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Quick Response to Early Morning Fire at New Hope House Ensures Safety and Support for Displaced Families

This morning at 3:16 am, I received a phone call from Cornerstone's Security monitoring service alerting us to potential trouble at New Hope House Homeless Shelter. Simultaneously, our dedicated Homeless Shelter Director, Jenn Kirchmeier, contacted me to confirm that there was smoke detected on the second floor of the shelter.

While the news was alarming, our team’s rapid response was nothing short of heroic. Within minutes, Diandra, our vigilant Shelter Monitor, managed to evacuate all 26 residents from the building, including 18 adults and 8 children. The residents were quickly taken to the safety of Cornerstone's Lodge Homeless Shelter. Sharon Redfern, our Executive Director arrived early to coordinate efforts among all those involved. The Vernon Police arrived promptly, followed by the Vernon Fire Department, with the Tolland Fire Department covering incoming calls for Vernon during this critical time.

Upon arrival, the Fire Department quickly located the source of the smoke – a small electrical fire caused by a ceiling fan in one of the upstairs showering rooms. Thanks to their swift and efficient action, the fire was contained and extinguished before it could spread, limiting the damage to just one room. Aside from some smoke and water damage, the impact was minimal.

Assistant Fire Chief Rob Babcock played a crucial role in coordinating with the Red Cross to ensure the displaced families received immediate assistance. The Red Cross team arrived quickly and spent several hours working closely with SharonRedfern and each family to arrange temporary lodging while New Hope House undergoes necessary repairs.

In the midst of this crisis, we witnessed incredible community support. Josh Virkler of LuAnn's Bakery saw our post about the fire and immediately drove over to check on us. His quick thinking led him to contact Kevin Gottier, a local electrician, to help us safely disconnect the electricity in the affected area, allowing us to restore power to the rest of the building. Josh didn’t stop there; he returned shortly after with breakfast for our staff and clients, providing much-needed sustenance and comfort. Kevin responded to the call at 5:00 am and was at New Hope House within 10 minutes to assess and address the electrical issues.

The rapid and coordinated response from our team, the Vernon and Tolland Fire Departments, the Red Cross, and our supportive community members like Josh and Kevin exemplifies the spirit of unity and resilience that defines Cornerstone. While this incident has posed a challenge, the safety and well-being of our residents have been our top priority, and we are grateful for the swift actions taken by all involved to ensure their protection and care.

We will keep everyone updated on the progress of repairs and the return of families to New Hope House. Thank you to our amazing community for your continued support and solidarity during this time.

Alexis Flint

Programs and Operations Director

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