Displaced residents recover after fire


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Olga Mironova sat in a backroom at the University Bookstore on Monday and said she was lucky she lost so little in the fire that destroyed her apartment.

Two fellow store employees stood nearby — both had brought in donations of food and clothing to help Mironova recover from the Feb. 19 blaze at 515 E. College St., and they hope more people will contribute.

Mironova, a native of Russia, didn’t have time to grab anything but her passport as she left her apartment that day, and she lost electronics, furniture, and her school books and notes in the fire.

But she spent significantly more time describing what she saved, especially a TV that still worked after drying out from water at the scene. The 20-year-old was also exited about her boots from Russia and makeup that she recovered.

“She’s so positive,” said coworker Ellen Thomas as Mironova stepped out to take a phone call.

The University of Iowa junior has spent the last few days focusing on practicalities. She said she spoke to the Registrar’s Office about getting an extension for a midterm and moved into a new apartment.

“I have a rational mentality,” she said. “It’s like, oh well, it happened.”

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Mironova said she stayed with friends for one night, then her landlord provided her with another apartment at the same price the day after the fire.

University Bookstore employees are collecting donations of food, clothing, and anything people are willing to give for Mironova and other displaced residents, said Thomas, who noted that it’s difficult to see people handle tough situations. Employees will collect donations as long as people continue to bring them to the bookstore.

American Red Cross officials at the nonprofit’s central Iowa chapter have been assisting displaced residents as well.

Cassie Slagle, a Red Cross volunteer and UI student, was at the scene Feb. 19, helping residents fill out paperwork and get access to basic needs.

She said the displaced residents handled the disaster well, and they relied on one another right away.

“It’s all kind of a shock the first few hours,” she said.

Slagle, who has been a Red Cross volunteer for more than two years, said the East College Street fire is the largest disaster she’s responded to so far.

Red Cross officials provided two displaced residents with temporary lodging and six with food and clothing, said Jennifer Pickar, director of communications and marketing for the Red Cross.

She said the College Street fire is the largest of 11 disasters Red Cross volunteers have responded to in Johnson County since July 2009.

Red Cross volunteers commonly help displaced residents with immediate needs directly after a disaster, such as lodging for up to three days in a hotel, she said.

Mironova said she exchanged phone numbers with the residents who lived above her and said she’ll continue to keep in touch so they can check on each other.

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