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Troy Rallies Around Apartment Fire Victims
Fourteen people left homeless after an apartment building in Troy burns to the ground
The gymnasium is filling with furniture and the attic is stuffed with coats, clothes and blankets at the Troy Community Baptist Church, according to Pastor Cam Foote. All of it for the 14 people left homeless when an apartment building in Troy burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Dec. 12.

The fire at the Pine Tree Plaza apartments destroyed the building and temporarily closed U.S. Highway 2 on Dec. 12. One of the residents, Eric Howe, huddled over his girlfriend and their child as they escaped the fire, according to the Associated Press. The heroic effort left Howe, a former firefighter, with severe burns on his head and back and he was transported to a burn center in Salt Lake City. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Before the fire was even out on that Thursday morning, assistance was already pouring in, according to Foote and volunteers with the American Red Cross of Montana. Foote said that’s just the type of community Troy is.

“Here we have to learn to help each other,” he said. “People pull together here … A (church) member put a call out for supplies on Facebook the day of the fire and holy cow by that night we had six truck loads of supplies.”

A week later, Foote said the community had brought in 30 truckloads of supplies – bath items, clothing, furniture, and kitchenware – anything that might help the families affected by the fire. Foote said they have received so many donations that they were initially worried about where they would put it. He said soon they might have to stop accepting donated goods.

Foote said the entire effort has been organic.

“This is a car that is taking its own path, no one is directing it, the community is just helping out,” he said.

Anna Fernandez, communications director for the Red Cross, said her organization was impressed with the outpouring of support from local citizens in Troy.

The Red Cross was among the first agencies, other than first responders, to arrive in Troy after the fire started. Lew Savik, a volunteer and disaster action team chairman based in Kalispell, got the call about the fire shortly after 4 a.m. Dec. 12. He quickly called Scott Slavson, a Libby-based volunteer, who was already on his way to the scene.

Immediately after the fire started and people were evacuated, the victims were put up in a nearby hotel. But the power was quickly cut because a power line next to the fire was knocked out of service. Savik, Slavson and some other volunteers quickly worked with the community church to set up a shelter. The church also fed the evacuees and opened the doors to its newly organized thrift shop so people could get some essentials.

Throughout the day, Red Cross volunteers interviewed everyone from the apartment building and then issued each of person a temporary debit card. The debit cards are funded by donations to the Red Cross. For more information about donating to the Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org.

First Montana Bank has also established a benefit fund for the victims. Anyone interested in donating can visit one of the bank’s branches in Libby, Troy and Kalispell and make a deposit into the “Pine Tree Plaza Benefit Fund.”
 
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