Following is a firsthand account of Sunday’s fire at the Colonade Apts on 550 Leavenworth from building resident, Matt Fondacaro who resides in the unit next to the one where the fire started. It clears up a lot of rumors that have been circulation and sheds some light on how the Red Cross handled the situation. We thought that it was most definitely worth sharing as its own post:

Here’s my account of the fire (I lived in the apartment next to where the fire started):

I woke up after hearing the front gates of the building being rattled and hearing spanish. I thought is was someone trying to get in. I opened my window to see what was going on, and all I hear is fire. i look out of my window to the left and see white smoke coming out of the windows (which were closed).

I call 9-1-1 and tell them there is smoke coming out of the apartment next to mine. They tell me to describe it and i do, and they dispatch the fire dept.

Immediately following that, I hear the fire bell ring, and now i know it’s serious. I get my girlfriend out of bed and tell her there’s a fire. I grab my cat and put him in the carrier and I got the hell out of there. As I exited my room, I look over to the apartment that has smoke coming out from underneath the door. The door opens and there is a junkie meth head lookin’ guy on his knees, looking dazed or something. The entire room was filled with smoke and I couldn’t see anything. Smoke was filling into the hall and all the residents were scurrying out.

I run out of the apartment, cat and girlfriend in tow, and for the next hour just watched as the fire raged and incinerated the apartment. Several people, including the homeless and the crackheads, were trying to console and help out as much as they could.

After the fire was extinguished, they allowed us to go up one by one. I went up with my girlfriend into a powerless and dark building, seeing water drip down from above. I pass a few firefighters as I enter my building. It looked like a warzone.

Part of the wall was torn down, and I saw the empty black apartment that I shared a wall with. Things that were against that wall (my records, my futon, my bike, some film cans and a dresser) covered in debris and water. The next thing was to think (what can i grab to salvage?) I grabbed my laptop, assorted shirts, underwear and socks, and a jacket and a couple flannel shirts. My jeans were soaked and covered with debris, so I had to wear the shorts I threw on earlier all day (and yes, it started to rain).

As I grabbed my stuff and got out, I just had to take a moment to think (a good deal of my shit was ruined and there’s no way I’m gonna be living here anytime soon.)

Enter Red Cross. They say there’s a place around the corner we can go and wait as they estimate the damage and figure out what to do. naturally I go and guess who’s not there: No red Cross. To ease the pain, me and my other neighbors took some vodka shots and drank some beer, while watching Youtube videos.

Eventually the red cross showed up and we registered with them. Initially they were gonna put us up in hotels. that soon changed to shelter. No way am i gonna stay in a shelter. I opted to stay with my girlfriend in excelsior.

Now it’s the waiting game. Wait to get my relief money so i can buy clothes and food, and figure out where i’m gonna stay and get back my deposit and rent money.

as for the person who started the fire, well, I hope he’s getting sodomized in prison. After the fire, he walked out of the building and walked by. I asked him, “Dude, what the fuck happened up there?” He responded with, “Wow, it’s just like watching a movie.” Then he walked off. If he didn’t look so gross and dirty (obviously looked like a junkie recluse; very tall and skinny with a giant belly that looked absolutely disgusting), me and a few other tenants would have had no reservation beating the shit out of him for endangering so many people’s lives and displacing all of us. good thing they arrested that motherfucker.

The building is uninhabitable for at least 3 days. Apartments like mine, the person directly above the fire and several others are gonna have to wait until they remodel and rebuild it all.

as for the cause of fire, many rumours circulated around the block. Meth lab fire? (would be a bigger explosion) Trying to kill himself? (try hanging yourself, it’s safer for others that way) just an arson? (we should burn him alive as an ironic punishment) whatever the cause, just know this disaster has ruined a lot of people’s lives.

> Update

We learn via The Snitch that Paul Williams, a 64-year-old 46 year-old resident at 550 Leavenworth, has been arrested and charged with arson. Fire department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said two units on separate floors were damaged by flames. A total of nine units are uninhabitable due to fire, smoke or water damage. One firefighter suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, Talmadge said. She said the fire caused an estimated $550,000 in damage to the building and $300,000 in damage to its contents.

> Update 1/17

Steve Williams, brother of the man arrested for starting the fire, left a comment below clarifying a few points about his brother:

-Paul Williams was not 64, like most media outlets reported, but 46 (way to spell, journalists!).
-Paul Williams was in the final stages of full blown AIDS and the day of the fire his organs were shutting down but “his mind unfortunately went first”.
-Paul died a few days later and his brother thinks he would have never have started the fire on purpose and attributes it to his illness. He also says he feels awful for the peoples homes and possessions he destroyed in the building. May he rest in peace.