Tragedy began in Holyoke 2017 as a fast moving apartment fire claimed the lives of three people: Maria Cartagena, Jorge Munoz, and Trevor Wadleigh.
The fire at 106 North East Street was a horrific start to the new year, and brought about questions of funding at the Holyoke Fire Department, and highlighted the lack of inspections into the building’s alarm system.
But it also rallied a community who came together to collect household items and raise thousands of dollars for residents who lost everything on New Year’s Day.
Kim Wetnicka woke up in her apartment at 106 North East Street in Holyoke on New Year’s Day.
She had been up all night, as her cat Bella had three kittens.
She and her husband went to sleep only to wake to smoke. They grabbed the three kittens and their mother, but her cat Smokey was nowhere to be found.
The fire sparked by an electrical issue with a wall outlet on the third floor moved quickly.
So quickly a young mother had to throw her child and jump onto a mattress to escape the building.
“It was so terrifying, but I knew I had to throw her because the smoke was hard to breathe,” said Briana Serrano.
In the days that followed, the city established a Holyoke Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund and donations from across western Mass, totaling 100 thousand dollars that was given to tenants like Kim two months after the fire.
As the community rallied around the displaced, Kim looks back on 2017 as a year that is ending much better than it began.
“I'm married now, I celebrate with my new husband, and I have my three kittens-- they aren't kittens anymore. And I have my Junior,” said Kim.
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