Long-time resident faces upheaval after losing home in Albion fire

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Brenda Winters wipes her eyes as she looks at her cordoned off home on West State Street, which was severely damaged by smoke and water when firefighters tried to put out a blaze which started in the house next door.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 December 2020 at 6:26 pm

Agencies try to find housing for displaced families

ALBION – Brenda Winters has lived at the home she rents on West State Street for 20 years. Monday afternoon she wiped tears from her eyes as she surveyed the damage to her home and two others from a fire which broke out next door on Saturday afternoon.

Brenda lives with her son Herbert and adult grandson Quarmine.

On Saturday afternoon, she said she was in her kitchen when all of a sudden there was a big bang next door at the home on the corner of West State and East Academy streets.

“I went to the window and all I saw was smoke,” she said. “Then about five minutes later there was another every louder explosion that shook my house. I looked out again and all I saw was fire. I said then it was time for me to get out.”

This is the aftermath of a fire which destroyed three homes on East Academy and West State streets Saturday afternoon. It is believed up to 10 people were displaced in the fire, which started with an explosion in a garage next to the house on the corner.

Brenda went to a neighbor’s home across the street and watched as fire company after fire company came to fight the blaze, which had engulfed the house next door and spread to her home and another on East Academy.

While her home is the least damaged of the three, with fire damage in the attic and west side of the house, she said her home is ruined with smoke and water. She said water stood a foot deep inside the home and the furniture reeks of smoke.

She escaped with a few clothes, but they also are full of smoke.

In the meantime the Winters are staying with another of Brenda’s sons in Lockport while Community Action is trying to find housing for her and the other two families.

Annette Finch, director of Emergency Services at Community Action; Nyla Gaylord, director of Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern; and Jeff Holler with Albion Masons have joined forces to help the three families displaced in the fires.

“Our three organizations have decided to coordinate all our efforts to help these people who have lost everything,” Finch said.

Gaylord said people started contacting her on the weekend asking if they could help. Finch said Holler called her and said the Masons want to do something to assist the families.

There are no official numbers on how many people were displaced from the fire, but Finch and the agencies believe there were five in one house, two in another and three in Winters’ home. Finch doesn’t believe there were any children living in the homes.

“Clothing is not an issue,” Finch said. “But finding housing is the biggest thing.”

Robin Smith, who lived in the corner home, is staying with a sister and Finch took them food and a gift card to Tops.

“If we can find places for them to live, we can get help with the first month’s rent through the Uplift Grant United Way got us to help people with housing,” Finch said.

Finch said the families need food, furniture and personal care items.

“We are going to be able to help with the resources we have,” Finch said. “If there are churches, clubs or factories who are thinking about adopting families for Christmas, these would be good ones to help. Any donations we receive for them we will put in a fund to distribute equally to all three.”

Holler said the Masons are designating their lodge building at 39 Platt Street as a collection site for any donated items. If anyone calls Holler at (585) 590-0983 with donations, he will be available 24/7. The Masons are also planning a fundraising meal as a drive-thru, at a site to be determined.

Anyone who can help in any way can contact Michelle Figueroa, case manager at Community Action, at 589-5605, Ext. 105; Nyla Gaylord at 589-9210; or Jeff Holler at 590-0983.