Discovery of asbestos delays homecoming for families displaced by Pasadena apartment house fire

PASADENA — Nineteen families affected by a weekend fire at an apartment complex have learned they will be displaced from their homes for weeks, rather than days, after asbestos was discovered in the damaged building, authorities said.
Five apartments were red-tagged by city officials due to damage from Sunday afternoon’s fire in the 700 block of Worcester Avenue, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
And then “The property owners received an asbestos report back, which was positive,” Derderian said.
Derderian said diapers left next to a heater likely caused the blaze.
Sitting on a cot at an evacuation center at the Robinson Park Community Center Wednesday, Juan Chileli, 38, said in Spanish that he believed all of his family’s belongings were destroyed in the fire.
He had only the clothes on his back, he said. “We need help.”
His wife, three children, brother and sister-in-law were spending the day at a local church, he added.
But none of his family members were hurt in the fire, and for that he said he thanked God. He also thanked the Red Cross and other volunteers who were helping his family in the wake of the fire.
The shelter, 1081 N. Fair Oaks Ave., was set up by the city and the Red Cross, with help from a host of community organizations and businesses, officials said.
Concepcion Salazar, 54, who lives in an apartment with two other adult family members, said she believed her apartment was largely unscathed.
“I’m more worried about other families (whose apartments were destroyed),” she said in Spanish.
As she spent her fourth day at the shelter, the thing she said she and her family needed the most was patience.
Salazar said she was also grateful to shelter workers for the “excellent service” provided since the fire.
Twenty-four people slept at the center Tuesday night, according to Red Cross shelter supervisor Alex Mendoza.
It was unclear how many people would make use of the shelter overnight Wednesday, he said, as some families were finding temporary lodgings with family or friends rather than staying at the evacuation center.
Other services such as a medical station were set up at the evacuation center well.
Many agencies, business and charities lined up to offer help in recent days, Red Cross volunteer and spokesman Carlos Rodriguez said.
“It’s inspiring,” he said.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the building owner to find shelter for the displaced apartment residents, Derderian said. But the city and its partnered agencies were doing what they could to help.
The manager of the building, Vincent Huang, declined to comment for this story, deferring questions to the Pasadena Fire Department.

Donations to benefit the familes affected by the fire can be sent to:

Pasadena Educational Foundation

351 S. Hudson Ave., Room 153

Pasadena, CA 91109

ATTN: _Worcester Avenue fire relief

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