GoFundMe campaigns are helping two families get back on their feet after a fire Friday caused two structures on Highland Avenue in McGraw to be uninhabitable, displacing nine people.
“I don’t really know how to respond to everyone or tell people what we need,” said Chris Torres on Tuesday, who lived with his fiancé and two children at 7 Highland Ave.
Torres said he’s still coming to terms that the fire happened and understanding they need help.
“We’ve always worked for things and not asked people for help and just done it on our own,” he said. “It’s just been kind of an eye-opening experience.”
Torres awoke a little after 1 a.m. on Friday and from the couch in his living room he could see an orange glow through the blinds.
“The first thing I thought was it was a fire,” he said.
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He woke up his daughter who had been sleeping in the tent she had gotten for her birthday July 18 and then went to get his son, who was already awake, and his fiancé.
Torres, his fiancé, Laniesha Aiyana and their two children, ages 1 and 3, were among several families removed from their home on Highland Avenue in McGraw after a fire in a garage at 5 Highland Ave. spread to a single-family house at the same address and an apartment house at 7 Highland Ave.
When the family got outside, the fire was engulfing the garage.
“I heard what sounded like the propane tanks going off,” Torres said.
At the same time, the downstairs family had already woken and was getting out.
Alexandria Mauzy said her nephew and friend woke them after they saw the fire start outside a bedroom window while they were playing video games. Mauzy grabbed the two boys, her two children and husband and went outside.
“We just stood there for awhile and watched it burn,” she said.
Torres and Aiyana dropped their children off at their grandparents’ home, then returned to see firefighters working to extinguish the garage, but the fire had already spread.
“The fire got pretty big pretty fast,” he said. “It (the garage) was done for within a few minutes. That’s why I kind of panicked and wanted to get the kids away.”
By the time firefighters doused the fire, the garage was a total loss and the two structures were deemed uninhabitable, displacing nine people. The American Red Cross helped the families with food, clothing and shelter.
Torres said he and his family are staying with his parents in McGraw while they figure things out. But they have almost nothing left.
“Between the water damage and the smoke damage, it doesn’t seem like there’s very much for us to get,” he said. “There was no saving anything in either of the bedrooms.”
A GoFundMe was set up to help the family get back on their feet. As of this morning, 37 people had contributed $2,465 toward a $4,000 goal and many other people have offered to provide items like dishes and cooking items.
Mauzy said she will move into a new place Thursday using some of the money from a GoFundMe account to pay for the security deposit and first month’s rent. Whatever is left will be used to buy furniture. As of this morning, 47 people had raised $3,025 toward a $3,500 goal.
Mauzy said it’s difficult to accept items from people when they have nowhere to put them.
“Everybody has been really generous,” she said. “It’s just a lot to take in.”
“All of our clothes, our furniture, our daughter’s bed, all needs to be thrown out,” she said.