Jackson Elementary, others aid Chesham fire survivors

       A week and a half after the Chesham Circle fire that badly burned two people and left nine others without a permanent home or virtually any possessions, some good news has begun to emerge.

Springs Vineyard Church volunteer Lillian Burnett sorts through donated clothes and toys this week as part of broad community efforts to help the survivors of the Chesham Circle fire.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Through donations coming almost entirely from the school community, Jackson Elementary has raised more than $1,000 that will go into special funds for the survivors at two local banks, according to Principal Anne Dancy.
       A school appeal also brought in donations of clothes and toys, to the point where the survivors have said they need no more of those resources.
       “It's very gratifying to see the community rise to the occasion,” Dancy said.
       From other parts of town, many others have chipped in similarly, including various business fundraisers, furniture donations and at least one offer of a free car. The Springs Vineyard Church, 4151 Centennial Blvd., has been sorting and storing donations, including many from Jackson. Adam Greenwell, one of the church pastors, thanked Jackson secretaries Sue Lesar and Debbie Hankins for helping coordinate that effort.
       In all, he said, the church has been approached by 80 individuals, many representing groups and organizations, who had heard about the fire and wanted to help. “We're still getting phone calls,” he said.
       Perhaps the best news is that skin grafts on badly burned father and son Tom and Tyler Sabino have been proving effective, and doctors are no longer concerned that Tyler might lose any fingers, according to Mindy Potts. She is the mother of Tom's fiancee, Tina Cordova, who suffered a slight burn and smoke inhalation in the fire. Both Tom and Tyler are in induced comas at hospitals that specialize in burns.
       Tyler, 10, and his sister, Imagin, who will turn 6 in February, are students at Jackson.
       The fire occurred in the early hours of Jan. 17 in a seven-bedroom house at 1543 Chesham Circle near the Holland Park area. The cause of the fire is still unknown, although City Fire has deemed it accidental.
       Now most of the survivors - who are essentially one large extended family led by Tina and her sister-in-law Robyn Bridgeman - are out daily looking for another house, but as of this week were still having to stay with friends or family. The Pikes Peak Red Cross, based on South Eighth Street, put them up in hotel rooms for several days after the fire.
       “I can't believe how many people are helping,” said Bridgeman, a working single mother who, with her two children (ages nearly 3 and nearly 1), escaped the fire with their nightclothes and little else. “We pretty much lost everything.”
       According to Bridgeman, Tom was the first to realize the house was on fire and woke everyone else up. Initial reports said he had left the house, then gone back in for Tyler, but what actually happened was that Tom was still inside when it became apparent that Tyler had somehow gotten lost upstairs in the smoke. It was in going back up for Tyler that he received his burns, Bridgeman said.

Some of the Chesham fire donations - some from children, some from adults - line the office hallway at Jackson Elementary this week.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Afterward “Tyler was worried about his dad,” she said. “I don't think he even realized he was burnt at all. He didn't complain.”
       Bridgeman, who lived in the basement with her kids, still holds out hope that some of her possessions can be salvaged because most of the damage down there was just from water. But that's another frustration: The Fire Department has not yet allowed anyone from the family to go back inside.
       In a small bit of irony, Tina had pawned her computer and truck a few weeks earlier because of money issues. As a result, those possessions did not burn in the fire, Bridgeman said.
       Two other vehicles, parked in the driveway, were destroyed in the fire.
       Monetary funds for the families continue to be made available at Jackson, as well as at US Bank and Wells Fargo banks.
       “The whole family is so grateful for everything the community has done,” Potts said. “Thank you, God bless you.”

Westside Pioneer article