Firefighters offer thanks to those who helped displaced families

EVERETT — Several families remain displaced after a two-alarm fire that destroyed a south Everett apartment complex July 20.

At the same time, firefighters have been moved to thank a church and two local businesses that stepped up to help.

The American Red Cross and the Volunteers of America are working with families on long-term housing options, local Red Cross director Chuck Morrison said Tuesday. Each family has different needs, he said.

More than 40 people in all lost their homes in the early- morning fire at the Beverly Village Apartments at 801 75th St. The building, worth about $4 million, was damaged beyond repair.

Some of those displaced still are spending nights at the emergency shelter set up at a church along Casino Road, while others are stopping by for meals in the daytime, Morrison said. Some are staying with friends.

One family has moved to Idaho. The Red Cross paid for their transportation expenses, Morrison said.

Many of those displaced are facing significant financial challenges.

“These are good people, and we want to find them permanent housing and as of the last couple of days, we have made significant progress,” Morrison said.

Assistant Everett Fire Marshal Eric Hicks stopped and visited with folks at the shelter Tuesday. One woman told him the shelter has been her home for more than a week.

It was a two-fold mission: During the same trip, Hicks gave the church and two local businesses letters of thanks from the Everett Fire Department for their help after the fire.

The Safeway store at Evergreen Way and 75th Street SE provided the victims with temporary shelter while the American Red Cross was preparing an overnight shelter, Hicks said.

The Safeway store also provided those displaced with pastries, coffee and juice. The nearby Starbucks donated coffee to emergency responders.

In the letters, Everett Fire Chief Murray Gordon thanked the church and the businesses for generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness.

“During such a tragedy, the community often comes together to help and I am thankful that your employees were accommodating to these families when they needed assistance most,” he wrote in one of the letters.

The property owner and the insurance company will have to decide what to do with the destroyed 60-unit building, Hicks said. Three units sustained damage from the fire, and about a dozen more from smoke and water. As the fire spread into the attic, most of the roof was burned off.

Some residents have been able to get belongings out, Hicks said. They are trying to salvage items such as furniture, now damaged and dirty. There are plans to hold a community meeting about what happened in the coming weeks.

A major focus for that meeting will be fire prevention and safety, Hicks said.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by clothes and other items being left too close to a baseboard heater. The apartment where it started had no smoke alarms.

Even in the summertime, it’s important to leave a three-foot clearance area around baseboard and wall heaters, Hicks said. That area is not a safe place to keep anything combustible.

A thermostat can be triggered by a drop in temperature, but also by someone bumping into the wall or the outstretched arm of a curious child, Hicks said.

After other major fires in Everett, local businesses and churches often chip in with food and drinks, and open their doors to help those who are victims, he said.

“It’s just nice to recognize them for what they do,” Hicks said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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