Residents who lost their homes in the Pinecrest Apartments fire have all found new places to live in Houston.
Twenty-one people were living in the apartment building at 11th Street and Copeland Avenue when an accidental fire burned through most of its third floor on Aug. 15.
All but two residents have since had to move away from downtown. Most of Houston’s vacancies were found in apartments and townhomes up Mountain View Road.
“You gotta do what you gotta do in life,” said former Pinecrest resident Victor Hamblin.
“Life throws curve balls. You gotta roll with the punches.”
While some residents fled the fire with nothing but the clothes on their back, last Wednesday they all found a room piled high with donated household goods at the Houston Mall.
Salvation Army director Rick Apperson says people donated so much furniture, clothing and housewares to the fire relief last week that volunteers had to stop accepting donations for fear they would collect more than they could deliver.
“We’ve had an incredible response in the community,” Apperson said.
“It’s just been phenomenal. There was quite a bit of money raised, and lots of donations.”
As well as handling donations, volunteers have fundraised to buy the fire victims gift cards at local grocery and home supply stores.
For the first 72 hours, everyone left homeless by the fire got financial support through B.C.’s Emergency Social Services fund.
One woman who was away at Huckleberry Mine when the fire hit has asked ESS for funding extension.
Asked whether Pinecrest Apartments would be demolished or rebuilt, building managers say that for the moment, all such decisions are in the hands of the insurance company.
Insurers gave former residents of Pinecrest’s bottom floors two hours to go back last Tuesday and collect whatever survived the damage from fire, smoke and water.
But the top floor of the building was a total write-off, said Jaimie Morris, a maintenance worker for the building.
“Nobody is allowed up there period,” he said.
Eartha Nattak says she moved into one of the second floor apartments with her two kids in June.
Nearly all their furniture was brand-new and they lost nearly everything, Nattak said.
Still, a few key things were saved from the burned-out building.
A trapped cat was saved from one of the bottom floor apartments by Corey Morris, who found the cat during a midnight security shift, and returned it to its owner safe and sound.
Victor Hamblin, who lived on the bottom floor at Pinecrest for seven years, says he was lucky that most of his things survived, including almost all of his taxidermy.
“Years ago I used to be a hunter and taxidermist,” said Hamblin. “I did the mounts myself, a lot of them, so for me they are like a treasure from the past.
Hamblin also recovered some photo albums Tuesday, and although they had some water damage, he said the photos looked like they would be okay after some drying.
“Thanks to the fire fighters,” Hamblin said.
“If it wasn’t for them, I would have lost everything.”