17 Displaced After Vinita Building Fire

Monday, July 27th 2009, 3:32 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

VINITA, OK -- Several families, including nearly a dozen children, are getting help from the Red Cross. A fire destroyed a historic building, with several apartments and businesses inside.

It happened Sunday afternoon in downtown Vinita.

The fire will smolder for days and it will be much longer than that for the victims to get back on their feet.

Tayah Holmes and her little sister and brothers, cousins and neighbors are all staying in hotel rooms. That's after the most frightening moment of her young life.

"It was bad. You could see bricks rolling down the steps. You could see the flames on the steps. It was very, very bad," said Tayah Holmes, a fire victim.

Fire swept through a 100-year-old building in Vinita, with several businesses downstairs and several families living in apartments upstairs.

There isn't much left.

"Nothing, nothing, we only have a little bit," said Crystal Holmes, a fire victim.

"I lost my dad's blanket, my pillow, my dolphin from Texas. All of it's very special to me," said Tayah Holmes.

After waking up her uncle, Tayah and the others got out safely and watched as the building, with everything they own inside, burned to the ground.

Joyce Lechlider was inside with four of the kids and got them out safely.

"Every time I drive by, I cry. That was my life," said Joyce Lechlider, a fire victim.

Altogether 17 people, including 11 children, must now start over.

"I'm starting over. But how do you start over? How? You keep asking yourself how do you start over," said Joyce Lechlider.

"The name on the top of it was Empire Block," said Chief Delbert Bowers, Vinita Fire.

Chief Delbert Bowers says a passerby noticed the fire at the historic building. The fire station is just a block away, so firefighters got there quickly.

But with flames already coming from the tar roof, there was little they could do.

"It's like a load of tires, it's just basically impossible," said Chief Delbert Bowers.

Bowers says it's sad losing such an old building, but even sadder knowing families lost everything.

"I'm used to giving clothes to other people, but this has never happened to me," said Tayah Holmes.

But 9-year-old Tayah and her family and friends say they still have each other and their lives and for that, they're grateful.

"We were safe, nobody got hurt," said Tayah Holmes.

"We'll make it. Put it in God's hands and we'll make it," said Joyce Lechlider.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.