Sandy and I went for a walk this afternoon. It is about a three mile walk to a favorite coffee place, and we had taken all the dogs with us – the sun shining and the weather gorgeous after our brief cold snap. We were just heading home when we got the call that we were needed at a University of Texas housing fire. Well, we picked up the pace and were home in a flash.
We then received a call from our Disaster Action Team captain – Bill Dorman, asking how many comfort kits and Client Assistance Cards we had on hand. Shortly thereafter we had loaded the jeep and were on our way. The reason he was asking was that it looked as if there might be as many as 27 students/coop residents in the coop house that was damaged by the fire. He also asked us to redirect to another coop property – Whitehall on Nueces Street. The fire itself was on Rio Grande Street about two blocks from where our daughter Mandy works.
We arrived at the Whitehall Coop residence which was to serve as our client services base of operation. We arrived just as a long line of students wound their way there from the site of the fire. It was a curious procession especially as one of the students was carrying a full scale Paper Mache Narwhal!
We set up shop and started talking to the folks most impacted by the fire, who lived on the third floor. Next we interviewed the students on the second floor that had water damage. The remainders of the students suffered no damage, but were displaced since the electricity and utilities were shut off until repairs can be made. Bill Dorman – our DAT (Disaster Action Team) captain – had provided us with a damage assessment that was helpful.
We also met a representative from the CO-OP and she was able to arrange for housing, food, and transportation to the new housing for all the coop residents! That meant that we only had to worry about the smaller number of students who lost their clothing, bedding, and personal food in the fire.
The casework plan in place we interviewed the students and offered them Client Assistance Cards where appropriate (based on the interview and damage assessment).
The fire was caused by a glue gun that had been left on after working on a student project. They had a party to complete the project and unfortunately it lasted until dawn, and it looks like the clean up was less than effective. They slept, and then left for sailing, and sometime during the day the glue gun caught the cardboard on fire. The Dean of Students came in to offer assistance to the students.
Lonnie Williams came and supervised the client case work. Worth stopped by with the ERV, and we got additional comfort kits from him. Sue Gaines was our CAC (Client Assistance Card) activator. By 8:30 we had done all the work with the students that needed assistance, and all the students had shelter, food, and immediate needs of clothing and bedding handled. We could not have done it that quickly except for the cooperation that we received from the CO-OP. They were fantastic.
Most of the fires we respond to are single family dwellings, so this was a bit of a change of pace for us. The students were very appreciative of the help they received, and the CO-OP really stood by them.