How you can help those displaced by West Chicago apartment fire
Lorena Barroso stood outside her apartment building in West Chicago Friday, unsure of what the future holds.
“I'm looking for a place ... there isn't one here,” she said as she stood in front of the Main Park Apartment complex in the 800 block of Burr Oaks Drive in West Chicago.
She lost everything in the fire except her purse, car keys and the clothes she was wearing Thursday. The outfit she wore Friday was given to her by her sister.
“I'm starting from nothing ... but moving forward,” she said.
Her apartment building was boarded up and surrounded by a chain-link fence Friday.
West Chicago Fire Protection District Chief Patrick Tanner said the department closed its investigation into the blaze. Though no cause was determined, the fire was “non-suspicious” and started in a second-story apartment, Tanner said.
While the building's fire alarm system passed inspection earlier this year, the department's investigation concluded that the audible and visual alarms did not go off on Thursday, Tanner said. Some residents reported hearing alarms, but Tanner said those likely were smoke alarms in the individual apartments.
Barosso, who spoke in Spanish, is among the more than 100 people displaced by Thursday's fire.
On Friday, many remained at New Hope Lutheran Church in West Chicago where the American Red Cross had set up an emergency shelter.
“Most are still in a state of shock, but a resilient state of shock,” said Molly Beck Dean, executive director for WeGo Together for Kids, a West Chicago nonprofit aiding displaced residents.
She said 79 people slept at the church on Thursday night and expected many would sleep there again on Friday.
Within hours of the fire, community leaders and social service agencies began meeting to discuss how to help families displaced by the fire. The group, which includes state lawmakers and county and city officials, will meet again on Saturday.
Area residents also have dropped by the church with donations or to help out. Local restaurants also donated or provided meals at lower prices to help feed those staying at the church.
“Our community always comes together,” said West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda.
Those wishing to help can make contributions at wegotogetherforkids.com. The website also includes a list of clothing items that are needed. Signs with a QR code linking to the WeGo Together for Kids website also will be posted at Saturday's Frosty Fest in downtown West Chicago.
Beck Dean also made a plea for anyone with available rental units to reach out. She said larger apartment complexes in the area have already been contacted but are full. Additionally, social service agencies are still trying to place some of the families displaced by a fire at the same apartment complex last year.
“So, we're really looking for the one-offs,” Beck Dean said, referring to rental townhouses or duplexes.
Anyone with information about potential rental units is asked to email Beck Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.