CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Thirty-five families are heartbroken as their new reality sets in following an apartment complex fire on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
“I just want to break out and cry but it’s just tears me a part, all of these homes, people that lost everything,” said Martin Peterson, a resident at the Regal Apartment building. “We lost a lot. We lost our heart and our mind and we don’t know where to go.”
They’ve lost everything, their home, clothing and personal belongings. Lennel Ellerbe, a resident at the Regal Apartment building, said he was devastated after he lost his dog Fluffy.
“He was a good dog. He got burned up, and I loved Fluffy,” Ellerbe said. “My life is gone. I came here from New York, and as you see, I’m homeless.”
As they grapple with what comes next, several people have stepped up to help provide aid. One of those organizations is the Red Cross. They’ve been working with residents since Wednesday night, and said they’ll continue for the next two to three weeks.
As they work to find permanent housing for displaced residents, the Red Cross said about 22 of the 35 families will be staying at a hotel in Charleston. They said some residents have decided to stay with family and friends, but the owners of the apartment building said they’ve stepped up to help with financial needs until each resident is re-housed.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross is assisting with immediate assistance; however, they are making plans to assist on a more long-term level as well. That’s where organizations like the United Way and Mountain Mission have stepped in to help.
“We have bins set aside here especially for the fire victims,” said Chris Akers, Mountain Mission Community Resource Manager. “Clothing, toiletry, as you can see here, that will specifically go to that cause.”
The United Way is collecting monetary donations and Mountain Mission is collecting everything else, but the story of the fire has also impacted surrounding communities as well.
Residents like Rebecca Robertson, who lives in Hurricane, dropped off donations at the Mountain Mission Thursday afternoon after she heard about the fire.
“I decided to come down because, like I said, I would hope that someday if I needed this I could come here and get what I needed to,” said Rebecca Robertson, Hurricane resident. “It just breaks my heart. I can’t even imagine.”
The Kanawha County Commission said they plan to donate $25,000 to help those displaced.