Nearly a week after the five-alarm Thurston Road apartment fire, displaced residents are working with the American Red Cross and other agencies to rebuild their lives.
After his apartment building of several years burned Monday, James Smith and his 13-year-old son have found themselves living out of a small hotel for the time being; his 15-year-old daughter visiting often.
“Now it’s time to just rebuild, so it takes a lot of planning, there’s a lot of running around…” Smith said.
Smith was one of a dozen people displaced by the five-alarm fire that ultimately forced city crews to demolish the Thurston Road apartment building.
“It’s devastating when the reality hits you, and it’s like wait a minute, I don’t have anything,” Smith said.
The fire was the day after his son Junior’s birthday, but he says the community has been great to them, with a Nintendo Switch being one of many kind gifts.
“It was kind of devastating that he lost a lot of things, but like I said, the community overwhelmingly searched him out because of that fact and he’s OK now,” Smith said.
The Red Cross gave them spending cards for food and other necessities, and the community held a clothes drive.
“It gives me hope," Smith said. "It gives me hope for this city that we do care about community and we do care about each other.”
The Red Cross is also working beyond that initial short-term relief.
“We find out what their long-term recovery plans are," Love said. "Are they staying with family? What exactly do they need?”
Right now they’re working to find those affected like Smith housing, and working to get them to community partners that can help with more long-term relief.
“It’s a very warm hand-off. We want to make sure we work with those clients," Love said. "It’s not, ‘We’re going to go out the fire, provide the assistance, and then you’re never going to see us again.’ We work with those families from step one, to step eight.”
And right now, Smith says that’s the big hurdle: rebuilding their lives.
“The plan is to try and find a house for Christmas," Smith said. "I don’t want to spend Christmas in a hotel, I don’t want to spend Christmas sleeping on someone’s couch. That’s why we’re here.”