Picking Up the Pieces: A Volunteer's Perspective

Volunteer Ted Durkee surveys the damage after an apartment fire.
Volunteer Ted Durkee surveys the damage after an apartment fire.

On a Monday morning this year, residents of an East Fifth Ave. apartment complex awoke to words everyone dreads….fire, get out now! While all twelve residents made it out safely, they watched as their homes and belongings were destroyed by the fire. A Red Cross volunteer who responded to the fire that morning, recounts her experience.

“The tenants were huddled together across the street from the fire when we arrived. They had been roused from their beds by a young man who was passing by and noticed the fire. Ted Durkee, our fearless leader, quickly got out blankets for those just in T-shirts and we began the interview process, packing as many in the warm van as possible. 

These people had so little and what they did have was now charred or destroyed in the fire. I was especially taken by one gentleman who I saw taking his belongings out of his apartment. His little pile of belongings, not up to his knees, sat on the sidewalk. As I looked into the one room apartment, I saw a water-soaked mattress leaning against a wall, soggy insulation covering the floor and beautiful blue sky through the only “ceiling” that was left – charred 2×4’s. I reminded him that the Red Cross would help him buy a pair of shoes. Upon hearing this he gave me a smile that was SO BIG it was hard to imagine he had lost nearly everything just hours before.”

Four of the eight apartments were destroyed and the remaining four suffered smoke and water damage as a result of the fire. More than $7,800 in Red Cross assistance was distributed to the victims for clothing, shoes, food and a safe place to stay for the first few nights following the fire. Fires do happen in our community. Make sure your family is prepared with our Fire Prevention and Safety checklist here.

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