Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Starting a new family is disrupted by home fire...Red Cross helps

The Pandora home after the fire. Photo \
courtesy Peter Pandora
By Lindsay Hale Murdock

Lists, numerous options, too many choices… Peter and Melissa Pandora wandered through the aisles putting their baby registry together for their first child. Melissa is 3 months pregnant and they both were having all of the new parent thoughts that can be all consuming. That is, until a call came in from a neighbor. They dismissed it to call later, but then another call from another neighbor came in. Peter thought he better answer, as it seemed a bit out of the ordinary. Sure enough, they needed to drop everything and get home as quickly as they could. Their home was being consumed by an apartment fire.

First thoughts were of their beloved pets, whom they thought they left safe at home. Were neighbors safe? Peter flew through traffic to get to the scene, following an ambulance into the complex, fearing the worst. He pushed through the gathering crowd, but was held just out of reach, feeling completely helpless as he watched firefighters providing medical treatment to his pets, who had been rescued by the apartment manager, a neighbor, and the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Blue, his service dog, was limp on the ground. His two cats, Milo and Benson were unconscious.
Fear, anxiety and a surreal cloud of disbelief engulfed the Pandora family in those crucial moments. “For my animals, it means a lot. They risked their own lives for us and I’m super grateful,” Peter said of the neighbors and firefighters who rescued his pets.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire, stabilize their dog and cats, and even rescue their pet turtle. Although the animals needed additional medical care, they all survived. A video of the rescue is available from 9News on their Facebook page at
Blue, a service dog, recovers from
injuries. Photo courtesy Peter

Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) volunteers arrived and assisted the Pandora family, along with another family effected by the apartment fire that destroyed two units of the Antero Apartments in Colorado Springs. Red Cross provided immediate assistance for the families, including personal hygiene items, funds for temporary lodging and to replace lost clothing. They also provided information and referrals for community resources along with information about how to salvage some items from smoke damage. “They were super supportive,” Peter said about the Red Cross volunteers. “I know if I called and needed anything at all they would help. It was really nice to have their support,” Peter said of the Red Cross DAT volunteers.

Peter and Melissa were devastated when they were able to return to their apartment to assess the damage. Memorabilia lost, treasured tapestries in tatters, most of their possessions destroyed. Luckily they were able to salvage some memories and documents. Their animals remained in intensive care for three days, and are on their way to recovery, thanks to quick thinking community members.

Milo and Benson recovering from
injuries. Photo courtesy Peter Pandora
Through the ordeal, Peter and Melissa have been assisted by the Red Cross along with other local agencies and businesses, who all reached out to help them. “It’s so different here than New Hampshire,” he said. “I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of help and community from everyone around…It’s just very emotional.” The Pandora’s have since moved into a new unit in the same apartment complex and the couple is starting to breathe easier again.

The Red Cross responds to home fires every day averaging two fires per day in Colorado. Each response is different and each response is critical to those people who have suffered a loss. If you would like more information about home fire safety visit our web site at

If you would like to support the Red Cross as a volunteer or by making a donation visit

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