When Margaret McBride rushed home from her job, she found the mobile home her family had rented at 17410 E. Fifth was engulfed in flames.
“Remember ‘Towering Inferno?’ That’s what I drove up to,” McBride remembers, thinking back to April 15.
The place was gutted, and the family had no renters’ insurance. They lost everything in the mobile home - clothing, treasured photographs, a daughter’s collection of porcelain dolls.
“It’s not so much that you lost your furniture or the monetary things,” McBride says, pausing occasionally to keep her emotions in check. “It’s pictures on the wall, things your kids made you.”
No one can replace those. But people who work with McBride and her husband, Roger “Tony” Robinson are trying to replace what they can. McBride works at Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar and Robinson works in the produce department at the McDonald and Sprague Tidyman’s store. Employees at both businesses have set up separate trust funds to help the couple and their two children.
The Applebee’s trust is through Seafirst Bank. Global Credit Union is handling the trust set up by employees at Tidyman’s.
People who work with the couple say it’s the least they could do.
“Tony’s a real, real nice gentleman,” says Jason Barrett, assistant produce manager at the Sprague and McDonald Tidyman’s. “He has a lot of people who visit him in the store just because he’s nice.”
Some of the losses are just starting to sink in, McBride said. When they went shopping the day after the blaze, she said, “My daughter picked up a hairbrush, and I just started crying because we didn’t even have a hairbrush.”
Steve Germain, a manager at Applebee’s at Mission and Pines, says his family was twice evicted by fire when he was growing up. He knows what it’s like.
“All the things (they need) can’t be donated,” Germain says. That’s why Germain and Applebee’s employee Marie Black encourage contributions to the trust funds.
The family already has received donated clothing and blankets - eight to 10 shopping carts worth from Tidyman’s employees alone. Greenacres Elementary came through with clothing and household items, too. Friends donated furniture.
McBride is just thankful no one was hurt, although daughter Brittaney, 10, lost a guinea pig and son Joshua, 12, lost two curly-tailed lizards.
“If this would have happened in the middle of the night, we would all be dead,” McBride says.
Joshua was home when the fire broke out around noon. The boy spotted flames shooting out of a hallway, so he ran to a neighbor’s house and called 911.
Eric Olson, an investigator with Valley Fire, says the fire started beneath the mobile home, near the furnace.
McBride says she learned a few lessons from the experience. When the family found a new home to rent in the Valley, they made sure to get renters’ insurance. But the most important lesson McBride learned was one in compassion.
“I’ve got a lot of people to thank,” McBride says. “I feel very blessed and very loved, and that people care a great deal. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way. A real positive, overwhelming way.”