LITTLETON, Colo. – More than two weeks have passed since a fire tore through a senior apartment complex in Littleton, killing one man. Now, his family is working to help the dozens of other tenants who are still without a home.
Amidst their own grief with losing their grandfather, the family of Michael Mitchell hopes to help get the tenants into hotels or offer some sort of comfort until they can return home.
“I didn’t know anything that was happening until I got the call from the coroner. We were supposed to pick him up for dinner... for his birthday,” Mitchell's daughter Cassie Ciardullo said.
The birthday presents were bought. The reservations were made. But Ciardullo and her daughter Allie never got to celebrate their grandpa Michael’s 70th birthday, as flames and smoke erupted at the Windermere Apartments on Nov. 17.
“We’ve confirmed that a resident saw him in the hallway trying to retrieve a fire extinguisher and he went back into the fire,” Ciardullo said.
They say the Vietnam War veteran and grandfather to six tried to extinguish the flames.
“I believe that because of him, the whole place didn’t burn down and that he likely saved a lot of people,” granddaughter of victim, Allie Ciardullo said.
Sadly, Mitchell did not make it out. As his family spent the last week planning his funeral, their thoughts also turned to the many others still affected by the fire.
“They are 80, 90 years old [and] sleeping on cots. It’s awful,” Cassie Ciardullo said.
“There are some sleeping in cars. Some lost pets,” Allie Ciardullo said.
Now the Ciardullos are advocating for the nearly 100 residents. They are collecting donations in hopes of getting the displaced folks into hotels and offering warm meals in time for Christmas.
“Some people just need money for their deductible, so they can stay in a hotel or replace their walkers or canes. It's just terrible. Everybody just moves on and this is still happening. These people are still displaced and they’re right in our backyard,” Cassie Ciardullo said.
The Windermere Complex says the state ordered a second round of air quality testing – the initial report showed no asbestos. Another community update meeting will be held on Monday at 2 p.m. at the Littleton United Methodist Church.
The family has established a GoFundMe page for those wanting to contribute to their effort.