Help available for families affected by fires

By Alberto Gilman
Posted 4/17/24

Families and residents of the City of Newburgh have recently suffered two late-night fires in the span of a week. Several minor injuries were reported following each of the blazes, and the buildings …

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Help available for families affected by fires


Families and residents of the City of Newburgh have recently suffered two late-night fires in the span of a week. Several minor injuries were reported following each of the blazes, and the buildings now stand charred, with signs declaring them unsafe and condemned.

A fire broke out in a three-story building on Easter Sunday (March 31) on Lutheran Street and spread to several adjacent buildings. This fire left 33 people homeless, including three infants. The city fire department responded to another fire at 59 Carter Street on Monday, April 8, which left 24 people homeless.

“We had at least two of our team members there and the best thing about this response was we were able to have some of our local volunteers respond, so we were able to communicate with our clients in their primary language, which was Spanish,” said John Vale, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Due to confidentiality rules, specific client recovery plans cannot be shared, said Vale, but the Red Cross was working closely with the Department of Social Services in Orange County to help the fire victims.

Vale then spoke about the Carter Street fire. “Once more our volunteers were called upon to respond to a home fire in the City of Newburgh and we were able to provide immediate emergency aid to about 18 individuals,” said Vale. “Our Red Crossers will be there over the following days, as we kind of navigate the road to recovery.”

Disaster Program Manager Max Sanchez of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross was present at both fires, along with another volunteer. “We had headed over to the Rec Center in Newburgh to start doing some intake and dealing with the clients. It was a pretty big fire and I’m very, very happy that everybody we saw seemed to be okay,” said Sanchez.

The night of the Lutheran Street fire, resident Taina Rivera recalled her son had alerted her to what was taking place. Rivera and her family live directly across the street from the building that was ablaze. She shared she did not know the victims personally, but said they were nice people who mainly kept to themselves.

She recalled seeing lots of orange that night and feeling the heat from the fire. Firefighters, she said, were there till about four in the morning. “They were trying their best to put it down. They did, but it kept going. But they did their best,” said Rivera.

About a week later, the city fire department reported to the Carter Street fire at 11:18 p.m.

Upon arrival, fire personnel found the rear of both 59 and 61 Carter St engulfed in flames. The fire was deemed under control just before 2 a.m.

Miguel Trujillo and Ivan Sanchez returned to the Carter Street homes, now charred and unlivable. Trujillo lived at 61 Carter St for about six to seven years. “It’s just something that’s unreal. We did everything that we could to prevent stuff like this and as much as you prepare yourself, you’re never really prepared,” said Trujillo. “It doesn’t seem real.”

Several of Sanchez’s family members impacted by the fire are staying in hotels for the time being, while some are also being helped out by additional family members. “It’s very unfortunate. It sucks. Everything you work hard for just disappears,” he said. “If anybody is able to donate or share, that’d be awesome. We’re helping each other in this time of need.”

In the days following the fire, a GoFundMe page was set up to help the victims recover. A page titled “Help the Arriaga Family; Tragic Home Fire” has images from the fire and a description of the family’s situation. As of Monday, April 15, the page has received $2,495 in donations.

With several infants being displaced from their homes, the Mid Hudson Times reached out to the Newburgh Enlarged City School District to inquire about additional support during times of crisis.

District Director of Communications Cassie Sklarz provided the following information: “When students are identified as having a house fire or a similar situation that disrupts their housing, our liaison connects with the family to learn the specific needs of the children in the household. Additionally, based on the needs that the family expresses, they are connected with community resources that may provide additional support.”

The fire on Lutheran St remains under investigation at this time. The fire at Carter Street is also under investigation but was not considered suspicious in nature.