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Community Opens Heart to Fire Victims
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Marie Gallo prepares a salad for those who were displaced by the Limelight Condominiums fire on Saturday.
   
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Kim Donald gave those who lost their homes in the Limelight Condominiums fire new underwear from Undercover, with the help of donations from community members. J. McLaughlin is donating a pair of pants, top and sweater to all full-time Limelight tenants. And the Elephant’s Perch invited tenants to come in Monday to avail themselves of free shirts, cycling gear, shoes and more.

Meanwhile, Atkinsons’ Market has handed out gift certificates for groceries, while the Sawtooth Club has given out restaurant gift certificates.

This is a fraction of the outpouring of support for those who lost home and belongings in Saturday evening’s fire.

 
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Joy Lukhard and Marie Gallo listen the proceedings as residents of the condominiums seek help.
 

“If this had happened to me in Washington, D.C., where I lived before, no one would have helped. Here, there’s so much community support. This couldn’t have happened in a better place,” said Hannah Howe, who moved into the Limelight Condominiums six weeks ago.

Howe had just finished taking a dip in the pool and returned to her unit on the second floor when she smelt rubber burning at about 6:30 Saturday night. She heard the fire alarm go off and immediately evacuated the building. Within minutes, she was recording a cell phone video of smoke rolling across the roof.

She and her boyfriend lost everything, including ski boots and a new couch they had placed in their second-floor unit with the help of mathematical angles.

“Fortunately, my parents live here so we can stay with them temporarily,” said Howe, who told her boyfriend of the fire while he was overseas visiting family. “And my parents have my birth certificate so I can fly to the wedding, even though I don’t have ID. Now it’s a matter of getting a new routine established and replacing essentials like toilet paper, toothbrushes and utensils.”

 
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Carissa Connelly and Mary Fauth are assisting those who have been displaced with housing and other help.
 

Howe was among a steady stream of tenants who showed up at the Ketchum Fire Station Monday afternoon to meet with representatives of the American Red Cross, City of Ketchum and Blaine County Charitable Foundation to figure out things like medication, eyewear, financial assistance and housing.

They were met with a buffet of sausage pasta, green salad, fruit salad and Lynndee’s cookies that had been pulled together in a couple hours by Nancie Tatum, Marie Gallo, Mardi Shepard and Jeff Bechtel.

“Tragic doesn’t begin to describe what happened,” said Tatum as she watched the tenants greet one another, knowing that they would no longer be neighbors.

About half of the residents of the Limelight Condominiums have checked in and, so far, everyone has a temporary place to stay. But the city’s housing coordinator Carissa Connelly is still accepting offers of housing units at CConnelly@ketchumidaho.org or 1-718-200-6055.

 
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The Limelight Condominiums on Warm Springs Road are considered a total loss.
 

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw, who greeted tenants as they entered the fire station, said he was delighted with the outpouring of calls offering to help with food, lodging and clothing. The city is working with the short-term rental company Vacasa to find temporary housing for those who called the building home.

“We think there were 20- to 25 long-term residents, along with some short-term Airbnb and second homeowners,” he said.

Ketchum Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin, whose troops were busy cleaning engines and gear on Labor Day, said the fire was the most challenging his department has dealt with since Sun Valley Resort’s Warm Springs Lodge caught fire in 2018.

“It was hot and smoky and the biggest fire we’ve had since. We’re still dealing with hot spots even today,’ he said.

Firefighters have been able to bring out a lot of the furniture and other possessions, which they’ve reunited with their owners, he said.

“And we hope we can get more. We also located one cat that was missing. We’re looking for two others.”

Joy Lukhard, who recently moved here from Richmond, Va., to be near her daughter and “son-in-love” who also lived in the condominiums, said she was grateful that she had returned from the Wagon Days Parade so she could gather her daughter’s dog before the fire happened.

“I was dog sitting, and I was able to scoop up my daughter’s dog and we got out together,” she said. “Now, we’re staying at a friend’s vacation home.”

A State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, but it appears the building is a total loss, according to city officials. The fire is believed to have been started by a propane tank attached to a barbecue. Firefighters said that the units shared a common roof in the building, which was built in the early 1970s, so the fire was allowed to spread quicky.

The Blaine County Charitable Fund is taking donations for an assistance fund at https://www.blainecf.org. For immediate needs, call the BCCF at 208-244-5205.

Clothing donations are being taken at the Gold Mine thrift store in Ketchum. "While your items might not be directly matched to a Limelight resident, your donations allow for victims of the fire to shop there for free," said Mary Fauth.

Furniture donations can be taken to the Building Material Thrift Store on Main Street Bellevue and will be set aside for Limelight residents.

Plastic bins and boxes are needed for transporting belongings from the site to the resident's new location or storage. They should be brought to the Ketchum Fire Department no later than Wednesday.

 

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