Meetinghouse Bank, Vargas and Vargas Insurance, the Lower Mills Merchants Association and State Rep. Linda Forry are among the Lower Mills leaders who joined together this week to help two families displaced by last Thursday’s five-alarm fire on Fairmount Street.
The fire — which began in the basement of 5 Fairmount St. around 11 a.m. last Thursday— left four Boston firefighters injured and nine people homeless. The three-decker house was destroyed in the blaze, which took several hours to contain and extinguish.
James Armand, 28, was among those displaced by the fire. Armand, who was returning home from morning errands at the time, said he smelled the smoke from outside but didn’t think it was coming from the house. He said when he opened the door to the basement, the smoke was too much and there was nothing he could do to put the fire out.
In just a few short minutes, the fire had ripped through the house. In addition to the four firefighters, two residents were sent to the hospital.
On Monday afternoon, Lower Mills leaders met to launch the Fairmount St. Fire Fund, which was set up over the weekend at the initiative of Meetinghouse Bank president Anthony Paciulli and Vargas & Vargas Insurance president Carlos Vargas. Rep. Linda Forry, who has been working to coordinate assistance for the fire victims, was also present at the bank on Monday.
An account has been set up for the families’ benefit, and donations of cash, clothing, and supplies can be brought to the bank, located on 2250 Dorchester Avenue.
Jean Allen, store director of the Shaw’s on River Street said the supermarket would donate food, lunch boxes, thermoses and other supplies to the families. ABCD’s Dorchester Neighborhood Service Center and Elm Hill Family Service Center will also be providing school supplies and clothing for the adults and children affected. Councilor Ayanna Presley’s office has also extended its hand to the families.
James Armand, who lived in the three-decker building with his mother, two brothers and son, said he couldn’t say thank you enough for all support they’ve been receiving.
“It’s big that all these people have stepped up to help,” he said.
Armand’s son Nyziah is starting school at the Academy of the Pacific Rim in Hyde Park next week, and said he hopes the school understands the situation. The 10-year-old is currently staying with his grandmother, and Armand said he is still trying to understand everything that has happened.
The most immediate concern for those displaced is finding a place to live. The families were initially housed at the Hampton Inn following the blaze— thanks to emergency assistance from the Red Cross.
Lenny Mayers, who lived on the third floor of the building, said they were told they had to check out Friday and had spent less than 24 hours in the hotel. Since then, he said, they are living out of their cars.
Meetinghouse Bank president Tony Paciulli said he felt bad for the people impacted, but that the neighborhood was stepping up to help them out in their time of need.
“Lower Mills is just a great community, great people,” Paciulli said. “They’re small gestures, but I hope they’re gestures that help you and make you feel a little bit better when you feel totally alone.”
Paciulli also said that the Salvation Army would help provide the children with clothes and other school supplies, as well as tickets to the circus and other events.
Larry Marino, chair of the Lower Mills Merchants Association’s Sunshine Committee, said they have pledged their support as well.
“We’re starting with $100, and then we’re going around to the other merchants to see what else we can get.”