Coming to their aid: Fire-affected families get help from Red Cross

Published 10:59 pm Thursday, July 5, 2018

The American Red Cross and partner agencies set up shop outside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Thursday to assist families affected by a fatal apartment fire.

Natalie Warren, Texas Gulf Coast Region disaster program manager, said the 20 apartments in Unit 2 at Arthur Square Apartments were without power following an early Wednesday fire that left three children dead. So far, 14 of those families have checked in for assistance and the Red Cross was trying to reach out to them.

Red Cross volunteers Aman Kabin, left, and Chrystal Phillips stand near boxes of items earmarked for families affected by a fire at Arthur Square Apartments outside St. Joseph catholic Church on Thursday.
Mary Meaux/The News

The Southeast Texas Food Bank was on hand as well as the Rev. Randy Vaughn of Help! I’m Hurting!

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“We came to the aid of our community and assist them in what we can,” Vaughn said, adding that his organization is donating personal items and clothing for those in need.

The Arthur Square Apartments complex, 1600 Poole Ave., was heavily damaged during Tropical Storm Harvey. Residents who had lost most of their belongings to the flood are now dealing with fire and smoke damage.

“There’s not going to be a short-term fix even if the lights get back on,” Warren said. “We walked in yesterday and the property is not something that will be fixed quickly.”

Chester Jourdan Jr., executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas, showed photos taken during the walk where mold lines the walls in some apartments 3 or 4 feet high.

There were some complications in helping those affected; there are a number of contractor groups on site repairing the Harvey damage and some live on the property. Some workers and possibly some tenants are undocumented and leery to reach out for help.

In addition, some of the units are government subsidized under Section 8 but not all of them.

The Port Arthur Fire Department responded to a call of an apartment fire at the apartments around 12:10 a.m. Wednesday. Firefighters discovered three children in the apartment and were able to remove them from the apartment, according to a news release from the PAFD. The children were transported to the Southeast Texas Medical Center but did not survive.

Port Arthur fire marshals are investigating the scene and the cause of the fire remains under investigation Thursday. The mother of the children had reportedly taken one of her other children to the hospital when the fire occurred.

Fire Marshal L. Paul Washburn said autopsies were performed on all three victims Thursday. Results were pending lab reports.

This is the highest number of fatalities related to a single fire since a 2009 garage apartment fire that left four people dead.