Fire destroys Mon Bijou home
Published: August 29, 2013
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ST. CROIX - Solidad Cruz left her Mon Bijou home Tuesday evening and was with her children and a friend at a Christiansted park when her phone rang, delivering the terrible news that her house was on fire.
No one was injured in the blaze, but the fire destroyed all of the family's possessions and left them with only the clothes on their backs and each other.
Four fire units responded just before 10 p.m. Tuesday and struggled for more than an hour to completely extinguish the blaze.
Fire Inspector Johnny Frontal said the cause of the fire was electrical in nature, but the investigation continues.
Cruz said she had been having issues with being shocked by appliances and having partial power in her home that she rents through The Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as the Section 8, program run by the V.I. Housing Authority.
"I could not wash my hands if the microwave was running, and even some of the outlets would spark or shock you when you plug something in," she said. "I reported the problem repeatedly to the landlord and to Section 8 and nobody did anything."
Cruz said she had found an apartment and was waiting on paperwork so she could move out of the home, but now she has lost everything.
Residents in the area said the fire may have been burning for at least 10 to 15 minutes before anyone saw the smoke.
At that time, neighbors sprang into action to notify the V.I Fire Service through emergency dispatchers and then stood by as the fire spread through the house.
Fire officials reported that residents said thick white smoke was pouring out of the windows for several minutes, before they began to see the flames spread from room to room inside the dwelling.
By the time the sirens of the fire trucks were heard coming in the distance, red and orange flames were already coming through the windows.
The glass louvres exploded from the heat and the aluminum window frames melted.
After putting out the blaze, firefighters swept the house putting out hot spots in the ceiling.
American Red Cross volunteer responders also were on the scene, interviewing witnesses, making surface assessments of the damage and assisting Cruz with emergency needs.
Marla Matthew, disaster services director for the American Red Cross in the territory, said Wednesday the role of her organization is to provide emergency assistance of food, clothing and shelter.
"We make that initial contact and find out the needs of the person or family affected, and from there we make contact with other community agencies to try to refer the person to access whatever services and assistance that may be available to them," she said.
Matthew said her volunteers remain in contact with Cruz and are working to assist her to resolve any issues to make her and her family comfortable.
Matthew said the Red Cross has agreed to accept monetary donations and donations of clothing and other items on behalf of Cruz and her family and said that the unfortunate incident could have happened to anyone.
"We continue to fundraise for fire victims in general and always need the help of the community, but residents wanting to donate specifically to Solidad and her family can also call us or come by our office in Castle Coakley with their donation," Matthew said.
As a single mother, Cruz said she tries to spend time with her 15- and 9-year-old boys and her 4-year-old daughter, doing things that are fun for them all, so they were enjoying an evening at the park when she got the phone call that she needed to come home because there was a fire at her house.
"I looked at the phone, like it was a joke," she said. "I didn't know how my house could be on fire."
She said she hurried back to the house as fast as her friend could drive, and when she saw the people crowded in the streets and the red lights from the fire trucks lighting up the sky, she knew then that it was real.
"I just lost it at that point, I was hysterical and crying and just did not know what to do but cry," she said.
Cruz was overwhelmed by emotion when she began to think of all of the things she had lost in the fire.
"My kids' birth papers and school documents and my housing information and everything," she said. "It's all gone."
She said she wished she had some type of warning so she could hold on to her valuable things before the fire broke out.
"We had no warning, I could not even grab some pictures or valuable so nothing," she said.
Cruz said the fire also destroyed her children's newly purchased school uniforms, shoes and supplies, and she does not know how she could replace them before school starts on Tuesday.
To assist Cruz and her family, contact Matthew at 778-5104.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.