On Tuesday, June 7, Irving police woke up residents of the Brentwood Apartments, banging on their door yelling, "FIRE!" Many of these families did not speak English, adding to their terror and confusion.
The fire started after midnight and grew quickly. Eventually, the Irving Fire Department was able to put out the 3-alarm fire at around 3:30 a.m., while North Texas Red Crossers assisted the displaced families.
Fortunately, no fatalities were reported, but the fire displaced impacted 26 units and 100 residents. Most of them received care and assistance from the Red Cross volunteers who responded to the late-night disaster.
Arlington Disaster Action Team volunteers Lynette Deget, Tauna Conk, Tommi Scheler, Bob Livingston, Christine Wilson, Esau Coronado, and Genesis Bernal all received early morning calls to help assist the residents. The City of Irving was prompt in responding as well, setting up a recovery center a few blocks west at the Senter Recreation Center to provide food, shelter and clothing.
Wilson, one of the Spanish-speaking volunteers who led the Red Cross response has kept in touch with some of the affected residents. Three days after the fire, she mentioned displaced residents were extremely appreciative of having someone to connect with at the Red Cross who was able to walk them through the recovery process.
"Some of these residents had family and friends to lean on after the fire, but many times shelter becomes a major concern. Furniture, clothes, food, all these very simple things that people need to live," says Wilson.
Wilson's night was long, after starting her evening at a single-family fire around 7 p.m. She then responded to a multi-family fire where she used her bilingual skills to assist families. Leaving there, she arrived at the Irving fire at 1 a.m. She did not return home until 2:30 p.m. the next day. After assisting families in three back-to-back fires, she took a break and was back to helping at 6 p.m. the next evening.
Wilson stresses the need for bilingual Disaster Action Team volunteers to help the diverse communities of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. "We really need Spanish-speaking volunteers and Vietnamese-speaking volunteers as well."
Even though the night was long, Wilson was happy to help. "As soon as I got home, I crashed. I have a day off tomorrow, so I'm treating myself to some chips and homemade salsa, a good Netflix series, and plenty of rest. I'll be back in action after that."