Message from Town Manager Bob LeLacheur
Last night there was a significant 7-alarm fire at the Schoolhouse Condominiums on Sanborn Street, also site of the former High School. We would like to first thank emergency crews from Reading and about 15 other cities and towns as they battled an active fire for about 12 hours in challenging windy conditions. We are pleased to report that all residents have been accounted for at this time and are safe, with food and a temporary place to stay. One Reading firefighter was transported from the scene to a local hospital, and thankfully only suffered minor injuries.
Loss of property for the 41 units and 60 residents is substantial however.
On Monday June 5th from 10:00am to 8:00pm we will open the Pleasant Street Center for those displaced residents, and we will have representatives from several state and federal agencies available to provide you with assistance ranging from short term financial assistance to longer term housing and insurance claims processing. I encourage all effected residents and their families to attend. If you cannot make that date work please contact me at 781-942-9043 and we will try to make other arrangements on Tuesday June 6th.
The Pleasant Street Center will remain open for other patrons as well.
How to Help
For community members interested in helping these displaced residents, there are several ways for you to do so.
Next week at the Pleasant Street Center from 10:00am to 4:00pm we will be accepting gift cards (only) at the desk on the main floor as you enter the Sally Hoyt Great Room. Gift cards for food (grocery and restaurant) and clothing are especially helpful at this time. We will need to record your name and contact information, and certainly thank you in advance.
Reading Cooperative Bank has generously created an emergency fund and will accept donations. Please write a check payable to “Residents of 52 Sanborn Street” and drop it off at any branch location, or contact the bank at 781-942-5000 to make other arrangements, including internal account transfers for customers, or paypal and credit/debit card transactions. Special thanks to President and CEO Julie Thurlow for contacting me within the first hour yesterday to get that process started.
Food, Clothing or household items
The town may NOT accept donations of this kind that are directed towards the 52 Sanborn residents. Certainly the Salvation Army at locations in Saugus, Medford or Wilmington would be pleased to receive such donations. However, if we learn of specific needs of individual residents over time, we will be sure to communicate that to the Reading community.
The Worst … and the Best
What happened yesterday was a terrible tragedy, certainly for those affected residents but also for the entire community. No one can remember a 7-alarm fire in Reading’s history, and a Boston Fire Engine was last seen here in the 1950s battling a brush fire.
As we’ve seen all over the world, however, it is tragedy that also brings out the best in a community. Last night, in additional to the 100+ public safety professionals, staff from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) all provided immediate support for the residents affected as well as those battling the fire. Reverend Lisa Stedman of the United Church of Christ First Congregational Church turned over her entire facility first for displaced residents and through the night for emergency personnel. Anonymous residents dropped off food and water at the scene, and area businesses donated significant amounts of food. The area Red Cross Disaster Program Manager said she had never seen so many unsolicited donations arrive on any scene so quickly.
Thank you to all that have reached out to help. In upcoming days, let’s show everyone what the Reading community is made of.