ELIZABETH, NJ — Jonathan Patiño was home when the tractor trailer crash lit up propane tanks and set his family’s Carlton Street home ablaze.
Patiño, 28, along with his sister and parents escaped unharmed. They recovered a fireproof box containing some essential documents after the April 24 blaze. But that was all they recovered.
“Everything else wasn’t salvageable,” said Patiño, a mail carrier who spends his workdays delivering in Westfield. “We lost everything in the fire.”
The fire erupted at the BP gas station on Bayway Circle, just next to the house, when a car smashed into trucks at the filling station, sparking the three-alarm blaze, Kelly Martins, the city’s public information officer, said.
While residents of the home escaped without injury, she said, the blaze left the house uninhabitable and the driver of the vehicle at the center of the crash suffered severe burns.
Patiño is now staying with his girlfriend in North Plainfield, while his parents and sister are staying with an uncle.
“It’s not to say that the family’s not together,” he said. “But it’s not businesses as usual.”
Both of his parents, Patiño said, are out of work.
“The biggest challenges is that it’s just me and my sister working at this point,” he said.
Noting the struggle his family is going through, Westfield resident Lori Lampart has started an online fundraiser in support of Patiño and his family.
“You can only imagine what he and his family are experiencing at this awful time,” Lampart writes on the GoFundMe page.
“I have taken the time to get to know Jonathan since he became my new steady mail carrier. He always has a smile on his face and greets me by name,” Lampart said. “You can tell Jonathan truly enjoys being out and about in the community of Westfield.”
Patiño said his neighbors in Elizabeth were helpful in the immediate aftermath of the blaze. “Our community came together and helped us out quickly a lot,” he said.
Next, Patiño said, his family seeks a more permanent residence.
“The next step is basically trying to find a new home — trying to get ourselves situated,” he said.
Click here to visit the GoFundMe page.
Email Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @MattKadosh
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