Suspicious fire destroys center for teens

July 22, 2009 12:03:01 PM PDT
A Wednesday morning fire in San Bruno destroyed a drop-in center that helps teens and young adults. The suspicious fire at 841 San Bruno Avenue is a devastating loss for those served by the Edgewood Center for Children and Families.

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The center on San Bruno Avenue is one of many Edgewood Centers, but was particularly suited for at-risk youth. Their motto is to "Transform lives and restore hope." The damage the fire did is far-reaching and investigators say the fire is very suspicious.

"It's going to hurt a lot of our youth here," youth worker Richard Jackson told ABC7.

The center serves at-risk and needy teens and young adults. Firefighters tried to save it but when they arrived flames had already gutted the interior. Battling the fire was especially difficult.

"It was complicated in the fact that there's all sorts of hallways and different rooms in the structure. And, it was pulling hose. And, they pulled quite a bit of hose to get it done. Put it that way," explained Fire Chief Dennis Haag.

Jackson showed up to see how bad the damage was not worried about his job, instead, concerned about the loss to the community.

"They come here and get off the streets. Instead of doing drugs or something they come here, you know? They get on the computers, watch movies, play Rock Band and you know, we do all that. By this being shut down, we don't know what's going to happen now," he said.

"This is a place that, we are here for kids that have no other place to go," said Edgewood CEO Nancy Rubin. "And, now the 'no other place to go' is also gone."

But, this is a resilient group. Rubin, who heads up the Edgewood Center for Children and Families, says the agency will come up with a plan to relocate or rebuild another safe place for the youth of San Bruno. Edgewood has multiple locations in both San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

And, it has deep roots, with a history of surviving tough times.

"We started as the Orphanage for San Francisco and the Bay Area during the gold rush and we've been the backbone of the community during all of the Bay Area's growing up periods," said Rubin. "We were here during the earthquake, the fire, the depression, World War I, World War II..."

Edgewood told ABC7 it would welcome any community support during this tough economic recession, as funds are tougher to come by and the center lost everything inside from the computers, which many use to search for jobs or do homework, to the kitchen where kids are taught to cook and sometimes eat their only meal of the day.

Link: Edgewood Center for Children and Families

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