Saturday started out good. Had plans and did quite a bit of housework (spring cleaning level stuff). You know the kind…opem a cabinet, closet or drawer and say…this doesn’t go here – then you move from one area to another putting things where they really belong and discarding the junk that’s found along the way. I managed to clean out the big walk in pantry, get all the canning stuff back in it’s proper location, cleaned out the cabinets with the serving bowls, cups, glasses. YEAH! Ernie managed to do the laundry and sweep floors. We did good!
The evening brought some tenant issues to be dealt with…it’s never dull when you have 80+ tenants with children. NEVER! It’s a good thing I love my job :-) Dinner was ready to eat, I was in jammies in preparation for a night of taking down the tree (yes, it’s STILL UP)…then the dreaded “TONE” went off on Ernie’s fire house walkie talkie…
The Hi-Rise was on fire! OH NO….that’s MY building…I was in a panic trying to find clothes, get dinner shut down and fires turned off . We made a mad cap 80mph drive to Coleman (16 miles away) with me chewing nails the whole way. Keep in mind…the Hi-Rise houses ELDERLY and/or ELDERLY DISABLED…and it’s 5 stories housing 54 apartments.
There were flashing lights everywhere, flames shooting out windows and general yelling and noise. This photo is from early Sunday morning. You can see where the fire started. While it doesn’t look too bad, almost every apartment suffered fire, water and/or smoke damages. The electricity, plumbing is gone and of course, the elevators don’t work.
Thank you to the firefighters (from Coleman, Santa Anna, and Lake Coleman) who responded to the calls and climbed those rickety fire escapes (picture below) to carry and help the remainder of the tenants safely out of the building.
The tenants who got out on their own were milling around the parking lot, straggling across the street. Thank you to Walker Funeral Home for giving them sanctuary and allowing us to use their facilities. Someone brought lots of sandwiches to hand out and we started the tedious business of counting noses and trying to be sure all persons were accounted for. The school sent buses to move the tenents to safety if needed as did the Nursing Home.
All 45 tenants were saved along with 1 cat and all the dogs. There were several people sent to the hospital with bumps and bruises or smoke inhalation. As of today, all are okay. THANK YOU GOD for watching over them. This could’ve been a real tragedy. Also a miracle…we found accommodations for everyone Saturday night.
Talk about a scary experience…fire has been our worst nightmare with the Hi-Rise…we’ve run fire drills, had exercises, talked and talked and talked about fire safety. We hoped it would never happen, but it did and thankfully, all that effort paid off!!! The tenants did what they were supposed to, in an orderly manner, and everything went like clockwork.
The housing staff finally left the scene about midnight. The firefighters were using police evidence bags to collect as much medicine from the rooms as they could. They were on scene most of the night in case of flare ups.
Sunday saw us in the office at 8am fielding phone calls about meds, medical equipment…just trying to allay the fears about what was going to happen next. The tenants were concerned about securing their apartments, getting needed medicines and clothes. When they cleared out of their apartments, some were just getting in/out of the showers…and only a few grabbed purses, wallets, teeth, coats and shoes. They had to leave their wheelchairs, walkers, scooters and such.
Sunday AM when the Fire Marshal gave the okay, our maintenance crew was carefully climbing through the dark stairwells armed with medical lists, plastic bags and flashlights. These guys are the best! They found most everything on the lists and delivered them to the office where my co-workers and I cataloged then started handing the bags out to tenants.
Nice Boss Lady asked me if I had my camera. She sent me to the Hi-Rise to take pictures of every apartment that I could get into. She was waiting for insurance people, but needed to get started with damage control I called Ernie to bring the big camera and to help me. I was a little hesitant to be in the building climbing around on my own. We spent the afternoon taking photos, gathering more meds, purses, keys…I grabbed anything I thought someone might need and Ernie bagged it up. .
These are a few of the units we were in…these only have water damage. We did not get up on the 3rd floor with the camera as it was getting too late. This was bad enough…I would hate to come home to any of this
Red Cross personnel from Brownwood and San Angelo were on the scene Sunday talking to the tenants. They handed out clothing, coats, shoes, and toiletries. Please know that when you donate to your local Red Cross the funds do go to those in need.
The Humane Society runs a thrift shop to support the animal shelter…Thank you to Nelda for allowing the tenants to “shop” for clothing/shoes/coats at no charge. Another good samaratan gathered clothing and delivered it to the thrift shop and someone started a cash fund to help purchase much needed undies. These things were all available to the tenants by noon on Sunday!
THANK YOU COLEMAN for coming through so quickly to help your own. Small towns are the best!
Today I was on call, but I’ve done nothing but feed cats, take care of Ernie (who now has MY stomach bug from last week) and sleep.
Tomorrow is work. Needless to say, I didn’t get into the sewing room at all and the long weekend didn’t happen here.
Susan ~ Patchkat