Tuesday, February 9, 2016

With homes ravaged by fire, tenants assess their next steps

By Sarina Trangle
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
All City All City Restoration workers clean up debris in Victor Marrero’s apartment on June 10, a day after a fire broke out in 3840 Orloff Ave.

After a fire burned through two floors of 3840 Orloff Ave. July 9, several families were left to sift through the rubble, pack up the remains and search for a new place to stay. 

Two vacant apartments and two occupied units were deemed uninhabitable, according to the Red Cross Association. The Red Cross said it assisted nine adults and two children, mostly by providing money for food and clothing.

Fire marshals determined electrical wiring sparked the flames on the fifth and sixth floors, marring apartments 6E, 6F, 5E and 5F too severely for occupancy. Other homes were damaged when about 138 firefighters responded to the three-alarm blaze and ripped through the ceilings and floors while battling the conflagration.

Jaime Sosa spent July 10 lugging furniture, electronics and other items spared by the blaze into a U-haul with fellow paramedics. He and his wife were planning on leaving the city in a year or two to invest in a house and enroll their two sons in better schools. Now, he said, their exodus would likely be expedited.

“I don’t know what we’re doing,” he said. “Right now we’re bouncing around from family to family.”

Mr. Sosa said his family couldn’t get to their clothing and ticked off the few possessions they salvaged – a computer, TV, dog cage and a slightly damaged couch. The hallway outside of his fifth floor apartment was lined with sneakers, a mask, a fan, a trash bag full of DVDs and other miscellaneous items.

“It’s just stuff, it can be replaced,” he said, noting he was thankful his wife overslept the morning of the fire because it prevented their two boys and two dogs from being alone for a few minutes while he commuted home from work. “What if she would have gotten up and left for work? My kids would have cooked.”

Up on the sixth floor, the carpet in the hallway leading to apartments 6F and 6E had been yanked off, leaving adhesive-lined floors. Wooden boards blocked off the passageway. Next door, Victor Marrero watched contractors sweep debris and insulation out of his music studio and living room, where it had spilled out of nearly three-foot wide gashes in the ceilings of both rooms.

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