By Daniel Jones, Sabine Index editor
Tragedy struck Sabineland shortly after noon on January 12 when what appears to be a freak occurrence caused a structure fire that leveled one of the residential buildings at the Apollo Apartments in Many. Although an investigation into the fire continues, official word as to the cause leans toward a tenant who set groceries down on his stove, which inadvertently activated one of the burners.
The Central Sabine Fire District was on the scene quickly and was shortly backed up by North and South Sabine Fire Districts, as well as Natchitoches Fire District No.7. As the smoke settled, the parish was left with 16 families without housing, which affected a total of 23 people. Local response was immediate and to the point. Town of Many Alderman at Large Mary Brocato began an online fundraiser within hours to raise $3,000 and assist with the immediate needs of the families. The initial goal was met so quickly that it was upped to $5,000. After that goal was met the fundraiser was ended.
It allowed $380 to go to each family affected. Anna Cate Williams Wright of Rigs N Racks Fitness was another big early contributor to relief efforts, acting as a drop-off point for the clothing needs of the families. On January 13, one day after the fire, a meeting was called at Many City Hall by Mayor Ken Freeman to an overflow crowd of concerned citizens, business owners, churches, educators, law enforcement, and politicians.
Freeman welcomed and recognized the large response, nothing how nice it is to live in a community where we take care of each other. He reported that Red Cross has been contacted and has provided the families $125 each in emergency cash. Before long the conversation moved into lodging. Freeman named several routes that could be taken, but they had hit several walls along the way. An ideal nursing home building is under construction.
There are vacancies at other Many apartments, but residents have to go through the process of being cleared for those apartments, which could take up to three days. There is space available at Head Start, but they’d need a little work to be habitable. The Life Church graciously offered to pay for the housing in the interim for those needing it. Freeman noted that transportation might be required for the victims but couldn’t use city vehicles due to insurance. He suggested that churches with vans might be the quickest solution.
Sabine Parish Superintendent of schools Dr. Sara Ebarb offered to provide uniforms, shoes, socks, and books for any students caught up in the tragedy. District Attorney Don Burkett was on hand and stated that his office would provide backpacks for students. Food was also another point of conversation. Hickman’s Barbecue and Dee’s Home Lawn Service was already on board to handle one meal, and others such as the Church of Latter Day Saints said they can have support shipped in. Discussion continued and other forms of aid were discussed. However, there are still needs out there. Freeman notes that cash donations for food and housing can be dropped at city hall.
Rigs N Racks is overwhelmed with clothes, but is asking for towels, bed sheets, blankets, pillows, and donations of that type. They are also in need of volunteers who can sort clothing by size and gender.
As needs arise, they will receive an update at sabinetoday.com or the Sabine Index’s Facebook page.