Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Suffolk County Family Finds Support and Holiday Spirit After Home Fire

By Bernadette Casey, American Red Cross in Greater NY
During what has already been a challenging and stressful year, a Suffolk County family found themselves faced with further heartbreak – losing their home to fire less than two weeks before the Christmas holiday.

Jason Silva, a Bay Shore resident since childhood, loved his neighbors and the single-family home he had lived in for the past five years with his girlfriend and three children.

“The last picture in the house is of me putting the star on the tree. The night before the fire happened the family was decorating the Christmas tree,” said Silva.

The night after the family tree trimming Silva was out after work with friends when his girlfriend called crying to let him know the house was on fire. When Silva arrived the fire was still blazing and firemen were breaking through the roof and windows and dragging items, some still burning, out of the house and garage.

The children had thankfully not been home when the blaze started and, after grabbing a few things, Silva’s girlfriend was able to get out of the house safely.

“The fire started in the wall of the garage. It was going a while before anyone knew about it. Once it was discovered it was already raging,” said Silva.

Water, smoke and flames destroyed the house and everything the family owned. As Silva and his girlfriend began to process what happened and what they would do next, in the early morning hours, Red Cross volunteer Edras Hidalgo arrived on the scene.

“When I approach a disaster scene to help, I think to myself ‘What if this was my brother or cousin affected?’ I go the extra mile,” said Hidalgo.

He immediately gave the couple blankets to protect them in the frigid weather. He also gave the couple financial assistance for immediate lodging at a hotel and to purchase a change of clothes for themselves and their children. Each of the family members also received comfort kits containing personal hygiene items including toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.

Having a safe and warm place to sleep and financial assistance meant a great deal to Silva, but what was equally important at this extremely difficult time was the support he felt from Hidalgo.

“When you are standing there in the cold looking at your house on fire and your whole world is upside down and someone comes through with a little bit of light by showing they care and showing their support and they tell you everything is going to be alright - that warmed me up right there,” said Silva.

Red Cross mental-health team members trained in trauma and crisis counseling also helped Silva discuss the fire with his daughter.

But Hidalgo’s help extended beyond the day of the fire. He maintained steady communication with the family and put Silva in touch with other organizations that provided donations.

The fire at Silva’s home had started in the garage, the place where he had hidden the children’s Christmas presents.

“We all spent Christmas Eve at my mom’s house. The Suffolk County Police Department, Uplift Brentwood and a motorcycle club came with presents. Edras was there the whole time. The kids
had smiles from ear to ear. It was almost like they didn’t realize they lost anything,” said Silva.

“Edras and the Red Cross mean a lot to me. They mean support and help. They treat you like family.”

Even after the fire Silva retains his positive outlook with advice for others experiencing a similar tragedy: “Don’t beat yourself up about what happened Move forward. It’s a new beginning.”

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