WEST ORANGE, NJ — Pamela Alfaro had just put water on the stove to boil during last week’s nor’easter when her rented apartment in West Orange began to fill with a strange smell. She didn’t think much of it until her son ran out of his room yelling that smoke was pouring from the vents.
“I assumed it was the neighbors in the bottom apartment,” said Alfaro, adding that the heating and cooling vents don’t function in her apartment. “I ran downstairs and banged on their door.”
There was a fire, but it wasn’t on the first floor. It was quickly growing behind her bedroom door in the apartment, where her two young children and a friend were playing in the front living room. An official cause of the fire is yet to be determined.
The West Orange family was devastated after an electric fire started in the master bedroom during Winter Storm Quinn. Alfaro, her husband, Jorge, their children Adriana, 5, and Jorge, Jr., 9, and another child escaped the flames unhurt from the two-family home on Mississippi Avenue near Kirk Street in the Lourdes section.
“We are very fortunate,” said Alfaro, who is a new trustee to the Mountain Top Soccer League and the leader for Cub Scouts pack 110.
Much of the family’s belongings were destroyed by flames, smoke and water damage. They have not yet been able to retrieve anything from the apartment because fire and insurance officials need to complete inspections, but have been backed up due to the recent storm that caused extensive damage in the area, Alfaro said.
Friends and community members have supplied them with clothing and some necessary items in the meantime.
The family had renter’s insurance, but it is not enough to cover the loss or the damage, Alfaro said. A family friend started a Go Fund Me page to help.
"In a blink of an eye, your life can change drastically," the page states. "...We were extremely lucky to say the least. No one was hurt and we got out safe."
Pictures show smoke damage to a bedroom and fire damage to other areas of the house.
The family is still in need of permanent housing and would like to remain in the neighborhood so the children will not have to change schools.
The online fundraiser has raised more than $1500 toward the $5000 goal in one day.
“We are blown away by all the love and support,” Alfaro said. “It’s very overwhelming.”
Information on how to help the family can be found here.