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A second fund-raiser underway

UPDATED March 8: A fire that began on the back porch engulfed a two-family home at 10 White St., East Arlington, on Sunday, Feb. 20, leaving both families homeless. Two fund-raisers aim to help victims, YourArlington partner Patch reports.

The GoFundMe campaign seeks $40,000 >> (total was $54,976 by March 8)

Emma Jaeger, who is raising money for her sister and her roommates who lost their home to the fire, has begun a second GoFundMe campaign, seeking $7,000 >> (total was $5,613 by March 8)

To paraphrase a famous African proverb, it can take an international village to help a family cope with sudden devastation. That’s what Patricia Kabitzke discovered after losing her Arlington home. Her gratitude extends to:

  • The firefighters who did “an astounding job.”
  • The downstairs 20-somethings who pounded on the door repeatedly to warn them to flee as they themselves were doing.
  • Other neighbors letting them move in temporarily.
  • Friends of decades’ standing from various West Coast states who persuaded her to allow online crowdfunding.
  • Arlington Public Schools officials, from teachers to principals to the superintendent’s office, who have kept in contact.

Like many other houses locally, 10 White St. is divided into an upstairs unit and a downstairs unit; the four-member family occupied the upstairs until flames took it away from them.

“I’ve felt really lifted up” by the support, the encouragement and the “really whole-hearted friendship and fellowship,” Kabitzke said by telephone Wednesday, Feb. 23.

“The funding is just amazing and so needed,” she said. “I’m not used to asking for or accepting that kind of help.” It is making a huge difference, not only financially, but also emotionally, “making this most awful sad traumatic stressful experience” more bearable.

Returned from Costa Rica

She herself had returned to Arlington only Tuesday night, having been in Costa Rica on a long-planned reunion with female friends when the fire broke out.

It was these women who set up the GoFundMe account, which met its original $25,000 goal in less than 48 hours. 

Officials survey 10 White St. / AFD photoOfficials survey 10 White St. / AFD photo

Alerted while preparing for dinner, her husband and their two young daughters had to run out immediately into the cold night shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday. After the fire was extinguished, they were allowed to return momentarily to retrieve essentials.

Also physically unscathed was the family dog, Lily, a 13-pound, 6-year-old female terrier mix. Sadly, not so lucky were Pepper and Betty, the “sweet” female pet rats presumed to have perished in the fire that tore through the back of the building and is currently believed to have begun on the back porch.

“Thank God for the people downstairs,” Kabitzke said, whom she described as four college students or recent graduates. She said she believes that all are being housed by family members in New England, but knows the name of only one: Lauren Jager.

No relatives nearby

Being from the San Francisco Bay area in California, other than her immediate family, she has no relatives nearby, nor does her husband, freelance filmmaker Marco Franzoni, originally from Italy. They moved to Arlington in July 2019 for Kabitzke’s job, having previously lived in the greater New York City area for some 22 years.

She said they are both extremely grateful for what the community is doing for them as relative newcomers.

Kabitzke said she will send the kids back to campus when classes resume Monday after the current winter break, so as to reclaim a sense of “normalcy.” Beatrice, 10, is in fifth grade at Hardy Elementary School, while Juniper, 13, is in eighth grade at Ottoson Middle School. They are in great spirits currently though are perhaps too young to fully grasp the extent of the loss or the time frame of the recovery, she said.

She plans to return as soon as she can to her own work. She is senior advisor and chief of staff at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge and holds a Ph.D. in biopsychology and behavioral neuroscience.

They expect to be able to stay where they are at least through Sunday. After that, the path forward is not clear. “It’s overwhelming and confusing,” she said. “I really welcome guidance.”

Fire report requested

The Fire Department has been asked for a report.

A police report says that at 7:14 p.m. Sunday, four officers responded to 10 White St. to investigate a report of a fire on a back porch. Arriving were Arlington Fire E1, E2, E3, L1, Rescue 1 and C2. A second alarm was sounded. Also taking part were Cambridge Engine, Somerville Ladder, Belmont Engine, Medford Engine and Armstrong ALS.

Police found the entire second story in flames. As a precaution, because of windy conditions, nearby homes on White Street and Dorothy Road were evacuated.

Police spoke with all in the home at the time. The APD report lists six people, whose ages range from 10 to 54.

Police also spoke with the owner. The report redacts all names, but the fund-raiser identifies two as Marco Franzoni and Patricia Kabitzke.

A resident told police that when she saw the fire, she yelled for all to leave. She banged on her upstairs neighbors' door to alert them.

Asked whether any of them were doing anything that could have led to a fire, and all stated no.

A resident said he brought his two daughters to a neighbor's home so they could stay warm.

Arlington Fire extinguished the fire.

Lt. Detective Gallagher was investigating at the time of this report.

The occupants of 10 White St. stayed at neighbors' homes.

About 1:24 a.m. Monday, Feb. 21, authorities responded to an alarm of fire rekindling. Emergency Action Management was on scene, awaiting the Fire Department. No one was inside the home, police were told.

A small fire on the back porch was extinguished. 

Feb. 22, 2022: Fire in Arlington multifamily home under investigation (video)
Jan. 30, 2022: Audio chronicles unfolding drama of early morning Chestnut fire

This news summary was published Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, and updated Feb. 23, to add interview by YourArlington freelancer Judith Pfeffer, and then thereafter to note fund total. Bob Sprague contributed.