One minute you are sound asleep, and the next you hear a loud boom. You awake to the sounds of a stormy night and attribute the boom to a lightning strike or a loud clap of thunder. When you look outside and do not see anything concerning you try to go back to sleep. Moments later, you begin to hear the sound of smoke alarms going off down the hallway of your apartment building. In your grogginess, you tell yourself this is not unusual, they often go off when neighbors burn toast, and it was the wee hours of the morning, after all. Soon, you hear smoke alarms coming from the other side of the building and are panicked by the real possibility that this is much more serious than a thunderstorm. You open the door to see what is going on and the stench of smoke confirms your worst fears. Your apartment building is on fire.
This terrifying scenario is was what Brandon Camfield and his girlfriend Callie Thompson, employees of Poolman outside of Dallas, TX awoke to in the early morning hours of August 30, 2020.
They quickly gathered what they could –wallet, keys, purse, phones and cat – and bolted down the stairs. When they looked at the building, they could see a fire raging directly above their third floor apartment. Realizing that the smoke alarms in the lower floors may not have been triggered, the couple ran door to door, banging as hard and loudly as they could to waken their neighbors and help them safely escape the burning building.
The couple watched in disbelief as fire crews fought the growing blaze.
Eighty-four of the 86 units were occupied at the time, and miraculously, all residents and pets were safely evacuated.
Soon, the American Red Cross arrived and teams of volunteers assisted residents with everything from temporary housing to clothing and food. Fortunately for Brandon and Callie, they had family nearby who offered them a place to stay.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though it is believed to have been started by a lightning strike to the rooftop directly above Brandon and Callie’s apartment. The weight of the water used to extinguish the fire caused the floor of their apartment to fall through to the leasing office on the first floor. Brandon and Callie lost everything except for the clothes on their backs. The material possessions can be replaced but sadly, many irreplaceable family mementos were also lost in the fire.
“Watching I knew it was going to be bad, and I assumed we would have water and smoke damage. I never expected to hear that all of our belongings fell through to the first floor,” said Brandon. “The building is considered structurally unsound so we have not been able to get in to see if anything is salvageable.”
The couple applied for a grant from the FirstService Relief Fund under the natural disaster category and Emergency Assistance Foundation, the Relief Fund administrator, worked with them to ensure quick approval and payment of their grant.
“We are very glad we had secured renters insurance when we moved into our apartment. This, coupled with the grant we received from the FirstService Relief Fund, has been so helpful in getting us back on our feet,” said Brandon. “I’m not someone who ever wants to ask for help, so this has been very difficult for me. I am blown away by the kindness and generosity people have shown us, and appreciate all of my colleagues who have donated to the Relief Fund.”
Brandon and Callie have been staying with family since the fire and saving for a down payment on a home they can call their own.
Brandon and Callie’s story is proof that unforeseen disasters can happen to any of us, at any time. That’s why the FirstService Relief Fund exists, to help our people during their time of need. If you have suffered a personal financial hardship, or know a colleague who has, we encourage you to apply for a grant.