Property owner steps in to help those displaced by massive Petersburg fire

Updated: Jan. 17, 2018 at 7:57 PM EST
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Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - With the snow falling over smoldering rubble on High Street, crews continued to demolish what was once the old Seward Luggage Factory. Investigators are still working to determine what started a massive blaze early Tuesday morning.

"I lost my residence, but my tenants lost everything," explained Daniel Salley.

Salley serves in the Army, stationed at Fort Lee, and for almost ten years he has owned a townhome on High Street. When his phone rang Tuesday, he rushed to find his home completely engulfed, but grateful that everyone made it out safely.

"A lot of people didn't have clothing, just what they had on, robes or a light jacket," he said.

Salley felt he had no other choice, except helping his neighbors, his fellow soldiers quickly joining his efforts.

"What can I do to help - instead of asking, just going to get the small things people take for granted," Salley explained. "Like getting some food in your belly, getting some kind of nourishment while you're sitting there waiting for the fire to get put out."

Salley bought hot meals, snacks, and found warm clothes, working with fellow soldiers Lashanda Thornton, who owns a popcorn shop and Daphne Dixon-Reed.

"Especially with all this snow, no one was hesitating," said Thornton. "Right now, Salley himself needed our help, along with his residents needed our help."

Dozens of people have been displaced because of the fire. Salley says speaking to people, he found out some families have no renter's insurance, making the reality of the fire that much more devastating.

"Our biggest concern is what happens in 72 hours when these families have to come out of these hotels that they are in," said Thornton.

The group has been putting together care packages, reaching out to local organizations and churches to organize drop-off locations. They plan to deliver the care packages to the hotels where the families are staying.

Salley started a GoFundMe to raise money to help his tenants and neighbors.

"One thing we live by in the military is, one thing we believe is nobody knows you care until you show them that you care," said Salley.

The Red Cross is also continuing to offer assistance, and the City of Petersburg is allowing residents in the High Street Lofts to get small items from their apartments on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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