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Red Cross sets up temporary hotel shelter for Madison fire victims

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Emergency crews battled high winds April 18 to bring a fire under control at an apartment complex on the 3100 blocks of Muir Field Road in Madison.

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Madison Fire Department has deemed the apartment building involved Saturday's fire uninhabitable.

With so many who can't go home, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the Red Cross is working overtime to help people figure out the next steps.

"This is a bit of new territory," Justin Kern, with the Red Cross, said.

After the flames were put out Saturday, the Red Cross was right there, ready to help the people who had lost their homes.

"Emotions are high, a lot of families have been hunkered down, dealing with this coronavirus, abnormal reality, and then to have this fire on top of it certainly was tough to deal with," Kern said.

With the precautions needed because of the coronavirus, volunteers couldn't do everything they normally would.

"Our volunteers are really used to being that hug, that shoulder to cry on and right now we can't have that contact," he said. "What we still can provide is that open heart and still some of those immediate resources."

This situation is a bit more challenging because of the amount of people displaced.

Saturday into Sunday, the Red Cross was able to put 32 people from 14 of the 24 affected units in a hotel.

"We're really kind of treating this as we would, if it were a shelter, to make sure that all the folks are in one area and we're able to start a case with them," Kern said.

He said being able to put people into separate rooms made it much safer than their typical shelters.

While they normally only keep the shelters open for a couple of days, the need is much higher here.

"I think at the end of the day we're going to be there for what the residents as long as they need us there," he said.

The Red Cross gave families vouchers for clothes at Goodwill, which opened up just for them Sunday morning.

If you want to help, the Red Cross recommends a donation to Red Cross or the River Food Pantry, which is providing food they can make in their hotel rooms.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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