CHAI and The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore announced they have established an emergency fund to support rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the gas explosion on Aug. 10 in Northwest Baltimore’s Fallstaff neighborhood.
The explosion, at the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road near Reisterstown Road, killed two people, seriously wounded seven others, leveled three homes and damaged approximately 20 other nearby residences.
Baltimore Gas & Electric has completed an inspection of its gas and electric equipment serving the the block. “BGE has found that all of its equipment—gas mains, gas service pipes and gas meters, as well as electric equipment—has been operating safely and was not the cause of the natural gas explosion that occurred Aug. 10,” BGE said in a statement. BGE said it has no history of calls for service or for gas odor investigations in the area.
The Baltimore City Fire Department and other local, state and federal fire officials are currently investigating the cause of the blast, according to Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D-5th), who has been on the scene since minutes after the explosion.
“This quiet neighborhood is in the service area of CHAI, an agency of The Associated,” read an Associated post on Facebook. “Given CHAI’s mission of community development, housing and strengthening neighborhoods, CHAI professionals are working with Baltimore City officials on the needs of those affected. As needs continue to be assessed, CHAI is poised to help, bringing its expertise and experience in home repair and community support to neighbors whose homes were damaged by the blast. …
“100% of all funds will be directly used by CHAI to offer home repair, supplies and services to those in need of support, neighborhood clean-up and other community needs as determined. The restoring of the street and homes will take time … Together, we can support this wonderful neighborhood as it recovers from a tragic accident.”
One of the deceased was Joseph Graham, 20, a rising sophomore at Morgan State University majoring in engineering.
The other victim was identified as Lonnie Herriott, a 61-year-old woman who was reportedly staying with her boyfriend at the time of the explosion. Herriott is survived by her mother, two sisters and a brother.
In a statement, Morgan State University statement said of Graham, “As a community, we mourn the tragic loss of life as a result of this calamitous event and offer our deepest sympathies to the Graham family. We ask that you keep them and their extended family and friends in prayer.”
Among the injured, according to media reports, is a 34-year-old man who remains in critical condition.
The blast also left nearly 30 people displaced.
The three destroyed houses, built in 1960, were owned by Owings Mills resident Leroy Johnson, according to local media outlets.
Councilman Schleifer said he and his team have been working around the clock at the blast site since Monday. He said he was initially informed by a phone caller that the Exxon station at Reisterstown and Labyrinth roads had exploded. But then he noticed emergency personnel at the actual site of the explosion.
“It was a chaotic scene,” Schleifer said. “People were coming out of their homes covered in blood. It was impossible to know where people were [in the rubble], and firefighters were pulling out people from their basement windows. It was very traumatic for everyone there.”
Over the last few days, Schleifer and his team have worked closely with city agencies and local volunteer groups to clean up the rubble and debris in the area; to find accommodations for neighbors impacted by the blast; to assist residents in gaining access to clothing and medicine at their residences; and to help resettle people into their homes.
In addition, he has worked closely with insurance agencies and the Maryland Insurance Administration to help those impacted by the explosion.
“I want people to be treated fairly and get the coverage and payouts needed to rebuild,” Schleifer said. “We want to help these people as much as possible.”
Among the volunteers helping out is a group from Suburban Orthodox-Toras Chaim Synagogue in Northwest Baltimore. In particular, the shul volunteers have been helping seniors affected by the blast with home cleaning. Meanwhile, other volunteers have come by offering food, beverages and grocery store gift certificates to residents.
For those who want to help out, Schleifer strongly recommended contributing to the Associated’s emergency fund.
“That fund will help people with rebuilding efforts, especially people without coverage,” he said. “We’re hoping the fund will raise a good deal of money to help these folks.”
When the bulk of the money from the Associated emergency fund is raised, Schleifer said he plans to work closely with CHAI to document the needs of the residents. He said CHAI will help with such matters as recruiting volunteers and obtaining grants for projects like facade improvements.
“We appreciate everyone who so far has come out and shown support,” said Schleifer.
In a statement regarding rebuilding efforts in Fallstaff, CHAI Chief Executive Officer Lisa K. Budlow said, “CHAI will coordinate home repair efforts through our network of community partners. CHAI partners with Sinai Hospital to do home repairs for seniors through the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) program. HUBS operates through a partnership of agencies that offers home repair throughout Baltimore City. Though the program is aimed at serving seniors, several HUBS partners are able to do repairs for non-seniors as well.
“CHAI has social workers on staff who will work with residents to assess repair needs, access funding and schedule repairs. CHAI’s home repair technicians can do most repairs themselves or will call in a vetted contractor to complete larger repairs. CHAI’s community development team is working collaboratively with the Fallstaff Improvement Association to assess block needs with a goal of restoring the block to a safe, clean condition.
“The funds raised through The Associated’s emergency fund can support home repair needs to help residents rehabilitate their homes. The ultimate goal is for residents to live in safe homes on restored blocks and get back to their lives as soon as possible.”
For information about the CHAI/Assciated emergency fund, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 410-369-9300 or visit https://payments.associated.org/pikesville?fbclid=IwAR1UMqvP9btMpgQwMfc1v1ODDUNXgilgGQtLLvd-hZu9pc4GZ5VrHZquqBk.