Anna Patino is extremely thankful that she escaped a fast-moving fire in her Long Beach home on Dec. 21, while suffering only minor injuries. But she is just as grateful for the support and generosity of neighbors and others who have come to her assistance.
“It’s just been amazing, amazing,” Patino, 59, said as she choked back tears. “My neighbors came all out for me and have been very comforting.”
Patino said she lost nearly everything in the fire – clothes, furniture, family albums, things she can’t replace – at her two-family home at 419 East Pine St. Two beloved family pets, a dog and a cat, died in the fire.
Patino said her neighbors have rallied around her, even though she has not been that close with them.
“Some of them I never met before,” she said. “They gave me blankets, and offered me water and coffee. My coats burned in the fire and they tried to help me out that way as well.”
The owner of an Island Park clothing store also offered to donate clothes to her. She said she appreciated the offer but since she is an “oversized” woman, she passed the information along to her upstairs tenants, who were also left homeless by the blaze.
Patino was overwhelmed on Friday afternoon when she was sitting at a Friendly’s in Baldwin with her grandson, who was talking to a waitress about the fire. Suddenly, a man sitting nearby handed her $50.
“I refused to take the money, but he said, ‘Please take it. I was in a fire, too,’” Patino said. “I was in tears. People are good, they really are good.”
Her long-time friend, Bob Gentry, also opened a fund at Citibank at 135 East Park Ave., into which people have been contributing. As of last Thursday, the fund has generated $110, she said.
Patino said it’s painful to recount what happened on Dec. 21. She recalled that less than five minutes after she plugged in her Christmas tree at 4:10 p.m., it burst into flames. She was cooking soup at the time, and was inside her home office when she heard one of her upstairs tenants, Lisa Farley, who was returning from Christmas shopping, yell “fire.” Patino grabbed a pot and threw some water on the fire, but the tree was quickly going up in flames, she said. She suffered burns to her arm trying to fight the fire, she said.
She then ran outside and Lisa’s brother Thomas, who arrived at the home, called 911. Patino said she tried to run back into the house to rescue her pets, but opening the door increased the fire’s intensity and her hair caught on fire and the windows were being blown out.
Lisa Farley ran to the second floor to rescue a pet dog and jumped 12 feet from her second-floor terrace after throwing the dog to safety.
“If Lisa didn’t come home, Anna, nobody would have come out of that house,” said Desiree Eso, 25, who shares the second-floor apartment with her sister Danielle and the Farleys.
Eso said the upstairs tenants have been forgotten about in the incident.
“We lost everything, too, but nobody has mentioned anything about us,” she said.
Eso said if anyone is interested in helping them get back on their feet, they could call her at (516) 808-3119.
Since the fire, Patino she has been living with her daughter in Island Park, and hopes that her home, which has no insurance, will be rebuilt by the summer.
She has lived in the home with her boyfriend Howie Poplinger, whose mother purchased it. They first lived there from 2002-09, when they moved away to New Jersey for a year before returning to the home.