“I’m still in shock,” Jennifer Capone-Ortega says. “We lost everything. We only have the clothes on our backs.”
The Pleasantville woman, her husband and young daughter lost their home to a major fire Sunday night.
Their upstairs neighbor and his roommate were displaced as well.The fire has been ruled accidental.
Capone-Ortega said the family had just decorated their kitchen for Christmas and planned to get their tree this week. The gift shopping was almost done.
But Sunday night, her husband went to go out their back door when he saw the flames.
“The lady next door was just running across to knock on the door,” Capone-Ortega said. “She said she saw two people running from our backyard.”
That was possibly the two men who lived in the other apartment in the home on South Second Street. A third apartment was vacant.
She remembers grabbing her 7-year-old daughter, Bianca., and then heading back in for a fire extinguisher
“I thought I could put it out,” she said.
Fire Chief Steve Wilkins said that when firefighters arrived, the fire in the back was quickly extinguished, but the flames had gotten into the eaves and traveled up.
Completed renovations and a balloon construction made the fire difficult to fight, Wilkins said.
The house was lost to the blaze.
Luckily, the family of three and their upstairs neighbors were able to escape.
“Our cat really has nine lives,” Capone-Ortega said.
He was hiding under her bed as the fire raged. A firefighter was able to rescue him after the fire was under control.
The Red Cross gave the family a gift card with money on it and a voucher for the Days Inn, but she said the woman there didn’t know how to use the card and the room was $75 a night, so the family went to the Quality Inn, which charges $60. Capone-Ortega tried to make a deal to stay until Sunday for $100, but was turned down.
Erica Hartwell saw the family’s predicament and donated a two-night stay at the Tropicana for Friday and Saturday.
“I am so happy to help her and her family,” Hartwell said.
Making ends meet was already tough on the family.
Hector Ortega works five days a week at Shore Honda and then weekends and Car Toyz.
When Capone-Ortega went to check on the home Monday morning, she found the door open and what was left ransacked.
She doesn’t know where her jewelry is, including her engagement ring that her husband of 15 years gave her.
“My daughter was just screaming, crying and shaking,” she said of Bianca, a second-grader at Leeds Avenue School.
Inside was everything: the little girl’s bikes, her Barbie and Monster High doll houses and a large collection of Shopkins.
Bianca also had a special possession: a wheelchair she asked to have so she could have play dates with her friend who is in a wheelchair.
The little girl loves basketball, her mother said.
“You just don’t expect something like this to happen,” Capone-Ortega said. “I just don’t know where we’re going to go. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Ortega’s oldest daughter has set up a GoFundMe page:
Donations of clothes and toys are also welcome. James Pressley and Jason Smart-El have volunteered to gather such donations. They can be reached via email to Smart-El firstname.lastname@example.org or Pressley at email@example.com Facebook at James Pressley or Jason Smart-El.
Bianca Ortega is a child’s size 7-8 or medium, and a size 2 in shoes. Capone-Ortega is a 16 or extra-large, with a 7½ shoe. Hector Ortega is a men’s double extra –large, a 36-34 pants and a size 12 shoe.