Multiple agencies, including the Red Cross, responded to assist more than 30 residents evacuated due to a multi-unit fire at a four-story apartment building in Denver this morning.
The Denver Fire Department was called to respond to a fire at the Franconia apartment building, 930 Downing St. in Denver, early in the morning of Monday, May 6. Although the fire was contained to one apartment, several other apartments suffered smoke and water damage, and the fire forced the evacuation of all units in the 53-unit apartment building.
Because many of the building’s residents are elderly or disabled, numerous agencies began collaborating early on to ensure that evacuees’ needs could be met. The Denver Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security (OEM&HS), on behalf of the American Red Cross, reached out to Denver Public Schools (DPS) to find a suitable temporary shelter for the displaced individuals.
Denver Police secured the fire scene and assisted with traffic control due to fire trucks around the building. The Regional Transportation District (RTD) provided buses that first served as a warm gathering and waiting place for evacuated residents, and then transported the residents to the temporary shelter.
Red Cross volunteers opened and staffed a temporary shelter at the Denver School for International Studies (formerly Baker Middle School), 574 W. Sixth Ave., where nearly 30 evacuated residents were able to get some rest on cots, eat a hot breakfast donated by Burger King, receive immediate health and mental health assessments by licensed Red Cross workers, and meet with assistance workers from Denver Human Services.
“I am very lucky,” said 57-year-old Maxine Body as she waited at the shelter in her purple pajama bottoms and red T-shirt for word of whether she would be able to return to her apartment; the fire did not damage her unit, but her door was kicked in as part of firefighters’ efforts, and the building may have limited power.
Maxine was appreciative of the quick and thorough response of various agencies. “Everybody’s been helpful, very helpful, very considerate,” she said. She added, “I was especially surprised at RTD and how helpful they were to bring that bus. I ride the bus all the time because I don’t drive, and I didn’t know they did that! And Red Cross, they’ve been right on it. They’ve been so helpful.”
Maxine, like many residents of the apartment complex, has limited mobility due to a disability.
Denver Human Services sent a General Assistance outreach team to the shelter to assess needs; after determining that most of the evacuees qualify for specialized assistance, Denver Human Services is providing the affected residents with temporary housing vouchers and transportation to that housing. As residents’ housing needs are being met through DHS, the temporary Red Cross shelter will close today after residents have been transported to their temporary housing.
Additionally, the Denver Human Services Adult Protection unit responded to the shelter in response to reports of elderly residents who are unable to take care of themselves. This team will help elderly and/or developmentally disabled adults navigate this process.
Denver OEM&HS also dispatched a Duty Officer to the School to facilitate coordination between various agencies and to ensure that displaced individuals’ needs were handled.
The fire affected more than just humans: a number of pets were also evacuated, and Red Cross workers partnered with Denver Animal Care and Control to ensure that the pets – including a bird – are taken care of.
“Disasters are often complex, with complex needs - and no single agency can meet every need on its own; it takes collaboration and partnership, and today’s response is a wonderful example of the type of partnership our local emergency response agencies are working on throughout the year so that we can quickly meet the immediate needs of residents when a disaster strikes,” said Jaici Murcia, Regional Director of Emergency Services for the Red Cross.