Warwick condo fire putting strain on Red Cross

This pile of rubble is what's left after fire destroyed of one of the buildings at Westgate Condo Complex in Warwick.

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — When a massive fire tore through at building a the Westgate Condominium complex, the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Red Cross was one of the first agencies to respond.

Nearly a week after the fire destroyed 38 units and displaced dozens of people, the Red Cross is still assisting 30 of the 39 affected families – including 49 adults and three children.

“My wife and I are very proud people. We never look for charity, we always gave it. But, after standing there in the snow with just the clothes on your back and not knowing where to go, I told my wife we should go to the Red Cross,” said fire victim Jim Simmons. “Thank God for them. They were our savior.”

Courtesy: @trip336
Courtesy: @trip336

But helping this many people all at once comes with a cost.

“We have committed approximately $20,000 in direct financial services to the families from Warwick’s fire,” said Paula Montgomery, executive director of Rhode Island’s American Red Cross. “It really does have an impact on our bottom line.”

To put it in perspective, Montgomery said a fire, on average, costs the organization about $2,000, with $550 in direct financial services.

The Red Cross said 32 volunteers have been working with fire victims since last week – helping them with everything from food and clothing to medication and paperwork.

“They were able to call in my wife’s medication and respond quickly on it,” Simmons said. “$295 didn’t last long, but it got us what we needed. It got us through it.”

Montgomery said every family got a recovery envelope.

‘You don’t think about all of the things that you’ve lost. How to replace your birth certificate. How to replace your passport,” Montgomery said. “When the shock has worn off of the potential loss of everything they have, they have this resource that they can kind of start going down the list to begin their recovery plan.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, as well as the water problems that firefighters encountered while fighting it.

To donate to Rhode Island’s American Red Cross, click here.


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