Families rebuilding lives after losing everything in Destrehan fire

Resident says everything just crumbled to pieces in the blaze

Alicia Davis, her finance’ and his son could be homeless soon, struggling with having lost everything in a fire that claimed the entire apartment building where they lived in Destrehan.

“Everything just crumbled to pieces,” Davis recounted of the intense blaze that destroyed the structure on April 16. “When you lose everything, you don’t know where to start at.”

At around 9:35 p.m., Davis said she returned from work to find firefighters at the scene and people everywhere. She pulled up in front of a neighbor’s house and a woman told her, “Your apartment is on fire.”

She rushed to the scene and saw flames consuming the building, including their Unit C where they had lived for 3-1/2 years. It was a four-unit structure in an inferno so intense that five area volunteer fire departments representing nearly 50 firefighters worked to extinguish it.

Norco VFD Chief Kenny Wenning Jr. said the fire is believed to have started in Unit C with an AC unit that caught fire. The heat accumulated in a common attic over the units, which indicated families were still in the building unaware that the fire was spreading above and didn’t trigger smoke alarms.

Neighbor Diana Jackson was among the people who saw flames coming out of the roof and helped alarm them by banging on their doors.

One of those doors was Apartment D where Ana Quintana and her daughter had just moved in just over a month ago.

“I just heard someone knocking on my door,” Quintana said. “It was the neighbors telling me to get out because there was fire. I didn’t know nothing was on fire because I didn’t hear no alarms or anything.”

It wasn’t until they were outside that she heard the panicking. Immediately, she returned to the apartment and went upstairs to get her daughter who was asleep. By then, her bedroom was filled with smoke.

At that point, Quintana was only able to save Snowflake the hamster, grab her purse and her son’s backpack as the apartment went up in flames.

“We didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “It was nerve wracking.”

They have since found another apartment in Destrehan where she intends to stay until the can find a house in the parish so her children can stay in St. Charles Parish schools.

“I felt numb until last week when I started to see all the things I needed to get again,” she said. “Then you realize you had a lot when you have to start over and get what you need. It’s a little overwhelming. It’s been rough. I haven’t slept well in the last two weeks, and every morning I have to figure where I’m at. It’s kind of an after shock.”

Her son is particularly distraught over their loss, too.

Quintana said he lost Pokemon cards that he created himself, as well as his Legos.

Jason Rauch started a GoFundme for Quintana’s family at www.gofundme.com/the-denis-family.

Jason Allesandro, who owns and leased the apartment to Davis, also started a GoFundMe account for all four families directly affected by the fire at www.gofundme.com/ormond-fire-relief.

Allesandro, who lived there nine years earlier, said he also felt a sentimental loss and wanted to help the families who all lost everything in the blaze. But he added the tenants of the adjoining building have also been displaced until the investigation is completed on the cause of the fire.

Also, the United Way of St. Charles is assisting the families through its emergency funds and case management via Catholic Charities.

“Growing up in St. Charles Parish, I always felt we had a great community that would want to help and do something for these families who are really in a tough spot right now,” Allesandro said.

Some people have donated clothing for them.

“We’re just trying to get everybody to come together as a community, like we always have, to help out,” he said. “A small amount can really go a long way and have an immediate impact for somebody. When you have something happen directly like that it’s a different perspective.”

Davis agreed.

“I was crying,” she said. “This has never happened a day in my life.”

She couldn’t enter the building, which was already engulfed in flames.

“All they gave me was a set of keys … that’s all,” Davis said in tears of recovering only her car keys. “Everything I had was in there.”

Davis said all they could was stand outside and watch everything they had burn until after 1 a.m.

“Basically, you’re just standing there to be there,” she lamented. “You can’t go in. The condos have to be demolished because they can’t do anything in there.”

They are staying in a Luling hotel now, but it’s for a limited time. They received a debit card from the American Red Cross for $545, but she says that was for two nights in a hotel, food and clothing. A community center provided them another three nights there, but Davis said she is worried that will run out soon.

“I’m grateful, but they don’t help like they say they do,” she said.

When the latest housing runs out, she added, “I guess we’re homeless after that.”


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