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More than 40 people forced out by huge apartment fire | News

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More than 40 people forced out by huge apartment fire

Tampa, Florida -- We now know what caused an enormous apartment fire that has left dozens of families with nowhere to live.

Tampa's fire marshal says someone walked away and left food cooking in a unit at Waterman's Crossing Apartments in West Tampa. It touched off a fire that burned an entire building.

A Red Cross worker told me this fire was so bad, it's a miracle no people were hurt.

No one was rushed to the hospital, but there's still a lot of pain as these families try to figure out where to go from here.

Pacing in the parking lot, in her pajamas, Maureen Bailey can't see more than two pictures on the wall of her apartment through the door she left open as she ran out.

Is it OK? Is anything left?

"I don't know what to do. I don't know," Bailey said.

"I'm smiling because I'm nervous. It's not a good smile. I'm just confused and frustrated. Where do we go?"

When you see the scale of the destruction at the Waterman's Crossing Apartments -- nearly all of a three-story building burned and trashed by smoke and water -- you can imagine her loss, repeated, for 41 people.

All of them were sent running by the fire just after midnight.

"There's a lady that lives in the apartment" where the fire started, Bailey said. "And she came out and she was banging, calling, 'Help! Can somebody help me?'"

"And then, before you know it, there was an explosion."

I called the American Red Cross chapter in Tampa to find out how they can help these families. Using donations from strangers, the Red Cross will give them vouchers to buy clothes, food, and medication. Volunteers have opened a Red Cross shelter at a church. They say it'll stay open as long as it's needed.

Red Cross case workers will even meet with landlords and utilities to help these people move into a new, permanent place without needing any deposits. And one more service the Red Cross will bring to the complex is mental health counseling. They'll work to help families like the Baileys cope with this loss.

You can use this link to the American Red Cross donations page if you'd like to support the Red Cross as it helps these families and others hit by tornadoes in Arkansas and Oklahoma.


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