The room was filled with smiles. Three months after an early-morning fire at Littleton's Windermere apartments left a man dead, many injured and more than 160 residents homeless, dozens of former …
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Nov. 17: One dead, 13 injured, dozens displaced as fire forces evacuation of Littleton apartment building for seniors
Nov. 18: Windermere fire: 'I can't believe this is happening again'
Nov. 19: Windermere fire ruled accidental, residents still waiting for news
Nov. 20: Seniors likely won't be able to return to Windermere apartment building hit by fire until at least next week
Nov. 26: Fire in 2016 saw tower's residents evicted
Nov. 27: Heroes emerge from smoke
Nov. 27: Windermere residents, evacuated after fire, to spend another week waiting
Nov. 28: County officials preparing to help seniors displaced by fire
Nov. 30: Windermere fire victim drew complaints over smoking
Dec. 3: Residents of senior apartment building hit by fire in Littleton must find new homes
Dec. 8: Windermere fire evacuees face difficult future
Dec. 12: Evacuees prepare to move out of Windermere apartments in Littleton
Dec. 20: Windermere evacuees say goodbye to community
Jan. 17: Windermere probably won't face sprinkler requirement
Jan. 28: Some Windermere fire victims still searching for housing
Feb. 18: Windermere evacuees moving forward, moving on
May 24: City council recognizes heroes of Windermere fire
The room was filled with smiles.
Three months after an early-morning fire at Littleton's Windermere apartments left a man dead, many injured and more than 160 residents homeless, dozens of former residents convened at Littleton United Methodist Church to catch up.
At an afternoon tea on hosted by Love Inc., a Christian charity network, the former evacuees gathered around tables with old friends on the day after Valentine's Day, basking in the company and friendship of their former neighbors.
“It feels great,” said Barbara Fry, 80. “Everyone here came through such dark days and nights, and now we're a lot more upbeat.”
Fry recently moved into a new apartment in Wheat Ridge.
“It has excellent fire protection,” said Fry, who was evicted from the Windermere once before, when a similar fire forced a mass evacuation in 2016. “Every room has sprinklers. That was the first thing I asked every apartment complex I called.”
The Windermere, owned by Stephen Tebo and Heath Orvis, does not have a building-wide fire sprinkler system.
The building's owners have received a demolition permit for the building's interior, said Bill Tracy, Littleton's chief building official on Feb. 13. They have not yet applied for permits to begin renovating the building, he added.
Some evacuees are still struggling. Jerald Ferrero and his wife Judy have been living at a Motel 6 on Arapahoe Road since the fire. After a fruitless apartment search and frustration with the response of local officials, Ferrero said they're giving up and heading back to their native Chicago.
“If it weren't for the fire, we probably would have stayed here until we died,” Ferrero said.
Life is starting to settle for many of the evacuees, said Linda Haley, Arapahoe County's Senior Resources manager.
At least 110 of the evacuees have found new places to live, Haley said, though her office is still working with roughly 20 people who are still searching for homes.
“As always, we are still looking for places that accept Section 8 housing vouchers and are accessible to people with disabilities,” Haley said.
In the meantime, Love Inc. is still working to provide resources and assistance for evacuees, said Kathryn Roy, the group's executive director.
Love Inc. volunteers passed out gift cards to the evacuees at the event, bought with donated funds. Evacuees also took home a contact list, with phone numbers and email addresses for their former neighbors.
“Today is so different than that awful Saturday morning,” Roy said, referring to the day of the fire on Nov. 17. “From the height of trauma, we're coming to a better place.”
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