Ramirez family rebuilding after fire damages home
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Ramirez family of Alcoa is counting its blessings after a May 21 fire that heavily damaged their home and forced them to seek other shelter.
Jose Ramirez, 43, and six of his children were home that morning when a mattress got to close to a heater and began smoking. He said he moved the mattress away from the heater and closed off the bedroom, but a short time later it had ignited, forcing the family outside with the clothes on their backs. “I didn’t even have time to get my shoes,” Ramirez said. A granddaughter was spending the night and Ramirez said in all of the panic, he had forgotten to check on her. He had to reenter the house and get her out through a window.
Silvia Ramirez, Jose’s wife, was in El Salvador when the fire occurred.
Picking up the pieces
The house is located on Oakland Street, near Alcoa Elementary School. Unfortunately, Ramirez had no insurance on the home. He, his wife Silvia and their children are living in a rental home provided by Chuck Davis and Jim Goode. These two friends and business partners are trying to organize a community effort to get the Ramirez family back where they rightfully belong.
Earlier this week, Ramirez came back to his burned-out home to take a look around and talk with Davis about what it’s going to take to bring it back. Davis, who owns rental properties in the area, said there is probably $20,000 to $30,000 in repairs that is needed.
All of the electrical and plumbing work will have to be redone, Davis explained. The home, he estimated, was probably built in the 1940s.
The Ramirezes have lived at this residence for about seven years. The family originally moved to the United States from El Salvador in 1987, first settling in Washington, D.C. They lived there for about 15 years before arriving in Alcoa, where they stayed. Ramirez is pastor of an Hispanic church located on East Broadway in Maryville, called Iglesia Profetica Ciudad de Sion.
Establishing a ministry
“I started my church nine years ago,” the pastor said. “There were no Spanish churches here back then. We are a small church but we are making progress. There are now Spanish churches in Knoxville, here and in Lenoir City. When I first came here I had to go to church in Morristown.”
Ramirez’ church met for a while in the family life center at Alcoa First Baptist. Davis came to know the family because of this arrangement. The building where the church now meets belongs to Davis and Goode.
Word has gotten out about this tragedy, and individuals and church congregations have banded together. Ramirez said he has met lots of people since coming here and many have already said they will help with the rebuild. New Providence Presbyterian Church in Maryville has reached out to help.
The family lost all of their personal items clothes, furniture, etc. A lot of that has since been donated. The biggest need will be materials and labor to restore the modest home to a livable condition.
“There is lots of work ahead,” Davis said. “It wasn’t a total loss but it’s uninhabitable.”
The Ramirezes have a total of 10 children, but the oldest live on their own. Two are in college. They have several grandchildren as well.
The right community
While living in a crime-ridden area of Washington, D.C. those years ago, Ramirez said he began praying to God, asking him for guidance and a better place to raise a family. “I worried about my kids,” he said. “I just thought ‘I am going to lose my kids if I don’t do something.’”
Houston was the next place he said his family was thinking about, but they came to Alcoa because Ramirez’ brother was here. That one visit convinced them this was where they are meant to be.
In addition to being a pastor, Ramirez operates a car repair shop on East Broadway. He admits this recent tragedy has been his focus recently, but he hopes to get back on track soon.
“This is like starting over,” he said. “It’s bad, but I know we can get it done. There are so many good people here. God has blessed us.”