"It was really nerve-racking, it really was," said Mary-Jane Roberts.
The Springfield resident awoke to flashing lights early Monday morning. She grabbed her IPad and began recording the scene unfolding across the street from her home. "I opened the shades and we were met with this roof on fire. It looked from end-to-end the roof was burning," she said.
Officials say the Valley Street fire started in a second floor apartment and quickly spread. Nearly 20 people escaped unharmed, but they're now homeless -- including Leslie Hobbs and his fiance. They're receiving help from the Red Cross. "I'm worried about my cat. We don't know where he went. He was in the apartment and then he was gone," Hobbs said.
Hobbs's story is now part of a growing statistic in the region. So far this fiscal year the Red Cross has responded to 110 fires in all of Vermont and the 12 Upper Valley communities it serves in New Hampshire. That's a 15 percent increase compared to the same time last year. "It's been busy, it really has, " said the Red Cross' Bruce Pollock. "We are doing a huge number of calls this year -- way over what we're doing last year."
And they project that number will be 157 responses to fires by the time the fiscal year wraps up. That compares to 137 last year, 117 in 2011, and 106 in 2010.
It's not just a matter of finding food, clothing and housing for victims of fires. It also involves the organization of resources throughout the community. "HCRS, the police department, a social worker has been here. Springfield supportive housing has come down -- they are helping out -- the superintendent of schools, because one family has children," Pollock said.
The efforts make a big difference for victims like Hobbs, who is trying to find a bright spot after a very bad day. "The fire didn't reach our apartment -- it was above us -- so it looks like we got lucky. We have some stuff," he said.
Firefighters are still trying to determine the cause of the fire but at this time they are saying that it is not considered suspicious.
Along with financial contributions, the Red Cross is also looking for volunteers.
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:45 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:45:09 GMT
A Winooski man says he was held at knife point on Church Street in Burlington Monday afternoon as robbers took nearly 300 dollars from him. Police arrested 29-year-olds Andre Martel and Anthony HammondMore >>
A Winooski man says he was held at knife point on Church Street Monday afternoon as robbers took nearly $300 from him.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:46 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:46:35 GMT
A South Londonderry man captured at the end of a high-speed chase now faces up to life in prison. Police say Christopher Bush topped speeds of 100-miles-per-hour in a stolen SUV. The 27 year old pleadedMore >>
A South Londonderry man captured at the end of a high-speed chase now faces up to life in prison.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:32 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:32:49 GMT
Police say an 11-year-old girl was walking from the Post Office near Chelsea Street Monday afternoon when an older man started following her. The suspect was in a dirty dark green pickup truck with unknownMore >>
Police say an 11-year-old girl was walking from the Post Office near Chelsea Street Monday afternoon when an older man started following her.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:33 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:33:32 GMT
Vermont State Police received two complaints about a man claiming to be an employee with the Bennington County Sheriff's Department. Authorities say the scammer told victims that they had missed juryMore >>
Vermont State Police received two complaints about a man claiming to be an employee with the Bennington County Sheriff's Department.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:39 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:39:03 GMT
Burlington area bus drivers did not strike Monday but community members worry that the threat of one, is still very real. Many people spoke out Monday night at the Burlington city council, that they have majorMore >>
Burlington area bus drivers did not strike Monday, but community members worry the threat of a strike is still very real.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:40 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:40:43 GMT
An iconic Queen city park could be getting a major makeover. A final design has been approved for renovations on the City Hall Park on College Street. The plans include a performance stage, a new fountain,More >>
A final design has been approved for renovations on Burlington's City Hall Park on College Street.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:41 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:41:26 GMT
A solar project is taking off at the Burlington Airport. It comes thanks to a partnership with the Burlington Electric Department. The airport will be installing $1.5 million worth of solar equipment on topMore >>
A solar project is taking off at the Burlington Airport. It comes thanks to a partnership with the Burlington Electric Department.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 9:34 AM EDT2014-03-11 13:34:01 GMT
New leadership is on the way to Goddard College. The board of trustees voted unanimously to hire Robert Kenny as interim president. The native Vermonter is returning to the Plainfield campus after servingMore >>
New leadership is on the way to Goddard College. The board of trustees voted unanimously to hire Robert Kenny as interim president.More >>