For many in Shelton, impact of downtown fire is personal

For Jimmy Tickey and many other Shelton residents, it’s personal.

They know people who lived in the apartments destroyed by the massive Jan. 6 fire, or regularly patronized some of the retail establishments put out of business by the blaze.

“A woman I know who lives in the building had to run out of the place with her daughter in just their pajamas,” Tickey said.

The woman that Tickey knows was able to go to a family friend’s house for comfort, but not everyone living in the apartment complex had a place to go in the immediate aftermath of such devastation.

So many victims went to the nearby Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company firehouse. “That became the support hub,” Tickey said.

Donations are pouring in for victims

The community has quickly come together to assist the victims of the late-night fire on Howe Avenue.

The blaze on a historic city block has displaced almost 30 people and a half dozen businesses. The residents, who lost all their belongings as well as their homes, now are staying at hotels or at the homes of relatives or friends.

Large amounts of clothing, blankets and nonperishable food items have been donated to help them. People have been bringing the items to the Echo Hose firehouse on Coram Avenue.

Meeting focused on available assistance

On Tuesday, many of those directly affected by the fire attended a meeting at the firehouse. Representatives of various community organizations were in attendance, such as the American Red Cross, Spooner House, TEAM Inc. and Valley United Way, as well as the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents a part of Shelton, was joined by Mayor Mark Lauretti, Shelton Fire Chief Fran Jones and others in reaching out to the impacted residents and business owners during the meeting. A federal Small Business Administration (SBA) official also attended.

“Our goal is to see how quickly we can get people back on their feet,” DeLauro said.

Tickey, who is a Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission member as well as a paid member of DeLauro’s campaign staff, helped to organize the gathering. “It’s amazing how quickly people can organize,” he said.

Getting into ‘recovery mode’

Residents and business owners asked a lot of questions during the meeting, and were told about some of the resources available to assist them.

“We want to help them get into recovery mode,” Tickey said.

Business owners were informed of SBA programs that might help them get through the incident. “This would provide a path forward to help businesses get on their feet because these businesses need the help now,” Tickey said.

Also in attending were members of the Matto family, who own the destroyed building. Tickey, like many in Shelton, knows the building owners.

Sorting through donated clothing

During the visit, DeLauro and others helped to sort some of the clothing donations, which are stacked high in piles at the firehouse. “This is a miraculous place,” DeLauro said.

Going forward, the Valley United Way will oversee distribution of the donated clothing to victims. Excess items will be given to others in need in the area.

Following the meeting at the firehouse, DeLauro and some other officials toured the fire scene to get a firsthand look at the devastation.

The impacted businesses are Bob Boroski’s School of Art, Howe Convenient, Joy Lee Restaurant, Liquid Lunch, Petal Pusher flower shop, a barbershop, dollar store and tarot reader shop.