Seeking Shelter in the Lewiston High School gymnasium

LEWISTON — Volunteers at Lewiston High School on Monday afternoon said they have a difficult task ahead.

“We’re trying to give people, displaced by this fire, as much comfort as we can,” said Eric Lynes, emergency services director for the United Valley Red Cross. “They’ve been through a lot today.”

The Red Cross was expecting as many as 65 people to move into the shelter Monday.

All are residents of River Street in Lewiston who either watched their apartment buildings burn down early Monday morning or were evacuated by emergency crews.

“I don’t know what I’ll be going back to,” said Sonny Libby, 36, of 46 River St. Libby said he watched Monday’s fire spread from 52 River St. to his aunt’s building at 48 River St.

“The roof to my aunt’s building collapsed, so I think she’s never going back there,” Libby said. “But I don’t know what happened to my building. I’ll have to wait and see.”

Lynes said Red Cross volunteers from around Maine responded early Monday and began working to set up the shelter. They’ve drawn a partition down the middle of the high school’s gym, stocking one half with cots, blankets and pillows. They’ve set up tables for counseling, a television area for children and opened up the school’s showers.

“It’s a 100 degrees today, not a good day for this kind of thing to happen,” Lynes said. “So, a lot of people are taking advantage of that.”

The gym’s concession stand is doubling as an emergency canteen, with food provided by local restaurants and stores — including Sam’s Italian Foods, K-Mart and Wal-Mart.

Lynes said he expects many of the Red Cross’ guests to have a short stay in the shelters. People evacuated from neighboring buildings could be allowed to return home if their buildings weren’t damaged.

Rhonda Getchell of 48 River St, said she’s expecting to stay longer.

“My landlord’s already said he’s done,” she said. “He’s not going to rebuild, he’s moving on. So I’m going to be looking for a new place to live now. Between the water damage and the fire, I don’t think there’s going to be much left.”

School officials said preparations for the 2009-10 school year will continue as planned. Students are scheduled to come to Lewiston High School on Tuesday to pick up their class schedules and to be photographed for their student IDs.

School preparations will be scheduled in the cafeteria and entrances to the gym and the emergency shelter will be locked.

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Residents displaced by the structure fires on River Street were given shelter and food inside the Lewiston High School gymnasium on Monday. Eddie Burgess, training coordinator for the Lewiston-Auburn Red Cross, said 50 cots were put down on the gym floor and another 50 cots were ready to go.

Cots are lined up behind a partition Monday, waiting for refugees from Monday’s fire in the Little Canada section of Lewiston. Emergency response workers are expecting as many as 65 people to take shelter in the Lewiston High School gymnasium.

Eric Lynes, emergency services director for the United Valley Red Cross, works Monday at the shelter at Lewiston High School where victims of Monday morning’s fire were being helped.

Syrena White Feathers and her 10-year-old daughter Egypt Segall operate the “snack shack” at the emergency shelter at Lewiston High School on Monday. White Feathers and Segall, volunteers with the American Red Cross, were up at 6 a.m. to help residents who were displaced by the River Street Fire.


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