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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

After Fire Destroys Portage Park Family’s Home Of 20 Years, Neighbors Help Them Get Back On Their Feet

The Baca family lost all of their belongings, and two beloved pets, in the fire. Neighbors are donating food, clothes and cash to help them find a new place to live.

The Baca family, who lived in the second and third floors of s Portage Park house for 20 years, lost all of their belongings in a house fire.
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PORTAGE PARK — Northwest Side neighbors are stepping up to support a family after they lost everything in a fire last week.

On Jan. 19, firefighters responded to a blaze at 4628 W. Warwick Ave., fire officials said. The fire started due to an electrical problem and the family’s cat and dog were killed.

The Baca family, who lived on the second and third floors for 20 years, lost all of their belongings and have been staying with nearby relatives, said Adriana Baca, who grew up in the home but moved out a year ago.

There is water damage on the first floor and in the basement, and mold throughout the building, she said.

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The house’s basement was badly damaged froom the water and destroyed all the items family members kept in storage.

Baca’s parents and five siblings lived on the second floor with three cats and a dog. Her uncle’s family of four lived upstairs with one cat, she said. Another family lived on the first floor but she has been unable to reach them.

She organized a fundraiser to help with temporary housing and pay for essentials like bedding, kitchen and bathroom items as her family gets back on track. In less than a week, the community has raised more than $47,000.

Neighbors have also dropped off clothes, shoes and winter items for the family, who ran out of their home with just the clothes on their backs, Baca said.

“They are extremely grateful,” Baca said of the outpouring of support. “My parents at first were shocked because they thought they were alone … But we are completely in awe of the community. Even yesterday, someone dropped off clean clothes. That is what is keeping my family positive.”

Money raised from the fundraiser will also go toward buying a home for both families, since it’s been difficult to find a place to rent for both of them. Money will help buy appliances and furnishings for their new home.

The family has received enough clothes but still needs boots, shoes, towels and blankets. They’re also asking for a laptop for one of Baca’s siblings, who is taking online college classes. Both family computers were destroyed in the fire.

If neighbors would like to donate items, they can contact Baca via Facebook.

She said the loss of her dog Gigi and cat Bella was devastating but Lola, the third cat, is at home recovering. Nico, the family’s other cat, also was not hurt.

Portage Park community activist and 911 dispatcher Keith Thornton, Jr. donated to the family and helped boost the fundraiser.

He said seeing the amount of support the Baca family has received brings a sense of hope and is a reminder of the power of uplifting neighbors, especially during challenging times.

“I help people on their worst days — that’s my job, my profession, my calling … it’s something I can’t turn off,” Thornton said. “When I am off duty and things happen in my neighborhood, I help. It’s all about helping people. It brings a smile on my face to see Northwest Siders stepping up to help.”

The Baca family initially only asked for about $20,000, but Thornton urged them to seek more to cover the cost of replacing everything. He said he was confident the community could pull together and raise $100,000.

Baca said he was right — she’s been making Target runs to buy bedding, blankets and other essentials for her family and the bill was higher than expected. She called Thornton an angel and said it’s uplifting to see her neighbors’ compassion.

“We can’t get tired of saying thank you,” she said. “This tragedy was insane, it happened out of nowhere but we are extremely grateful … we keep thanking people because one thank you is not enough.”

You can donate to the fundraiser here. The family living on the building’s first floor was also displaced by the blaze. You can donate to them here.

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