AUSTIN (KXAN) - After the predawn fire that destroyed nearly 70 units at the International Residence Apartments, hundreds of evacuees turned to The American Red Cross for help by late Thursday.
The disaster relief agency set up a shelter at the Northwest Fellowship Church in Williamson County. Many fire victims were left wondering what to do next.
On Thurday morning, brothers Erick and Julio Rodriguez didn't think much about the small fire burning in the building next door.
"We figured it would be contained, and we didn't think to pack things up," said Erick Rodriguez. "It was very small, more like a brush fire."
But minutes later they were told they needed to get out fast, and seek shelter. The fire had spread to their building.
"We left and grabbed everything we could," Erick added.
With only a few suitcases in hand, they rushed to an American Red Cross Shelter headquarters set up down the street.
"They've been great," he said."They've even given us a debit card to go buy food, clothes, and whatever else we need."
Resident Shauna Stanford was furious fire trucks blocked both entrances to the complex all night, saying, "We were trapped, there was no car coming out of here."
Back at the shelter Zack Tinney was being hailed a hero. He recalls, "We ran in trying to wake people up, there were people still asleep in their apartments so we went around pounding door to door."
The Red Cross is individually meeting with families to evaluate their needs.
"If a family had to evacuate and leave their medication behind, that's very crucial," said Sara Kennedy with the Red Cross. "We can actually replace it."
The Red Cross isn't just helping people; they've set up an animal day care for families. Pets lost in the fire are also being brought to the shelter before they take them to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.
While the Rodriguez brothers lost everything in the fire, they say their concern is for younger victims this holiday season.
"Because of the fact that a lot of them are children the pastor of this church wanted to start a toy drive," said Rodriguez.
The brothers say it's a fire they'll never forget but they're are trying not to remember.
"We are going to stick to our plan originally," said Rodriguez. "We are driving out to El Paso to see our family for Christmas."
If you want to help
The Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN ) is also accepting donations for the residents affected by the apartment fire.
The distribution center is at:
Hill Country Church of Nazarene
1750 Baghdad Road
Cedar Park, TX 78613
*Hours of operation for Distribution Center: Thursday & Friday 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Donations of non-perishable food and new or gently used clothing only will be accepted at this location. Large items or furniture will not be received at this time.
ADRN has set up Hotlines at our Call Center for general information, donations, and where disaster victims can seek assistance:
ADRN VICTIM HOTLINE 512-331-2600
ADRN PUBLIC HOTLINE 512-331-2200
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