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After Anchorage family loses everything in fire, a neighbor helps them start over

By Eric Ruble Photojournalist: Rachel McPherron - 6:59 PM March 19, 2017
ANCHORAGE –

The inside of Brenda Rainey’s apartment at Chester Creek Estates is charred. A fire on Feb. 18 started in her kitchen while she was cooking and quickly spread, destroying her unit and damaging others.

Rainey fell and was unable to get out of the apartment. Her teenage granddaughter dragged her outside to safety. Rainey was taken to the hospital and treated for burns on her forehead and fingertips, as well as smoke inhalation.

Ruthanna Carr, who lives about one block away, picked Rainey up from the hospital and has been helping her ever since. She began a fundraising campaign through the website GoFundMe and used social media to collect donations.

“Everything was gone,” Rainey said. “People went out and bought new underwear and T-shirts and coats and boots.”

Rainey lived at the apartment with her three grandchildren, who go to school with Carr’s kids. Carr said once she posted to different social media sites about helping the Raineys, donations began pouring in. 

“I had to take [the post] down because so many people were messaging me,” Carr added.

Carr stored some of the donations at her U-Med District home, and others at a storage unit donated by Best Storage. Carr has five children of her own and is enrolled in six courses at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Because she has little free time, she spent weekends driving around Anchorage collecting donations.

“For me, it was not only because they were personal family friends, but because I know how hard it can be for someone to get back on their feet,” Carr explained. “I’ve never experienced it myself, but I really like to help people.”

Rainey has been living in a hotel since the fire and has been using the GoFundMe money to pay for it. She said she has found a new apartment and plans to move there in about one week. Rainey credited Carr for helping her piece her life back together.

“They all have been a blessing to me,” Rainey said. “I mean, this whole family has been a blessing to me. And without this family, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have any family.”

Carr said there are still ways to help. She can be contacted through the GoFundMe site she set up for Rainey. Carr said any donations not used by the Rainey family will be given to other victims of the Chester Creek Estates and Royal Suite Lodge fires.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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