-alarm fire

1. A fire that is so large or intense that it requires the presence of many firefighting units to try to contain it. A three-alarm fire is the reason we heard all of those sirens last night
2. Someone or something that is very intense or stressful. Boy, this project has really become a three-alarm fire with all the other problems it's created.
See also: fire
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a three-alarm fire

and a five-alarm fire
n. someone or something very exciting. Work was a nightmare today. A five-alarm fire with crisis after crisis.
See also: fire
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
See also:
References in periodicals archive ?
WORCESTER - A three-alarm fire gutted the third floor of a Harlow Street three-family home last night.
CUTLINE: Firefighters battle a three-alarm fire at 4 Harlow St.
AUBURN - Firefighters battled a three-alarm fire that broke out shortly before 8 a.m.
CUTLINE: Auburn firefighters at the scene of a three-alarm fire on Evers Street.
A blaze in Grafton on Halloween night, said to be caused by faulty wiring, destroyed the home of a family of five, while a three-alarm fire in Southbridge displaced three families the same night.