In the early morning hours of July 7, a six-alarm fire at the Hallmark House Apartments in Redwood City destroyed the 72-unit building, claiming the life of one resident and displacing more than 100 people.
When the fire alarms sounded in Atory Ward’s third-floor apartment, the flames were outside his door. The 20-year
Redwood City resident, and his four-year-old Chihuahua, Trina, were forced to the back balcony where first responders assisted Atory to safety. Trina was also rescued, but sadly, Atory lost his two parakeets.
“By the time I made it down, the building was engulfed in flames,” he said. “It was chaos. People were in shock and devastated. Within minutes our lives had been turned upside down.”
The American Red Cross and several other local partner organizations worked together to bring order to the chaos.
The residents evacuated to the Fair Oaks Community Center early Sunday morning. Later, about 30 residents, including Atory, moved to a Red Cross shelter at the National Guard Armory in Redwood City.
The Red Cross shelter was open for six days and an Assistance Center provided residents with information and support from the Red Cross and partner agencies. Our Disaster Mental Health volunteers provided emotional support throughout the week as residents returned to the burned building to view the damage and salvage belongings.
A heart-warming moment at the shelter was the celebration of Melvin Dahlin’s 79th birthday. The Red Cross shelter volunteers threw Melvin a party, complete with cake and ice cream.
“I was pleasantly surprised and happy that my neighbors got to celebrate this day with me,” Melvin said.
Despite the added pressures of the Asiana Airlines incident response happening at the same time, the Redwood City fire became a great example of what partnerships in the community can accomplish. Personnel from San Mateo Public Health and Behavioral Health, Lions Club, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members assisted at the shelter. The Salvation Army provided meals and clothes for residents, and Project ACCESS and a number of other agencies offered a variety of services at the Assistance Center.
Job Director of the Redwood City Operation, Debbie Yee attributes the successful response on the efforts to engage our community partners.
“It was amazing what everyone was able to pull together and accomplish in helping the clients in such a short amount of time,” Debbie Yee, the Red Cross Disaster Services Job Director for the response said. “In every disaster the Red Cross responds to, we can’t do it all. It’s all about everyone working together and helping each other out in times of need.”
See more photos from this response at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/redcross_bayarea/sets/72157634608195741/