KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused a massive fire at the Waldo Heights Apartments last month. In the meantime, many victims of that fire are struggling to get by.
Josh Ramirez vividly remembers the first sign something was wrong at his apartment complex just before New Year’s. Smoke was pouring from an electrical outlet and filling the hallways.
“It was like, ‘Oh crap!’ So we went outside on the balcony looked up and saw all the smoke coming from the building, so we grabbed out everything we could at the time really,” Ramirez said.
He and his roommate went to a nearby gas station, watching their homes burn. Everything he owned, except the clothes on his back, was gone.
“It’s just all a big mess,” said Ramirez.
It was the second major gut punch in 2020. Ramirez lost his job during the pandemic. After the fire, he was thankful for help from the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
“It was only for a week. I thought it was going to be longer than that. They gave us a room for a week and a gift card to Walmart & that’s it,” he said.
With no money, no job, and no home, Ramirez was on the streets. In desperation, he made a plea for help to neighbors in the Waldo community Facebook page.
“I was kind of embarrassed almost. I didn’t want to do that but I was sitting outside not yesterday but day before that and had to sleep outside the night before that and just got on my phone to see what I could do,” Ramirez said.
Within seconds, neighbors one after another, stepped up to donate a few dollars here and a few more there. A hairdresser even offered a free cut to help him look sharp for a job interview Monday.
“I was shocked. I was like wow. Didn’t think that’d happen. Didn’t think I’d get anything but maybe $10 or $20 but I can’t even explain. It’s crazy,” he said.
He’s in a hotel room for now and waiting on word about a new job with a Northland restaurant. He’s hoping a steady paycheck, and finally getting his stimulus money, will help get him back on his feet. Those are steps made possible from the community’s generous hearts.
“Thank God I was in that community because those people are so nice,” Ramirez said.
St. Elizabeth’s Church and a few local businesses are continuing to do what they can to help those impacted by the fire.
The ATF still considers the fire to be a criminal investigation and is waiting on lab results to make any official ruling on how it happened.