It’s been six weeks since a devastating fire left Marcela Cordova, her husband Wolfredo Gil and their teenage daughter homeless. And they still haven’t found permanent housing.
“We lost everything,” said Cordova.
The fatal fire killed one person and injured at least six in San Francisco’s Mission District on Jan 28, 2015.
Cordova said it hasn’t been easy to find housing since the fire. The family has lived in three different places and they’re still looking for a new home.
Fortunately Cordova found out about the Red Cross shelter after spending two days at her sister’s house a few blocks from her former home. “I didn’t know the Red Cross gave vouchers for housing,” she said. They stayed at the shelter for about two weeks.
“Now we are staying at temporary housing on Treasure Island provided by the city, but it’s a month-to-month lease. It’s hard to get our child to school,” said Cordova.
The four-alarm fire, which broke out about 6:30 p.m. in a three-story mixed use building that housed businesses and residences, totally destroyed the building. The American Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year and the vast majority are fires. On average, seven people die from home fires every day.
Red Cross Disaster Action Teams (DAT) are on call around the clock to assist fire and other disaster victims, providing temporary housing, clothing and funds to replace clothing and groceries.
Initially the Red Cross opened a temporary evacuation center at San Francisco City College at 22d and Bartlett Streets until arrangements could be made to open a shelter, later teaming up with the Salvation Army to provide a place where the fire victims could sleep, bathe and be fed while seeking more permanent arrangements.
“Staying at the shelter helped, and the Red Cross staff were really nice, and helpful. They were very supportive of everyone, not just me,” Cordova said. “I felt very comfortable and supportive. They were amazing and always there for us,” she said.
The family’s problems were complicated by their health problems. “I have lupus, and my daughter has asthma and bronchitis,” she said. “[We] were stuck in the building when the fire was going on. She was gasping for air because of the smoke and she ran back into the apartment because she couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t see anything, it was so dark.”
The family was eventually rescued by San Francisco firefighters.
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body. Lupus can have a wide range of symptoms and can last for years.
The Red Cross is a partner in the nationwide Home Fire Campaign. Launched by the National Red Cross in October 2014, the campaign’s goal is to reduce the number of home fire deaths and injuries by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. Participating organizations, including the Red Cross, local fire departments, community groups and local businesses canvass neighborhoods, teach people about fire safety and install free smoke alarms in high risk areas. The program is free.