The American Red Cross did not have to open up a shelter Friday night following a devastating fire at the Casa De Vallejo senior housing complex. Volunteers managed to place all 115 of the residents in local area hotels and assisted living facilities. It was a huge undertaking, as over 100 senior citizens lost their home in an instant.
The fire at Casa De Vallejo started at a dangerous hour, 3:45 a.m. Most of the 115 senior citizens living inside were sleeping when an announcement alerted them to get out.
"I'm not joking. The building is really on fire. So I proceeded to speed up getting my pants on," said Phillip Terry, a Casa De Vallejo resident.
The fire did claim one life. The man was a Casa de Vallejo resident and a World War II veteran. His name has not been released. Miraculously, everyone else escaped. 20 went home with family and friends the other 95 ended up here, at the First Baptist Church.
"Since they feel I'm okay on my own, they just sort of put a blue tag on me and said we'll get to you when we get to you," said Joan Chand, a resident.
Chand escaped with her two dogs and not much else. Many others had to leave behind medications, oxygen tanks and other treatments needed for their survival.
"We always have nurses and mental health counselors on call for these types of situations," said Melanie Sanders, with the American Red Cross.
About a dozen of the residents require assisted living care. They were taken by ambulance and even taxis to their new homes.
It took firefighters nearly six hours to put out the flames. Vallejo's fire chief says the recent budget cuts have reduced the number of local firefighters able to respond quicker. Mayor Osbey Davis did not want to talk about the bankruptcy issue with the press.
"I want to focus on the needs of the residents who were there. I don't want to go into the sensational issues about how many firefighters we have on scene, okay," said Mayor Davis.
No matter what the mayor, firefighters, or anybody does, it won't change what happened early Friday morning. Now many seniors are looking at an uncertain future.
"I don't have the answer. I may go to the East to visit family. I haven't thought that far ahead," said Chand.
There is an orange tube coming from the top of the Casa De Vallejo. It was put there by clean-up crews. Investigators will be coming Saturday morning to determine the cause and the origin of the fire. The orange chute will allow them to discard debris straight in to the dumpster.