Woman helps fire victims

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By Don Pace

With tears streaming down her face, Patricia Navarro recalled going to a friend’s aid after a fire destroyed her apartment and left her on the street to fend for herself.

With an ironic twist of fate, several weeks later Navarro came home with her mother, Marie Frausto, after a long day trying to replace her friend’s belongings, only to find fire trucks surrounding her own home.

On the night of Nov. 1, an alleged arsonist torched a two-story home on Douglas Avenue, killing Connie Vigil.

Earlier in the day, Navarro was visiting with another friend she calls “Grandma” at her home. At the end of the day, Grandma went back to her home, which is right next door to the fire at Vigil’s home. Grandma’s home was damaged as the fire spread from next door.

“The next thing you know I got a call asking if I knew where Grandma was because there was a fire raging next door. My mom and I got dressed and took off to look for Grandma — the next thing we’re seeing this horrific fire. Everybody there was scared and screaming. But the most important thing on my mind was to look for Grandma. After finding her, we stayed with her until about 3 a.m. to make sure she was OK. Since police and firefighters wouldn’t let her back in her home, she came home with us,” Navarro said.

While the Red Cross put up residents from the burned apartments at a local motel for a few days, Navarro took one of them, a disabled friend with a crippling disease who is also friend, under her wing for special care.

Navarro began to work tirelessly to get their friend public housing and to reapply for all the documents lost in the fire. She also addressed the mayor and the City Council during a meeting to ask if she could pass the hat around for donations.

All the while, Navarro, who says she and her mother are on a fixed income, was paying her friend’s motel bill and making sure she had enough to eat.

“The employees at (public) housing were awesome. They put the pedal to the metal to try to get things going. The city was able to get her into an efficiency apartment, and an extremely kind city worker donated bedding, furniture and other necessities to the cause. Public information officer Mercy Lopez even went on the radio to ask for donations,” Navarro said.

For her work, Navarro was called before the council, where Mayor Tony Marquez named her an “Everyday Hero” and presented her with a certificate recounting her remarkable efforts on behalf of the residents of Las Vegas.

Navarro said as things began to come together for her friend, misfortune struck on Nov. 13 as workers repairing a hole in the roof at her own home sparked a fire that would smolder for hours before bursting into flame.

“I was working to help my friend, and my mom was at home. When I came home for lunch, I smelled smoke and immediately admonished the workmen for using a blowtorch around rotted wood. After they left, we continued to smell smoke, and since my mom and I are both on oxygen, we decided to spend the night at a hotel. After realizing we forgot our medications, we drove back home. At the end of our street, we could see the flashing lights of fire engines, firefighters and flames coming from my roof. You never know the anguish people feel until it hits home,” Navarro said.

After finding her dogs Bubbles, Peanut, Taffy, Pumpkin and Beethoven safe, Navarro said, “It could have been worse; we could have lost everything. But a couple walking by saw the smoke and immediately called for help.”

Navarro said she loves Las Vegas because the people are awesome and appreciate it when they see someone helping others.

“I thank God for everything we have, and the only thing I wish for is that more people would extend a helping hand to others. I will probably be trying to help others until the day I die.” Navarro said.