After fire, community moves to help displaced Lanesborough family of 8, including 5 kids
LANESBOROUGH — A family of eight — including five young children — needs a permanent home after fire damaged their rental house over the weekend.
Jeannette Tuttle, her two sons, the oldest son's girlfriend and her four grandchildren ages 6 to 12 were displaced late Saturday afternoon when the electrical fire broke out on the second floor of the residence at 654 North Main St., local fire officials said on Sunday.
The fire originated in one of the grandchildren's room, according to Tuttle.
"If it had happened at night, my granddaughter would be dead," the distraught grandmother told an Eagle reporter. "Thank God we didn't have to wake up to that."
The landlord, John Goerlach, immediately offered a small vacant apartment as temporary housing until the family can secure larger quarters.
"I hate to see something like this happen," said Goerlach, a contractor and local selectmen.
The contractor and local selectman estimates between $20,000 to $30,000 worth of damage; he hopes to repair the nearly 200-year-old home within a month.
"The firefighters did a good job of saving it," he added.
The fire was reported around 3:40 p.m. on Saturday with Lanesborough Fire Chief Charles Durfee among the first on the scene.
"When I got there, smoke was coming out from both ends of the house," he said.
With help from the Hancock Fire Department, Lanesborough firefighters quickly doused the flames and, after cleaning up, cleared the scene around 6:30 p.m., only to return four hours later when embers from the fire flared up. Additional damage was done before firefighters had the smoke and flames finally out.
Tuttle and her family lost most of their possessions, getting immediate help replacing some of those items on Saturday from the Berkshire Dream Center. On Sunday, the local American Red Cross disaster response team met with Tuttle at The Christian Center to provide food, clothing and housing assistance. The center on Robbins Avenue is running point in the relief effort. Director Ellen Merrit and her staff gathered up shirts, pants, jackets, pillows, blankets and linens from their stock of donated goods to keep the family clothed and warm.
Tuttle is grateful to the center, her landlord and all others who've helped her family through the ordeal.
"We are prideful people. We're besides ourselves. I'm usually the one helping others," she said, fighting back the tears.
The Morningside Initiative in Pittsfield was initially contacted to help coordinate the relief effort, having done the same for the two dozen residents left homeless by the fire at the White Terrace apartments off North Street in Pittsfield last September.
"Where are they going to go with eight people? There's a lot to worry about," said Morningside chairwoman Kate Lauzon.
Lauzon understands the Tuttles plight all too well, herself displaced by a house fire five years ago. She and Merritt say the road to recovery will take time.
"Unfortunately, it's one of those tragedies that keeps on giving," Merritt said.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 413-496-6233
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