Richmond firefighters buy gifts for young fire victims

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A Christmas wish has come true for a 14 year old girl after a fire ripped through the home she shared with her mother and six siblings.

The girl's mother, Sue Ann Peterson, says her daughter wrote a letter to the Richmond Fire Department hoping to make the holiday special for her brothers and sisters. Some firefighters chipped in to help make that happen.

Tucked underneath a Christmas tree, the generosity triggered by a handwritten letter. Not to Santa, but the Richmond Fire Department. The gifts are for Peterson's seven children and her grandchild. A fire uprooted the family right before Thanksgiving.

"Actually I don't know how or who started the fire. I remember that day though," said Peterson.

It was November 16th. Peterson stopped by her rental home on East 17th Street to pick up a few things. Smoke alarms were blaring. Peterson's 14 year old daughter, Alida, called 911.

"She opened the door and there wasn't nothing but smoke coming out, and I said you can't go in," said Peterson.

The Peterson family lost quite a bit in the fire. She says she was only able to salvage three beds a television set and some clothes.

"We stayed in a shelter for about three weeks," Peterson said.

Alida Peterson put pen to paper. The letter she wrote eventually made it to firefighter Kellie Stowell.

"I went ahead and called every station on the third battalion if they could, or would donate whatever they thought would be good," said Stowell.

Donations poured in to the tune of nearly $400. Stowell went shopping.

"It was very special to me to be able to do this for another family, so it was an honor," said Stowell.

Another day Peterson will remember for very different reasons.

"I know my kids will be happy on Christmas day when they open their gifts," said Peterson.

Peterson brought the gifts home Wednesday night. She's now staying with a friend. As for the fire, Peterson thinks someone may have broken into her house and started it. The fire remains under investigation. Peterson did not have renter's insurance.

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