Fire displaces local families
September 14, 2007
Craig — It was a scene that changed dramatically from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
Instead of a fire peaking through the north side of the 12-unit complex at the 485 Washington Street apartments, as it did in the morning, charred wood, broken windows, ash-strewn walkways and strong stench of smoke took its place in the afternoon.
Instead of tenants holding each other in solemn embraces, watching as their building burned, tenants were now coming back to the location with looks of resolve on their faces, seeking to salvage what they could.
And instead of onlookers stopping and parking their cars to get a better look at the building set ablaze, people were now stopping and approaching Dan Bingham, the Red Cross area lead, asking how they could help.
“I get a lot of people who are asking, ‘what can we do?'” he said. “And you know, that’s Craig. : We’re going to need to help from the community on this. We really are.”
The morning fire sent a female tenant and a firefighter to the hospital. The firefighter suffered minor injuries due to heat exhaustion, said Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Chris Nichols, and has been released. The woman’s condition was not available due to privacy laws.
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The fire also left 11 families without a place to call home.
“The entire place is condemned until further notice,” Nichols said.
How the fire started cannot be verified, Nichols said, but it is believed that a personal oxygen tank – found inside the apartment of the woman who was transported to the hospital – was part of the cause.
The Fire Department and the Craig Police Department were alerted to the fire at 6:57 a.m. Nichols said the fire was under control by 8 a.m. and contained by 9 a.m.
Fifteen firefighters, three engines and two trucks responded to the scene.
Eight of the 12 units in the complex suffered heavy damage from the blaze, Nichols said.
No monetary estimates on how much damage the fire caused to the building or to people’s personal property were available.
The Red Cross was on scene throughout the day, coordinating efforts for the fire victims.
By the afternoon, Bingham said all the families he contacted had found a place to temporally stay, though there were still a couple of more families that he needed to contact.
“The community has taken almost everyone in,” he said
Bingham said the apartment complex owner was also looking at some of his other properties to possibly relocate the victims.
“We want to get everyone’s deposit back as soon as possible and get all the information out on where they can stay,” said Jim Dougherty, member manager of Jay and Jay Properties, the company who has owned the building since 2002.
With temporary housing and getting stability for the families coming together, the next step is helping them get on with their lives, Bingham said, as many of the families likely lost clothing and personal items.
Peggy Satterwhite of the Community Budget Center, 555 Yampa Ave., said the business is setting up a spot where people can donate items – from clothing to furniture – specifically for the families involved in the fire.
“They will be the collection point for clothing, pots and pans, bedding – everything that you need to live by,” Bingham said. Some items families “are going to be desperate for” include clothing for a 2-year-old girl, “and everything that goes with that,” he added.
He also noted a 5-year old girl was part of one of the families.
Bank of Colorado representatives have said a donation site has been set up at its location in the name of the “Washington Street fire.”
Bingham said people can donate money to the Red Cross as well, at 120 Saturn Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80525.
The Red Cross is conducting victim interviews today to find out what the families will need, and will release that information afterward.
“All the tenants I’ve talked to just want to get back on their feet,” Dougherty said. “And it was uplifting to see people just really want to get the problem solved.”