Community rallies to help local family that lost everything to early-morning house fire
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A community effort is underway to help the 10 members of an extended Waco family, almost all of them battling COVID-19, who escaped with their lives but little else from their burning house early Friday morning thanks to the one adult resident who didn’t have the virus and could smell the smoke.
University High School graduates and staff members have launched an online fundraising effort to help the family members, who lost virtually everything in the fire, which broke out at around 2 a.m. Friday in the home in the 2200 block of Joey Dr. in Waco shared by Francisca Torres, her husband Adrian Ramirez and their 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter; Delmi Rivera, his wife and their grown daughters Bianca Rivera and Edelmara Rivera; Edelmara’s 14-month-old son, and her boyfriend.
Two of the adults were working with the fire broke out and the rest were asleep.
Bianca Rivera, 20, the only adult in the household who doesn’t have the virus, was awakened by the smell of smoke, rushed to get the children out of the house, and then alerted the adults.
“I went outside my room and as soon as I got out of my room there was a bunch of smoke and as soon as I turned the corner, the whole front door was on fire so I woke everyone up and the first ones to get out that I took were the kids and the baby,” Bianca said.
While the family members made it out safely, everything they owned burned in the fire.
Bianca is a recent University High School graduate and the 15-year-old boy displaced by the fire is a freshman at the high school, so when UHS Parent Community Involvement Specialist Mary Olivarez learned of the fire, she contacted Bianca.
“I just asked her what they were in need of,” Mary said.
“They said ‘underwear shirts, socks and jackets.’ They literally lost everything. When I say they lost everything, they lost everything.”
That includes their iPads and laptops for school, which University is working now to replace.
An organization that helps the homeless donated blankets and the family did have a place to stay with another family member but everything else they need.
Mary turned to Waco Realtor Roman Novian, a UHS graduate, to help because, she says, he’s well connected and has been generous in assisting many other University families in their times of need.
“Because of COVID we don’t have a lot of people on our campus so I reached out to Roman,” she said.
“He’s been our little savior over there.”
Novian, who has never met the family, took the story to social media and as of Monday had raised just more than $2,000 through online donations.
“I’m just the messenger of this,” he said.
“I’m the one who shared the Facebook post for Mary, but those to be thanked are all the people who stepped forward whether it be a university high school teacher, someone who graduated from there, even strangers.”
Bianca says the family members are all recovering well from COVID-19 and most have now regained their sense of smell and taste.
She’s thankful for life but is also asking for help replacing everything they lost and thanking those, like her alma mater, who are answering the plea.
“Anything that they think would help us, we are grateful for anything they think is reasonable for us to get,” she said.
“We are very grateful and we appreciate everything they’re trying to do for us and God will bless them for many years to come for everything they’re trying to do for us.”
Donations may be made by contacting Novian on his Facebook page or by contacting University High School.
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