The community rallied behind victims of the fire that caused more than 80 people to lose their homes at The Allegro Palms Condos in Riverview last month with donations through the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Spoto High School.

When fire broke out at the Allegro Palms Condos in Riverview last month, more than 80 people were displaced from their homes. But from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) to students at Spoto High School, the community assisted officials and rallied behind its residents, helping them find places to live and replacing lost items and clothing.

According to Eric Seidel, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Public Information Officer, 24 households were damaged by the fire, which is likely to have been caused by one of two lightning strikes in the area.

Metropolitan Ministries, the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross began work right away to help the displaced and upon hearing of the need, the community responded quickly with help for the victims.

“Retail stores on Bloomingdale Ave., Target and Wal-Mart, got involved with donations,” said HCSO Community Resource Deputy Clifford Fletcher. “We partnered with them by delivering clothing, beds and other items to the apartment collection center.”

Six of the families had ties to nearby Spoto High School, so when school English Department Head Adam Sherman and Ninth Grade Reading Team Leader Millie Fleming realized some of their own needed help, they jumped into action. Along with the school’s Resource Officer Katherine Brown, Principal David New and Assistant Principal of Curriculum Deanna Fisher, they sent out information to the school community letting them know what the victims needed.

“Our community really stepped up and showed amazing support,” said Sherman. “Donations were coming in greater amounts than we could keep up with sorting.”

According to Sherman, at least one of the families affected by the fire was newly enrolled as they were displaced from their home in Puerto Rico as a result of last year’s hurricanes.

Once the families with ties to Spoto had received the donations, which included food, water, personal hygiene items, toys, clothing, kitchen items and diapers, the school opened up their supplies to all of the fire victims.

“We wanted to make sure that those families truly had an opportunity to get what they needed,” said Sherman. “Once we are confident we have tried to get items into the hands of families, we will be taking the remaining items to another donation site for general donations.”

Sherman and the team from Spoto plan to keep in touch with the families throughout the summer and help them with needs during the back to school period.

According to Daniel Noah, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, lightning in Florida has caused $39.8 million in damage to 284 properties over the last 10 years.
For information on how to protect property from lightning strikes, visit the Lightning Institute Website at www.lightning.org. To reach Spoto High School, call 672-5405. The Allegro Palm Condos are located at 5501 Legacy Crescent Place in Riverview.