Steamboat tenants see help after duplex fire
Local businesses, volunteers organizing aid for 18 displaced by blaze
August 16, 2010
Sarah Cherry, a local volunteer for the American Red Cross, said the best way to donate items for the 18 people affected by Saturday’s duplex fire is through LIFT-UP of Routt County, 2125 Curve Court on Steamboat Springs’ west side. Call LIFT-UP’s donation center at 970-879-3374, or LIFT-UP administration at 970-870-0727. The donation center is closed on Mondays, but is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. LIFT-UP’s food bank is open from 1 to 5 p.m. today.
Steamboat Springs — Several local businesses and volunteers are finding ways to help those displaced by Saturday's fire at an Old Town duplex, but many challenges lie ahead.
Sarah Cherry, of Steamboat Springs, volunteers locally through the regional American Red Cross office in Fort Collins. Cherry said Sunday that 18 people "lost everything" in the Saturday afternoon fire at a duplex at Fourth and Oak streets in Steamboat. On Sunday evening, several of the tenants scoured through the duplex's smoke-filled rooms looking for salvageable items.
Others simply stood on the sidewalk outside. Many, if not all, were wearing the clothes they fled the fire in Saturday.
Eighteen is a greater tally than the nine people — plus a dog, Ozo — that initial reports said were displaced by the blaze. Cherry said the duplex included a basement apartment for which she did not have a definite address.
One side of the duplex housed a family of about eight, she said, while the other side housed five people in the ground-level apartment and five more in the basement below.
Cherry said the basement apartment had no flooring —just a carpet on top of mud.
Carlos Nataren, originally from Honduras, said he's lived in Steamboat for five years and works at More Lumber near Milner. He lived in the basement of the duplex. Other roommates who live in the duplex include Abel Gamarra, of Peru, and another from El Salvador, Nataren said. At least three men in the duplex work at More Lumber. Oscar Hernandez, who lived in the family side of the duplex, said he works local construction jobs.
Cherry spent part of Sunday evening trying to find sturdy shoes for Nataren so that he could go to work this morning. Nataren only had the sandals on his feet after the fire.
Cherry said the 18 tenants, which include at least three school-aged children, stayed at the Alpiner Lodge on Saturday and Sunday nights. LIFT-UP of Routt County paid for the discounted rooms Saturday and the Red Cross paid for Sunday's lodging, Cherry said.
"The Alpiner gave us a great rate, and they've been really helpful," Cherry said.
She said Backcountry Provisions provided free lunches and Tequila's Real Mexican Food provided free dinners Sunday. Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter has chipped in, as well. But the tenants' lodging for tonight is uncertain, Cherry said, and could require her and other local Red Cross volunteers to set up cots in a school or other available space.
"We might have to open a shelter," Cherry said.
No one was injured when the duplex caught fire at about 4:20 p.m. Saturday.
Steamboat Springs Police Department and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue personnel said Sunday that there was no update yet on a cause of the fire, which Fire Marshal Jay Muhme said started in the basement.
Residents of the duplex said Saturday that there might have been an explosion in the basement before the fire, which gutted the apartments and coated them in smoke.
Cherry said no fund has been set up yet for the tenants, but donations could be channeled through LIFT-UP. Local Red Cross volunteer Joanne Erickson said efforts are under way to get vouchers for Walmart so the tenants could buy clothes.
Cherry said the greatest challenge will be helping the tenants find new housing.
"These families have lost everything … and they didn't have a lot of resources to start out with," Cherry said. "Any help that anybody could do with donations to LIFT-UP would be appreciated."