Community responds after dozens displaced by apartment fire

Community responds after dozens displaced by apartment fire

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Following the devastating fire on Martin Luther King Boulevard, the Columbus community was quick to respond.

The West Georgia Red Cross quickly arrived to the scene and began to account for all of the families that were displaced by this fire. The estimated
total number of people affected is between 36-39.

"Now we have to start from the bottom to get over this and make our way to the top," said resident Natasha Horton. "I think that is so wrong when you have so many folks homeless just days before Christmas."

Overcome with emotion, Horton is one of more than 35 people who lost their homes Tuesday on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The Columbus fire department immediately notified the west Georgia Red Cross, which quickly got to work.

"Based on the number the most advantageous way for the Red Cross and for the individuals affected would be to set up a shelter," said Red Cross disaster program manager Alex Balkcum.

The Red Cross was in communication the the Columbus Recreation department to get permission to use a building on Benning Road and Victory Drive.  

During this period of communication First Baptist Church stepped up and said that they would pay for the housing of the displaced families in the Econo Lodge on Veterans Parkways.

However, that doesn't change the fact these families lost their homes and belongings this holiday season.

"I went grocery shopping yesterday, I went Christmas shopping," said resident Ashley Messer. "Everything was ready for Christmas day and now it's just ruined, ruined.  I don't even know how we are going to be happy on Christmas day."

Before the announcement these families would be able to stay at Econo Lodge, dozens of people were waiting outside with no place to go and nothing to eat or drink until the Papa Johns for Buena Vista Road made a special delivery.

"We deliver to these people all the time," said Tim Lee, general manager. "They are good customers of ours, we have never had any problems out here, they welcomed us with open arms.  I saw that they had a need and we could fill it."

Lee came with 25 pizzas, 10 orders of bread sticks and dozens of two liter sodas for the displaced families.

However, Lee and his team weren't finished. In addition to delivering pizzas, they also drove some of the displaced families from the scene of the fire to their temporary housing at Econo Lodge.

At this time, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"The department has not finished the secondary search yet, we are still trying to render safe," said Fire Marshal Ricky Shores. "So it is obviously a dynamic situation right now and we will let you know as soon as possible."

There are a number of ways the community can help those displaced by the fire.

The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley says those in need of assistance can dial 211 or (706) 405-4775 to speak with a specialist.

The local Red Cross was on the scene working to identify the families in need. They will provide temporary lodging and any other short term needs for the families that were displaced.

Cash donations to the Red Cross can be made at their location on Rosemont Drive behind St. Francis Hospital. For more information about how you can help, call the Red Cross' disaster program manager Alex Balkcum at (706) 325-9445.

The Liberty Theater located at 813 8th Ave in Columbus will have a donation drop-off site on Wednsday, Dec. 23 and Thursday, Dec. 24 from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Additionally, Clear Channel will collect items for the families on Wednesday, Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Piggly Wiggly at 919 Brown Ave.

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