Nearly two weeks after the April 1, 2008 fire, Pearl Street between Chestnut and Pine Streets, Manchester, New Hampshire.
Victims look to start over as offers of help pour in
By PAT GROSSMITH and DALE VINCENT
The Union Leader
updated 8:01 p.m. ET, Wed., April. 2, 2008
MANCHESTER - Fire victims poked through ashes and soot yesterday, trying to salvage what they could from Tuesday night's massive fire at their Pearl Street apartment building.
Some sneaked in early, but most waited until they were allowed to see what remained of their apartments and their belongings.
"It was trashed," said Lisa St. Laurent of the apartment she shared with her boyfriend at 94 Pearl St. The second-floor apartment was one flight up and one apartment over from where firefighters say the fire started.
Several told tales of how they escaped their apartments Tuesday with only what they were wearing and could carry.
St. Laurent, who should have been on oxygen because of lung cancer, fled in slippers, leaving her tanks and medical equipment behind.
A barefoot Erica Caron grabbed a photo album; her mother gave her own sneakers to her daughter.
Just out of the shower, 9-year-old Emilio Stavre frantically got dressed. His mother grabbed the first thing she could -- dirty laundry, it turned out -- and they fled. The boy ended up wearing his mother's boots and sweaters.
Like others interviewed, none carried rental insurance.
Crews yesterday pulled out burned items and tossed them into a large trash bin in the back of the building.
None of the apartments is habitable, even the Chestnut Street apartments, which were little touched by the fire, said Max Sink, deputy director of the city Building Department.
The building will have to be demolished or rebuilt, Sink said.
Also there yesterday was Kenneth DiBenedetto, principal of McDonough School. Several of the elementary school's students lived in the building.
He found their resilience amazing. They lost everything but were focused on school yesterday, he said. One youngster worried about a grade because his project was lost in the fire.
"I told him he'd get an A," said DiBenedetto. Another child, wearing sandals and his mother's sweatshirt, wanted DiBenedetto to tell the music teacher he wouldn't be able to go to practice.
"My violin melted," the principal recounted him saying.
Another child was concerned about missing a spelling test, he said.
DiBenedetto later bought sneakers for all the students staying in the temporary shelter at St. Joseph Regional Junior High School.
His gesture was multiplied across the city, as agencies set up a coordinated effort to deliver all kinds of help -- first month rents, security deposits, household goods, clothing money, even food -- to the victims.
Twenty-five agencies and organizations set up tent at the temporary shelter yesterday morning.
They comprise COAD -- Community Organizations Active in Disaster -- a coalition of nonprofit groups, city departments, store owners, restaurateurs and businesses brought together to provide and coordinate assistance to disaster victims.
Landlords also came by to offer apartments.
Property management agencies waived security deposits and filing fees and offered fire victims reduced rents, said Lisa Michaud, executive director of the Greater Manchester chapter of the Red Cross.
The city's welfare department also made a "sizeable contribution" to the Red Cross to help pay first month rents, she said.
The temporary shelter, which served about three-quarters of the fire victims, closed last night, after housing for everyone who needed it was found, Michaud said.
"Most everybody has a place (temporarily)," she said.
Gary Baker, 42, spent Tuesday night at the shelter with his girlfriend, Michelle Caron.
"It was just amazing to watch your whole life go up in flames," Baker said. "Everything we had is gone."
Like everyone else, they will have to start over.
"We'll just play it day by day," he said.
New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Kathryn Marchocki contributed to this article.
Published on April 2, 2008, Article 2 of 2 found.
About 100 left without home
Author: MARK HAYWARD and SCOTT BROOKS New Hampshire Union Leader
Publication: New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, NH)
Page Number: A1
MANCHESTER -- Dozens of residents fled a vast apartment house on Pearl Street last night, driven by a four-alarm fire that took firefighters nearly four hours to get under control.
About 100 people lived in the 38-unit, L-shaped apartment building, which fronts both Chestnut and Pearl streets. Two nearby buildings were evacuated for precautionary reasons.
Two residents were treated for injuries, one for smoke inhalation and one for chest pains, Fire Chief James Burkush...
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HELP THE VICTIMS: How you can help
We will be taking ChipIn donations until April 30th. You can give as little or as much as you wish.
Alternatively, these options are available to you to offer relief to these families.
From the Union Leader
Thursday, Apr. 3, 2008
Here's how you can help the Pearl Street fire victims:
- Cash donations can be made to the Union Leader Charitable Fund, through April 30, online at www.UnionLeader.com/fire or by mail to Union Leader Charitable Fund Inc., Attention: Fire Victims, 100 William Loeb Drive, P.O. Box 9555, Manchester 03108-9555. Contributions will be turned over to the Salvation Army Manchester Corps for distribution to the fire victims, according to that organization's normal application and assistance procedures.
- A Red Sox opening day sports memorabilia auction at the Wild Rover, 21 Kosciuszko St., starting at noon today will raise funds for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. The silent auction, sponsored by the Rover, AutoFair and New England Picture Co., will run until the game ends, about 5 p.m. The sponsors will match the auction proceeds.
- A benefit concert for the fire victims will be held Thursday at Milly’s Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St. in the Millyard. Cover is $5 and features four bands: MegaBeast, T.H.F., Mother’s Virus and Isolation Sequence.
- The Salvation Army is asking people to donate Wal-Mart gift cards, which can be dropped off or mailed to the Salvation Army, 121 Cedar St., Manchester 03101. The organization is also taking the names of people who want to donate furniture and appliances in good condition.
- The Red Cross is accepting cash donations only, which can be made online at www.redcrossmanchester.org or mailed to American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, 1800 Elm St., Manchester 03104. The relief fund assists victims of this fire and other disasters.