“I don’t know where the angels came from to help get people out.” Pat McCoy, resident of Glenn Oaks Apartments in Sioux City, commented after 30 people were safely evacuated from the burning apartment complex on March 3.
At around 6:00 in the morning, the smoke alarms in the building went off, waking a few of the residents. McCoy got out of bed to check for smoke, but didn’t smell anything. She decided to wait for a clear sign of fire before going out into the freezing early morning temperatures. Minutes later the maintenance man came by and said, “There’s a fire. For real.” McCoy, her sister, and her mother, who uses a wheelchair, were evacuated with the others and noted just how quickly the building started filling with black smoke.
Several of the residents did not even hear the alarms going off and were awoken by neighbors who wanted to be certain everyone made it to safety. Brent and Cathy Miller were alerted by someone knocking on their door and were able to get themselves and their bird into one of the other buildings to stay sheltered and warm while the fire department arrived to subdue the flames. The Red Cross disaster team arrived quickly to help keep everyone warm and dry in the subzero morning weather. Miller noted how much he appreciated the Red Cross’s assistance, stating that it is major disasters that get media attention like floods and tornadoes, “but you never think of the Red Cross coming to an apartment fire.”
But the Red Cross responders did come, and they did not leave. After the fire was extinguished, 12 of the 24 units were severely damaged from fire, smoke, and water, some to the point where nothing was salvageable. The Red Cross volunteers set up shop half a mile down the road at Opportunities Unlimited to help comfort the affected residents and to ensure everyone had lodging, food, clothing, and medication. They continued to work with the families through the next week to continue to provide whatever assistance they could to individuals.
Through all of the tragedy, residents were still able to count their blessings. Even though the ceiling of her apartment collapsed, and she was not able to recover any of her belongings, McCoy said, “I am so thankful for the fact that everyone was safe." Talking to Community Chapter Executive for the Greater Northwest Iowa territory, Tammy Lee, McCoy simply said, “My thanks to the Red Cross.”