HUMBOLDT PARK — A local high school is stepping up to help a Humboldt Park family that lost everything in a fire Thursday afternoon.
Around 12:45 p.m., firefighters were called to the fire in the Williams family home at 953 N. St. Louis Ave. that ended up spreading to another house.
All 15 family members — eight adults and seven children — were able to safely evacuate, but the blaze destroyed the longtime family home and all the family's belongings.
"I was scared. My heart dropped. I thought I lost my family and my son," said Tranice Williams, 19, who was at school when the fire erupted.
Tranice Williams and her 18-year-old sister, Tamara, had lived in the home with two older sisters, two younger sisters, two nephews, two nieces, an older brother and their mom since birth.
Both sisters attend an alternative high school in Humboldt Park, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, 2739 W. Division St.
Once news of the fire got out, the school community sprung into action.
Students and staff launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $5,000 to pay for new clothes, toiletries and other essentials that were lost in the blaze. As of Friday morning, the campaign had raised $2,630. Students are also selling pizza and pop during lunch to help raise money for the family.
"A lot of these situations happen to students very frequently when you think about this demographic. There's been a lot of gun violence and poverty," said Marie Snyder, the school's assistant dean.
"These two particular students are assets to the school in ways that are invaluable. They're both very charismatic. They act as restorative justice leaders. They're part of the women's group. They're really important to us," Snyder said.
Tranice Williams was floored when she saw the campaign.
"I wouldn't think so many people would come out the way to help us," she said. "Some people are not like that in life. For it to come from so many people, it got to my heart. I really got people out here that love me and my family."
It is unclear how the fire started. Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, said it could take awhile to determine the fire's cause.
After the fire, the Williams family was forced to separate. Tranice Williams is staying at a cousin's house nearby, while her siblings and mother are staying with other family and friends.
"I know it's going to change my life," Tranice Williams said. "I'm so used to being over there. Waking up this morning, it felt weird. I'm in somebody else's house. I don't have a bed."
To donate, visit the GoFundMe page.