Pasco — The Red Cross shelter set up at Pasco High School for residents displaced by the Sacajawea Apartments fire closed Thursday, about three weeks after the blaze ravaged part of the six-story complex.
All the residents staying at the shelter now have another place to live -- either permanent housing or a temporary place to bridge the gap, Benton-Franklin Red Cross officials said.
A Red Cross shelter usually is open about three days, and the extended response in this case is the largest ever for the local chapter.
"If there's anyone in the community who really doesn't understand what Red Cross does, look at the last three weeks. This is what we do," said Kathye Kilgore, fund development specialist. "This is a time of need and this is when the Red Cross responds. The bell rings and we answer it."
About 150 people sought help from the Red Cross after the fire. Many stayed in the shelter; others came in for meals or other help.
In all, 464 overnight stays were provided, along with about 2,000 meals, 1,300 snacks, 140 personal hygiene kits with items such as toothbrushes and 356 health or mental health contacts.
The Pasco-based Community Action Connections helped homeless residents find new housing. Many other local organizations and companies also pitched in, including the Columbia Basin Baptist Association, which prepared meals with food bought by the Red Cross.
About 40 Red Cross volunteers responded in the aftermath of the fire, coming from around the state and beyond.
"I have to give kudos to every organization that partnered with us," said Tawni Solberg, Red Cross emergency services director. "Without our volunteers and our local companies we could not have done this."
The fire broke out the evening of July 20, possibly sparked by a candle left burning after a resident fell asleep. The building, which isn't inhabitable, has been secured and temporary lighting has been installed.
Owner Linda Guo of Bellevue told the Herald on Thursday that a contractor is making elevator repairs so the former residents will be able to retrieve belongings such as sofas and other furniture.
Kilgore didn't yet have an estimate for the total cost of the disaster response. But it's clear it taxed the resource of the local Red Cross, and the chapter could use donations.
"It's a budget impact -- larger than you anticipate this early in the fiscal year," Kilgore said. "But we're also blessed; we know the community knows what it takes to fulfill the mission."
Donations can be made by phone at 783-6195 or dropped off or mailed to the local Red Cross at 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, WA, 99336.
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