Former Sacajawea Apartments residents were able to go back into the fire-damaged building Monday to get belongings, and they got help from some local volunteers.
People displaced by the fire are being allowed in between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. through Friday, building owner Linda Guo told the Herald.
They previously had only been allowed in for 15 minutes at a time because of concerns about smoke inhalation and a lack of light, but Guo had emergency lighting installed in the six-story building.
Sue Supples, 50, came Monday to the apartments, where the elevator still isn't working, to help her friend, Joseph Winn, bring his belongings downstairs. His fourth-floor apartment, two floors above where the fire is believed to have started, "stinks and reeks," she said.
"The microwave's got, like a layer of stuff on it," Supples said, holding her forefinger and thumb an inch apart. "It almost smells like death in there, but, thank God, nobody died."
Winn, 47, did lose his cat, Steiglitz, in the fire. The memory made it tough for him to go back to try to salvage his belongings.
"This was my first time back when I wasn't in shock," he said.
Four volunteers from Pasco Christian Church helped residents bring their things down the stairs. More members of the congregation plan to assist during the week.
"Some people are able to move their own things, but a lot of people don't have a truck or a car," said volunteer Coleen Blundon, 50. "We're called on by God to do that. We have the ability to help, so we do."
Church members helped take some large items -- like couches and beds -- downstairs, she said. But even people who don't have trucks to carry furniture can help out.
"Some people don't have a lot of things," she said. "They just have pictures or paperwork, or (volunteers) can just pack things in boxes."
Other residents brought their own items downstairs.
Rene Morales, 28, who came back from a nightclub to see the damage on the night of the fire, said going back up rekindled bad memories. Two local churches assisted him while he stayed at a friend's house, he said.
"I think it's really awesome," he said of the help. "When you need help, they are there."
Pasco Christian is located near Pasco High School, where Sacajawea residents were sheltered by the American Red Cross for three weeks after the July 20 fire.
Parishioners started by giving clothes to displaced residents, many of whom are low-income or disabled, Blundon said. Then, as homes were found for the residents, they brought them kitchen and bedroom items.
The Red Cross helped about 150 people after the fire. Many stayed in the shelter, while others came for meals or other assistance. As of Thursday, they had all been placed in either permanent housing or a temporary place to bridge the gap.