Community rallies around displaced Waterbury families

WATERBURY --  While it appeared all had been lost in the massive Waterbury fire on Lounsbury St. fire Wednesday, a local mobilization, about a half mile away, has helped restore the hope of the 12 displaced families.

The River-Baldwin Recreation Center, on E. Liberty Street., was bursting with bags of clothing and tears Friday morning.

"Emotional. Very emotional," said a teary Randi Bandeira, a Waterbury resident trying to help those in need. "Everybody's coming to help."

"The Hispanic Coalition, one of the nonprofits that is housed in this building, is also accepting monetary donations," said Jessica DiBattista, of the Waterbury Recreation Department."

While appreciative of the outpouring, some of the dozen displaced families, attempting to sign up for social services, were frustrated when they were asked for identification.

"We left with just the clothes on our back," said Deri Santiago. "That's all we left the house with. You expect us to, do you want us to go dig through the rubble?"

"My recommendation to people as there are certain bills that you can get without any ID," said state representative Rep. Geraldo Reyes (D- Waterbury). "You can go get your light bill. You can go to Eversource, the pharmacy because they know you."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Natural gas has been ruled out as the source of an explosion that one resident heard in her 3rd floor apartment at 60 Lounsbury Street.

"It could be something as simple as an aerosol can, a spray paint can, hair spray cans," said Terry Ballou, the Waterbury Fire Marshal.

Ballou said investigators are now interviewing residents of the four destroyed homes to determine things like "what in fact did they hear? What matches the burn patterns? What matches the timeline?"

Organizers said they will be accepting donations for these families through the first week of June at the River-Baldwin Recreation Center. And, they said, if you are considering donating through a GoFundMe page, make certain it is being administered by a legitimate non-profit because scams have already been detected.