More than 100 residents were left homeless after a massive fire tore through multiple Cambridge neighborhoods on Saturday, and city officials are spearheading efforts to provide aid and comfort.
Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons along with other city officials set up the Cambridge Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund on Sunday to help provide aid for those affected. The fund has already raised more than $400,000.
By Sunday afternoon, at least 48 displaced families, representing 104 people, registered with the Red Cross of Massachusetts, but there may be more individuals affected by the blaze. The fire damaged at least 11 buildings.
The city is encouraging all those who were displaced to register by calling 800-564-1234 or by coming to the city’s Fire Recovery Resource Center at Cambridge City Hall.
“The most important first step displaced families and individuals can take is to register with the Red Cross of Massachusetts,” said Louis A. DePasquale, city manager.
The center, located on the second floor of City Hall at 795 Massachusetts Avenue, is open Monday, Dec. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Tuesday, Dec. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Members of the public who want to help are encouraged to donate to the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund, which has set a goal of $500,000.
“Even if we raise $500,000, it will still be just a drop in the ocean for those who have lost everything they own,” Simmons said on Twitter. “Please keep up the incredible generosity.”
Simmons reiterated that the fund was the best way to help families. Although people are asking for other ways in which they can help, the city is urging people to hold off on donating food, clothing or material goods at this time, she said.
Chris Besse, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating with the mayor on the relief effort, explained that clothing and household donations can create logistical issues, such as storing and distributing the items.
“The city told us they are encouraging people to donate to that fund so they can apply the assistance directly to those residents” Besse said. “The city is talking to survivors themselves who will get the money directly and can get whatever they need depending on their situation. Everyone’s situation is different.”
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. "The investigative team has identified an area of origin on or near 35-37 Berkshire Street. There is no evidence that this fire was intentionally set," the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services said Monday in a statement.
Local businesses are looking to do their part as well. Kendall Square restaurant Glass House announced that on Wednesday 10 percent of all day sales will be donated to the Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund.
K2 Cafe in Kendal, a sister restaurant to Glass House, will match up to $1,000 in donations to the mayor’s fund and will place donation canisters at its registers.
“We are part of the Cambridge community now, and want to do anything we can to help our neighbors,” said Todd Bennett, general manager of Glass House, in a statement.
The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is rallying to urge businesses to donate as well, said David Maher, CEO. Maher is a Cambridge City Councilor and was mayor from 2014 to 2015.
“With over 100 individuals really being in such a dire position right now, we're trying to make sure we're working in tandem with the city to ensure that folks have the resources to get their lives back together,” he said.
“I think this is an extraordinary community,” he said. “There are great things going on in Cambridge. It’s a huge innovation cluster, has a very vibrant academic and business community, but when you really look at this community, it is a community of neighborhoods, and I think people come together and support one another.”
Donations can be made online through aGoFundMe, in person or by mail with a check made out to:
Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund
795 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139