hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

May 15, 2014

City comes together to help fire victims

By Shawn Regan
Staff Writer

---- — HAVERHILL — Residents and organizations across the city are coming together to help victims of the May 7 fire that destroyed 10 Forest Acre apartments and damaged another 10, forcing 46 people from their homes.

Fire investigators at still looking into the cause of the blaze at 21-23 Forest Acres Drive, part of the large Forest Acres apartment complex in the city’s Bradford section.

Officials said all residents of the complex escaped injury except for Christina Simoes, 24, who remains in a Boston hospital with spinal injuries she incurred after jumping from the second floor of her burning home with her 18-month-old son in her arms.

Simoes’ father said his daughter will be in the hospital for at least several weeks and faces a long recovery.

Meanwhile, the city is working with the complex’s owner to find suitable housing for people who lost their homes, while local organizations are collecting money, clothes and other items for the victims.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the city set up an account at Pentucket Bank to support the families that were displaced by the fire.

Donations can be made at the following Pentucket Bank locations: 1 Merrimack St., 395 Lowell Ave. at Westgate Plaza and 120 Lincoln Ave. All of the money collected will go directly to the families, the mayor said.

“When the fire first started, our residents reached out to my office to lend a hand,” Fiorentini said. “Our community once again has united in a time of need.”

Ruth’s House thrift shop at 111 Lafayette Square is working closely with the Red Cross and other agencies to help the victims.

“We’re willing to give them all the clothes they need,” said Mary Ellen House, manager of Ruth’s House.

Ruth’s House is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information is available by calling Ruth’s House at 978-521-5575.

The Haverhill YMCA is also chipping in. Two YMCA staff members were at the fire scene a day after the blaze, handing out T-shirts to displaced residents who showed up to see what was left of their apartments.

“We’re trying to ask families specifically what their needs are,” said YMCA Director Tracy Fuller. “One of our little girls (a club member) lived in one of the apartments that was affected.”

Fuller said the Y doesn’t want to duplicate efforts of other organizations, but does wants to support people displaced by the fire.

“We want to help as many families as we can, but we don’t know 100 percent what their needs are at this time,” she said. “We did learn that one family needs diapers and formula, so we’re going to collect whatever is needed. Pentucket Medical (Associates doctors complex) gave the YMCA $500 to assist families in need,” Fuller added.

The Wash-N-Go laundry at 99 Cedar St. in Haverhill is also offering to wash, dry and fold clothes free of charge for families displaced by the fire.

School Superintendent James Scully said more than 50 students in the district were forced from their homes by the tragedy, either through fire or smoke or water damage. He said several city schools organized a Dollar Day for today to help kick off a fundraising campaign to help the families of those students.

Christopher Pienta, whose sister was burned out of her apartment, said a Facebook page called “Helping those affected by the fire in Haverhill, Ma. Wednesday May 7, 2014” was created as a way to reach out to those who would like to help the fire victims.

Pienta said several drop off locations have been set up for donations, including the Salvation Army on Merrimack Street, which is accepting items such as clothing, personal hygiene items, laundry soap, toys and small household items and ask that all monetary donations state in the memo line “Fire Victims of Haverhill.”

Pienta said other drop off locations include the Rehoboth Lighthouse Church at 409 Washington St., and Spero’s Martial Arts Academy, 31 Westville Road, Plaistow.