Richmond Couple Living In Burned Home

November 4th, 2009 by

Richmond (wtvr)- Victims of a fire at a south Richmond home on September 11th say they’re forced to live in the blackened damage.

From the outside, the house on West 29th street looks fine. Inside…

“This is where the fire started.” Patricia Gaines, a retired woman with salt and pepper hair and tears in her eyes, slowly opens her lower bedroom door to reveal the aftermath of an inferno. She left home that day to run an errand. She says she remembers blowing out the candle in her bedroom. Soon afterwards, her cell phone rang.

“My neighbor across the street called me and said the house was on fire. I was only worried about the dogs, but I was hoping the home was still standing when I was on my way home.” Still standing, but the bedroom was badly damaged. A neighbor rescued her two dogs.

The damage just isn’t in that backroom. Smoke damage is all through the house. There are water lines etched in the soot on the walls, traces of where firefighters worked valiantly to keep the fire from spreading.

Patricia’s husband Joseph is diabetic, disabled, and relies on a cane to get around. He’s gathered everything not damaged into the living room. He spends much of his time downstairs, but literally has to crawl up the sooty, blackened steps to a bedroom upstairs reeking of smoke.

He and Patricia are having trouble finding help from agencies other than the Richmond Chapter of the Red Cross. Bill Harrison, the chapter’s Vice President, says he’s not surprised. “The other agencies are sympathetic, they want to help. But their cases…they’re overloaded with cases and the funding is very limited.”

No help will replace family pictures and heirlooms. Gone, but Patricia looks at what she does have. “I still can cook in the kitchen. So we can still have turkey and Thanksgiving trimmings.”

Thankful even in the middle of this mess… and hopeful for help. “My husband’s disabled, he can’t help. And I’m not young”, says Patricia, the tears welling again. “So we need help if we can get it.”

Firefighters who put the fire out seem to think the home is structurally sound, but that’s going to be up to the city inspector. And that’s where this story could go from bad to worse. If the inspector finds it isn’t safe and condemns the house, they could tear it down, and Patricia and Joseph don’t have the money to rebuild.

If you’d like to help out the couple…please contact their case agent at the Richmond Red Cross. The number is 780-2250.


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