BRIDGEPORT — By the time Leticia Delgado arrived on her block and saw thick black smoke, she knew it was her family’s apartment that was wrecked in a Christmas Eve fire.
“We lost everything — toys, cribs, clothes,” said Delgado, a 26-year-old restaurant cashier.
Fire officials said flames erupted inside the three-story building at 3014 S. Emerald Ave. around midnight Monday. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
The building was empty, but neighbors said the fire claimed the life of the first-floor tenant’s pets — two dogs, Anthony and Lucky, and a cat, Tiger.
“It was blazing pretty good,” said neighbor Jerry Monahan.
Delgado said she was at a family holiday party with her husband and 1-year-old son when they were alerted to the fire.
“At first I didn’t want to believe it was ours,” she said. “I sort of broke down.”
Presents for the family's Christmas celebration that were stashed in the second-floor apartment were destroyed. Now, her family is staying with relatives and piecing together their lives — starting with a post-holiday shopping trip for the bare essentials.
The only items they salvaged from the smoke-damaged apartment were a piggy bank, some documents and a few heavily damaged family photos.
“Honestly I’m just glad no one was in there,” she said.
As word of the fire's impact spread, neighbors banded together to offer help to the displaced tenants.
Janet Evans and her husband Jim, parishioners at St. Mary of Perpetual Help, are organizing a donation effort.
"Everyone is just kind of hanging out waiting to hear what the need is," she said.
Neighbors said the first-floor tenant was Lily Lee, who was away at a Christmas midnight Mass when the fire started.
"She’s just devastated. She lost her pets. I just can't imagine," Evans said. "If she hadn’t gone to Mass, she might’ve died in that fire."