At about midnight after a beautiful Thanksgiving day, a massive four-alarm fire erupted on the top floor of a three-story, wood-frame house on Devoe Street near Lorimer Street in Williamsburg.
Over 170 firefighters responded to the blaze, six of whom sustained non-life threatening injuries before the flames were extinguished. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined
Luckily, no civilians were injured, but a number of families lost their homes. In response, concerned neighbors have organized fundraising campaigns to support those affected by the fire.
Williamsburg resident Lanny Cheuck set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for her friend Hee Jin Kang. Kang, her husband, and her young son lived in the building directly next to the building that caught fire.
They were away for the holiday when the fire erupted, but they still lost countless personal belongings.
“Hee was one of the first ‘mommy friends’ I made,” Cheuck said. “Our first children were born at around the same time. She is Korean, and Korean people don’t like to ask for help. So I was happy to organize this fundraiser.”
Hee has lived in the one-bedroom apartment for close to 15 years, and has remained active in the Williamsburg community as a member of multiple organizations, including a Japanese language program that she created with Cheuck.
Cheuck is hopeful the longtime residents will continue to find support from their neighbors.
“She’s a part of many community groups and has been active in Williamsburg for years,” Cheuck explained. “A lot of people are sharing it with their community members, and have been donating toys, clothes, and food.”
So far, the GoFundMe has raised nearly $50,000 from 580 donations, with an ultimate goal of $55,000. However, the money will not be able to solve all of the problems associated with the fire.
Kang and her husband are both artists, meaning they lost a number of irreplaceable original pieces in the fire. Additionally, the couple hopes to find a new apartment that will allow their son to stay near his school, but rising rents in Williamsburg make this task extremely difficult.
“They are overwhelmed by the support,” Cheuck explained. “It helps them focus on other parts of their very complicated lives, like needing to be near their son’s school. Getting a place now in Williamsburg is so hard though.”
Kang and her husband weren’t the only artists impacted by the fire. Longtime Williamsburg resident and comedian Murray Hill also lost many of the possessions in his apartment.
A GoFundMe page organized by Angie Pontani, a friend of Hill’s, aims to support the local performer.
“Murray’s apartment is uninhabitable and he will need to start over,” Pontani said. “He has lost virtually everything from the roof over his head to furniture, electronics, clothing, years of irreplaceable showbiz memorabilia, custom-made show suits, and so much more.”
Hill was not in the building at the time of the fire as he was celebrating his 50th birthday on Long Island.
So far the GoFundMe to support Hill has raised approximately $165,000 from 1,700 donations, well above the $100,000 original goal . Nonetheless, Pontani explains that additional donations will still go a long way towards supporting her friend.
“Murray has entertained so many of us for years,” Pontani said. “Let’s help take some of the immense pressure off of him as he navigates through this heartbreaking time and give back to Mr. Showbiz.”