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Red Cross helping residents of burned apartments

The Red Cross will keep its shelter open for at least another week to help 55 people displaced from an apartment fire Saturday. The organization is working to help people find new permanent housing.

Red Cross volunteers were a welcome sight for families who watched as a fire destroyed their apartments in the 6500 block of North Atlantic Street.

That night, 41 people checked into a temporary shelter at the Spokane Friends Church on West Dalke Avenue and 22 stayed the night, spokeswoman Megan Snow said.

The families receive three meals a day at the shelter and have been given debit cards to buy clothes and necessities. “The Red Cross can provide first month’s rent and a deposit for new permanent housing,” she said.

The challenge has been in finding housing the families can afford, Snow said. The residents include a family of nine and a family of seven.

The Red Cross was able to open a shelter so quickly because it has prearranged agreements with churches, schools and other sites that can be used as a shelter, Snow said. The local Red Cross office serves seven counties in Eastern Washington and five counties in North Idaho. It has responded to 60 incidents so far this year, mostly single-family house fires.

“This is the biggest one-incident disaster we’ve had in a long time,” Snow said. “It’s been a challenge for our organization.”

Snow said she stopped by the shelter during the day Monday and was pleased to find it mostly empty. While families are sleeping there at night, during the day the children are at school and the parents are either at work or looking for a new place to live.

Snow said the cost to assist the residents will easily top $25,000. Those interested in helping can visit or stop by the Red Cross office at 315 W. Nora Ave.

The cause of the fire, which some residents said started in the closet of a top-floor apartment, is still under investigation.

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