RICHMOND -- Linda Fountain arrived home from work Dec. 6 to find a fire truck in front of her house and the roof of the house engulfed in flames.
Her first panicked thoughts were about the safety of her 28-year-old disabled daughter, Amy, who was being looked after by her caregiver.
After Fountain scrambled out of her car, a neighbor who was standing by calmed her fears, telling her that the caregiver had been able to move Amy out of the house shortly after the fire started in the kitchen.
It wasn't until after she was reunited with her daughter and the fire crew had doused the flames that Fountain's thoughts turned to a less-pressing but still important issue: Where were she and Amy going to live?
That question is still unanswered, although neighborhood groups and businesses have pitched in to help with some of their expenses, including laundry and meals, while Fountain looks for a new home.
The house on Fran Way that they had lived in for eight years sustained enough fire and smoke damage that it will be uninhabitable for months.
Mother and daughter are staying in a hotel while Fountain, 48, searches for another rental in her off hours from her job as a legal assistant and office manager at Rubicon Legal Services in Richmond. Their 12 days of housing benefits from the Red Cross have run out, and Fountain said she is paying $500 a week for a hotel room with a small kitchen.
Although Fountain says she can afford $1,500 a
Amy was born with a cyst on her brain that resulted in permanent brain damage. She has limited communications skills and needs 24-hour care and assistance with bathing. She's also diabetic, Fountain said.
"We need someplace with a wheelchair ramp," she said. "Some of the stuff we have run into is, like, on the fourth floor. When you find something-wheelchair accessible, it's way up in price."
Fountain's neighbors and co-workers have started a fund to help her restore the personal possessions lost in the fire and provide some of the $3,000 or more that it will take to move into a new rental.
"They're looking for a place in a nice, quiet, safe neighborhood, where the doors are wide enough for wheelchairs, and the funds to help them get in there," said Linda Campbell, block captain of the Santa Rita Road Neighborhood Watch, one of the community groups that is helping out.
Donations to help the Fountains can be sent to Mechanics Bank, 3884 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante, CA 94803. Checks should be made payable to Fire Fund for the Fountain Family.