Victoria Mager of Redwood City wasn’t sure whether she was very lucky or unlucky after surviving two six-alarm apartment fires in three months.
But she was certainly grateful to have received the support of the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter after losing all her belongings, twice: once after the July 7, 2013 fire at Hallmark House Apartments and then again in October, just three weeks after moving into her new unit at the Terrace Apartments on the same street.
Victoria, a hairdresser and caregiver, said: “In both fires nothing happened to me–I’m lucky, but unlucky too! I lost everything twice. Thank goodness for the Red Cross.”
Last year in the Bay Area, the Red Cross responded to 433 local disasters, most of which were residential fires.
Victoria had lived at the 72-unit Hallmark House Apartments for seven years when the fire broke out. She had been watching a film at her sister’s apartment across the street when she heard screaming from her building.
Unaware of the danger, Victoria attempted to take the elevator to her fourth floor apartment but a safety door blocked her way.
“That door saved my life,” Victoria said. “The whole building was on fire–it happened in two minutes. It was like a horror movie.”
The deadly fire displaced 97 residents and injured 20 people. Victoria was unhurt, but lost all her belongings in the disaster. At that time, she did not have renter’s insurance. With help from family and the Red Cross she was able to replace her furniture and clothes.
After living with her sister for two months, Victoria moved to the Terrace Apartments. Victoria and her insurance agent agreed that it was a good idea to add renter’s insurance to her policy. The second fire occurred two weeks later.
Just three weeks after moving into her new place, Victoria awoke to the sound of people running in the corridor.
“I opened the door and saw orange,” she said. “I thought, can this be happening again?”
Realizing the front door would not be an escape option, Victoria remembered what Red Cross volunteers taught her about home fire preparedness. So, she soaked an apron with water and wedged it under the door to block the smoke, then quickly dressed. Despite her efforts, smoke began filling the apartment so she ran to her balcony, where she was rescued by firefighters. The October 27, 2013 fire forced 99 tenants to evacuate and five were hospitalized.
Once again, Victoria was grateful for the help of the Red Cross, who through the support of generous donors, offered her clothes and shoes so she could continue to work until her insurance payment arrived. She also received help finding a new apartment.
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