A Calverton couple who lost everything when their mobile home was destroyed by fire Wednesday is trying to get back on their feet thanks to the generosity of others. A GoFundMe page, started by a family friend soon after the blaze, has already raised over half its goal of $10,000.
Flames tore through the family’s home in Lakewood Mobile Home Park, where Ida and Carlos Flores lived for seven years, when it caught fire before 11 a.m. Andrew Smith, the Town of Riverhead fire prevention inspector, said Friday the cause of the fire was electrical and that it started in the dryer in the laundry room.
Ms. Flores, 77, was doing laundry before the fire broke out, and was at home with her sister Nydia Melendez, 75, who has been staying with the couple, unable to return to her home in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Speaking on behalf of her parents by phone on Friday, Liz Brecht of Manorville, said her mother put clothes in the dryer, went into her bedroom and within minutes the fire alarm went off. She yelled for her sister, who was still in bed. They were able to escape without injuries before the mobile home became engulfed in flames.
“The fire alarm saved their lives,” Ms. Brecht said.
The hardest part of the ordeal, she said, was that the couple lost a kitten they had just rescued from Kent Animal Shelter two months ago in the fire. Ms. Flores tried to find the little black kitten, named Fiona, when the fire broke out, but she was forced to flee her home before finding her; the smoke became too much to bear. She ran out of the house in her pajamas. All their photos, books, clothes, medicines and other possessions were destroyed, their family said.
“That’s what hurt her the most. She was taking time looking for the cat and not grabbing all of the poetry, memories and pictures she had of me and my cousins growing up,” Ashley Rastello, a granddaughter, said.
However, there was one chest among the rubble that survived, the family said. It held Ms. Flores’ mother’s pictures, documents, passports, which were all salvaged.
Mr. Flores, who is 80, was out, going about his morning routine collecting food for his neighbors in need, his family said. He is a retired accountant and an Army veteran, his daughter said.
“He has built such strong relationships with his neighbors and with the local businesses who give him their leftovers,” Ms. Rastello said. “He walks to every home and drops off food to people who need it. When he was coming back, his home was no longer there.”
Ms. Flores is also involved in charitable activities, particularly volunteering with CAST by helping immigrant families. She is a retired teacher with Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Riverhead, according to her daughter. The couple came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1973. They have four children and five grandchildren. They have been married for 55 years.
The Flores’ are staying in Manorville with their daughter, Ms. Brecht, for now. Ms. Melendez is staying with her daughter in Florida.
As of Friday afternoon, the fund raised $5,630.
“The amazing generosity of people has been overwhelming,” Ms. Brecht said. “We’re telling my father it’s karma. He has helped so many people and has gone out of his way for them.”
Top photo:Ida and Carlos Flores lost most everything they own to a fire on Wednesday. Credit: Danny Brecht.