Kari Lucin, Forum Communications, Published August 08 2012
Help streams in for Jamestown family who lost home to fireJAMESTOWN, N.D. - The community has already begun to rally around a Jamestown family of seven after a July 31 fire in their rented home claimed their possessions.
“It’s a shock to me, how much people have been willing to help us,” Liz Adams said Monday at the Buffalo Valley Chapter of the Red Cross in Jamestown. “People have just been so wonderful — wonderful.”
Adams and Stephen Souza were renting the home with their five children — C.J, 11, Aaliyah, 10, Noah, 7, Cheyenne, 5, and Andrue, 2.
Adams had just returned from work and left for a bike ride the evening of July 31, while Souza took the children to the park. When Adams returned home, the road was blocked off by fire trucks.
Souza and the kids had returned home earlier, and he had just started up a movie when the power went out on one side of the house. He went to check on the circuit breaker, and when he came back up the steps, he noticed smoke pouring out of the boys’ bedroom.
“I got my kids out of the house. I noticed the roof was engulfed in flames and called 911,” Souza said.
C.J. and Aaliyah, the oldest children in the family, were the most upset. Andrue, not understanding what was going on, actually tried to run back into the house to go to bed. A neighbor took the children into her house to keep them safe.
Eventually, at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, the fire was put out, 2 hours and 17 minutes after the fire call.
Although they were allowed in briefly that night to retrieve some of their possessions, they have not been allowed back in since.
They have no idea if anything remaining in the house can still be saved.
“Every day it sits in the smoke, it gets worse,” Adams said. “We’re not cleared to go in.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though officials suspected it could have been an electrical fire.
The family has only been living in Jamestown since April 2. Previously, they lived in the Anamoose, N.D., area for about four years, where Adams was caring for her father, who then passed away. Before that, they lived in the Las Vegas area.
People from the community began assisting the family before the fire was even out, starting with Christy d’Angelo-Buchmann, the neighbor who brought the children into her home to keep them safe.
Rosalie Wibstad, agent of Century 21, which rented the home to Adams and Souza, found the family another place to live quickly. Zimmerman’s Furniture donated some end tables. Gladstone Inn & Suites and the Holiday Inn both donated rooms through a Red Cross program.
Red Cross has assisted the family, as has the Salvation Army, with everything from bedding gathered from local churches to groceries and more.
Benefits are planned at Applebee’s and Rent-a-Center.
Coworkers at the Buffalo City Rotisserie Grill, where Souza works, and at Grizzly’s Grill N’ Saloon, where Adams works, have been extremely supportive, as both have needed to take time off after the fire.
“The main thing we need is money, because we’re just out of things,” Adams said.
A fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank to help the family in its efforts to start over following the fire. Donations can be made anywhere in the Wells Fargo system, to the Liz Adams Disaster Relief fund.
It hasn’t been easy for the family.
Beth Dewald, executive director for the Buffalo Valley Red Cross, gave the family a package of Post-It notes. On them, they write positive things and stick them up for everyone in the house to see.
“Each day I see them, they look stronger,” Dewald said.
Souza and Adams are extremely grateful to the many people in the community who have helped them, and both emphasized how supportive people have been and how thankful they are.
“I pray every single day,” Adams said. “I thank God my family’s okay. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost my kids.”