Fire victims get helping hand with aid of annual fundraiser.
February 1st, 2014


By Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher

Nicholas Williams, 24, smelled something strange as he got ready for bed around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 9 at his Century Village apartment, 4801 Spencer St.

“We heard our neighbors arguing and things physically breaking,” said Williams’ girlfriend, Shannon MacDowell. “Then it got really quiet.”

MacDowell said Williams was concerned about the smell and looked through the blinds in their bedroom. He saw reflections of flames coming from the apartment above them.

“He didn’t say anything to me at first and just put on his clothes really fast,” MacDowell said. “His friends were out in the living room, so he ran out there and said, ‘Guys, the building is on fire.’ ”

Williams and his friends ran to the blazing apartment upstairs and kicked the door in, according to MacDowell. They crawled throughout the apartment on their hands and knees looking for victims.

“No one was home,” MacDowell said. “All (our) other neighbors started coming out, and I told them to head to the parking lot because the building was on fire.

“Meanwhile, (Williams) and his friends ran to every door to help our neighbors and their animals get out safely.”

MacDowell, her two children and Williams were among five other people displaced from their homes. They received financial and emotional help from the American Red Cross of Southern Nevada, which launched its second Fire Hurts. Red Cross Helps. campaign Jan. 23 with the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada.

“The campaign is to raise money to help local fire victims and raise awareness,” said Jennifer Ramieh, chief development officer. “We’re seeing an increase in fires every year, so our goal this year is $350,000.”

The organization’s Southern Nevada chapter assisted 1,449 displaced families last year and responds about every 18 hours to individuals affected by house fires.

“We provide them with client assist cards that are pre-loaded with money based on their needs, whether they need food, clothing or shelter,” Ramieh said. “We have a caseworker who then follows up with them to make sure they are getting back on their feet.”

The American Red Cross recommends checking smoke alarms once a month and practicing fire escape plans twice a year.

“(Fires) can be devastating financially and emotionally,” Ramieh said. “We’re there to make sure they can pick themselves up and move forward.”

The fire at Century Village caused about $500,000 in damage to four apartments, according to Las Vegas Fire & Rescue.

The ceiling in MacDowell’s apartment collapsed, and the unit had water and smoke damage. They were relocated to another apartment within the same complex.

“We’re just focusing on rebuilding our lives now,” MacDowell said. “It’s amazing how people can come together in a time of tragedy. It really makes you rethink your values and what’s important.”

The American Red Cross started the campaign with $83,367 donated from about 15 companies and individuals, including $20,000 from the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada.

For more information on the Fire Hurts. Red Cross Helps. campaign or to donate, visit tinyurl.com/lo7z3r8.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.