Two women who lived in a North Toledo apartment complex where two firefighters died in the line of duty have spent the last few weeks seeking help and new homes.
Tracy Bishop and Patricia Rollins lived in two of the six units at 528 Magnolia St., where the building’s owner and their landlord Ray Abou-Arab allegedly set a Jan. 26 fire.
Both women lost everything in the blaze and have been looking for a permanent place to live.
“It’s frustrating, and it’s heartbreaking. They are no less a victim than any other person who walks in [our] door,” said Lynn Carder, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Victim- Witness Assistance Program. “It leaves them in a terrible state.”
Two Toledo firefighters — Pvts. Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman — died after they were pulled out of the burning building. Mr. Abou-Arab was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications and eight counts of aggravated arson, among other counts.
The fire claimed additional victims with the displacement of the seven residents who lived in the apartments.
Two of the tenants, Ms. Bishop and Ms. Rollins, have been in touch with the victim assistance program.
The program, a division of the prosecutor’s office, can’t provide financial aid because that would present a conflict of interest, Ms. Carder said, but it has reached out to other agencies to try to find help for the tenants.
Ms. Bishop needed a new birth certificate, and has received help to obtain one. Without identification, it’s difficult to apply for housing, said Angie Overton, a victim advocate.
“I lost everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. I walked out with the clothes on my back. I didn’t even have my coat,” Ms. Bishop said.
The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio provided three nights of shelter at a hotel for Ms. Bishop, Ms. Rollins, and others displaced just after the fire. It also provided help with food and clothing.
The agency helps tenants with a security deposit for another apartment, though no one had submitted paperwork for that, Red Cross spokesman Amanda Aldrich said.
Ms. Bishop, who receives disability payments, is staying with family and eager to find her own place.
Like her former neighbor, Ms. Rollins, who also receives disability assistance, lost everything in the fire. Her rent at the Magnolia Street apartment had been $400 a month, and she’d like to find another apartment in the same rent range. She is staying with a friend.
Ms. Carder said her program has learned of offers for furnishings and other items, but the women first need places to live.
Ms. Bishop said the days since the fire have been difficult. “I still cry, but in time that will go away,” she said.
Also in her thoughts are the two fallen firefighters who lost their lives responding to the fire. She wants to hold a candlelight vigil outside her former building Feb. 26 — the one-month anniversary of the fire.