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House Fire -- how to help?

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I just got an email from my DH; a neighbor's house caught on fire and is probably not livable. The firetrucks have just left.

If any of you have been through such a devasting event and might remember what help from neighbors was most useful, I'd love to hear what that was. Thanks!
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Been through this twice with people I know, once with my good friend and once my with my dad's house.  Both times, they lost all but the clothes they were wearing.

A big thing once they both resettled was gift certificates to places like Target, Wal-Mart, the local mall, local grocery stores, etc to replace everthing.  Wherever you know they frequently shopped.

My friend was a huge picture taker, so her church took donations and bought my her a new digital camera - to make new memories they said since she lost everything. 

With my dad, we got all the family to get photos together and made them a couple of new photo albums.  Dad always said that those personal things were what he missed the most. 

A lot of people also cooked meals for them, taking turns, because even once resettled, you're so out of whack with what "normal" used to be that cooking was the last thing on their minds.

I will keep them in my prayers. 

I gave a family a few sets of sheets and some towels out of my linen closet.

I had plenty anyway and that saved them the cost...

I think I gave them a lamp too.

We had a person coordinating what was being donated to them so that they didn't end up with all dishes or something.

They had lost their pet guinea pig and I remember some of us pitched in to buy another one and cage and all...

Athena when my house burned down in '96 I was able to go to the local Red Cross and they gave me money for the 1st months rent at a new apartment.

Hope that helps.

Thanks! I really appreciate the suggestions! I feel awful for my neighbors and would like to help them.


My house flooded twice and do understand the devistation.  The best thing that was given to us was gift certificates, then we could get what we needed. Also, one friend brought over a fruit basket  with other goodies in it and we loved that too. 

How horrible for your neighbor.  I hope they have good insurance. 

When we lost our apartment a few years ago, some friends helped us get some clothes because we couldn't retrieve anything (money, wallets, clothes) from the apartment until after the fire marshal was finished with his investigation.  We were able to stay in a hotel for awhile, and that helped a great deal, but we had to keep our cats at the vet's, and that was pretty expensive.  If they are able to salvage anything, you can get something from Walmart called Odo-ban (Walmart is the only place I've ever seen it) to get the awful smoke smell out of clothes, furniture and stuffed animals.  You can just add it to the washing machine or steam cleaner, and it does wonders.  I heard about it because our friend works in theatrical costuming, and they use it to get mildew and other funky odors out of the costumes.
Thanks, all!

When I got home from work, I walked across the street and talked with a number of folks. There was already a fire recovery company's truck in the driveway and folks working. The family is in a local hotel for now. The gift card idea is an excellent one; another family and I talked about collecting money, and now what I have to work out is how. I've called Target, and it looks as though they will not accept a stack o' checks from various people to pay for the gift card. (I don't know how many people would want to hand over a wad of cash to a neighbor!)

I'll check with local banks in the morning to see about them accepting checks, and if that doesn't work, I'll check with my credit union.

The fire started in the breaker box, which happened in my house, too, before I bought it (with, fortunately, little damage), and in at least one other on this street. Perhaps a notice to our community newsletter to perhaps remind people that this happens and to get their breaker boxes checked is in order!
I went thru a Fire 4 days before christmas in 2005.   I was up at 1am, my internet went out, then the tv went out.  I flipped the heater on to go to bed and it sucked smoke into my house.  I woke up my hubby, and told him i smelled smoke.  Opened my front door, and got a big cloud of smoke.   I was only in a bathrobe, (with no shoes, or underware) he told me to get my car keys and move my  car..   It was instant panic.   we didnt even think to round up our 2 cats.  Anyways, 4 hours later of sitting outside watching our apartment building burn to the ground.   4 residents LOST EVERYTHING!!!!!  We were lucky, Ours was the only unit that had minimal smoke damage.    we left both front and back doors open for our cats incase they wanted to bail out.  Lucky for us they were ok... hiding under the bed.   All the neighbors were very supportive.  One lady gave me some warm socks, and clothes to put on.   It was really terrifying.  All our gifts, my new wedding dress, everthing we owned was at stake.  Plus we had NO renters insurance (we do now). Everyone in the building had to Move, including us. There was no power to the building, and it took them a year to rebuild it.  We all got together and helped our 86 year old neighbor move all her things, becasue she didnt have any family to come down and help.  Anyways the best thing you can do, is offer a helping hand.  Let them crash at your house (if its possible)  Let them use your phone to call their insurance people.  Offer to let them use your bathroom for nessesities.  Offer to help them savage whatever is left.   Also just keep reminding them that noone was hurt etc.   My prayers are with you all. 
Thanks, absterry! What an awful ordeal you and your neighbors went through!

The people whose house was burned are staying in a nearby hotel for now. I didn't see them yesterday, but then, I wasn't around a whole lot, either.

I've talked with my credit union about opening an account for checks, and they are fine with that. My husband wrote, printed, and distributed letters yesterday to the people on our street letting them know we're collecting, and almost immediately, a neighbor dropped of a large check. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I first saw it. So that gets this fund off to an excellent start! I'm hoping to collect through the weekend, let checks clear, and then purchase a Visa gift card with whatever funds there are.

My 13-year-old has given two weeks' allowance to the fund. I'm delighted to take his donation! :-)
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