Much homelessness, but some hope following Sunridge fire in Avon
April 11 fire affected several local families
Axel Lloyd and Kaylie Kierstead held their housewarming party on April 9.
The couple had closed on their Avon condo on March 22 and were excited about getting past one of the snags to success in Eagle County — obtaining a place to call their own.
Two days after the housewarming party, Lloyd and Kierstead were living out of a hotel room. A fire devastated the Sunridge apartment complex on April 11.
“It felt like we had just done the major hurdle that prohibits so many other like-minded folks from making a life here in the valley, we had just overcome that hurdle,” Lloyd said. “And then (the fire) happened, so it’s kind of bitterly ironic.”
Tsu Wolin-Brown with the Salvation Army in Avon said their story was tragic, yet uplifting, as the couple struggles to overcome something that appears to be bringing them closer.
“It’s been inspiring to see them take this on,” Wolin-Brown said.
In total, the fire left five Sunridge units uninhabitable. Both the Salvation Army and the Red Cross stepped up to help, but the organizations themselves could also use help. The Salvation Army has a button set up on vail.salvationarmy.org which will send donations directly to efforts to help the Sunridge victims.
‘Their whole world changed’
In addition to helping the victims, Wolin-Brown is faced with the task of processing all of their stories.
“Thankfully, there was no loss of life,” she said. “But some of their stories are heartbreaking nonetheless.”
One victim, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, had only recently found a solution to the poverty that accompanied the pandemic for her family of four. She was using her apartment as a kitchen to sell Mexican food and pastries to their friends and acquaintances.
A translator shared her story, detailing how the Sunridge resident finally believed she was starting to get ahead before the fire.
“But last Sunday, April 11, their whole world changed completely,” she wrote. “It’s been very difficult and painful days, going from the comfort and safety of their home to different hotel rooms with limited facilities. Although they are so grateful for the Red Cross assistance, they fear they will not be able to move back to their home. Which results in eating inconsistently, bad sleep, anxiety, depression, nightmares for the little ones, wearing the same clothes. She feels homeless.”
‘No time like the present’
Lloyd said he and Kierstead are faring much better. While they still don’t know how long they’ll be out of their place, they believe they have found an available rental situation in the same area they lived before moving into Sunridge, in West Vail.
Their employment situations are stable, as well; Lloyd works for Can Do MS in Avon and Kierstead works for Eagle County Schools in Gypsum.
With some of the dust settled this past weekend, the couple made a big decision.
“We got engaged,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd said while he had been considering popping the question, he thought twice about it after the fire.
“I considered not doing it because of all of this recent trauma, but I figured actually that there’s no time like the present,” he said.
They’ve been able to move on for now, but there’s still a lot to be learned from Lloyd and Kierstead’s experience, Lloyd said. After the fire had been extinguished on April 11, the couple was not informed that their unit had been affected. They didn’t return home until 11 p.m. and were surprised by the scene to which they were returning.
“The door had been broken into, and we opened the door, and all the electricity is off and there’s this overpowering smell of smoke all through the house, and the eastern side of the condo that shares the common wall with the building that was on fire, there was big holes in the drywall.”
Lloyd said they didn’t know what to do, so they called the local police, who directed them to the Red Cross, which got them a room at the Comfort Inn in Avon.
Lloyd and Kierstead received $6,000 in loss-of-use insurance, but that won’t last long for a couple living out of hotel rooms, and the Salvation Army is helping them with the extra funds to get them into their new living situation.
“I didn’t really consider how little that $6,000 was, especially when you need to get a place right away,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t realize that an issue like a fire – or even just mainly smoke damage in my case – could keep you out for multiple months
“I can guarantee you that after this claim is finished up, I’m going to be increasing my coverage across the board,” he added.