East Palestine families seek shelter following massive fire
With the safety of residents in mind, the major accident involving a derailed train forced hundreds out of their homes after a massive fire broke out in East Palestine Friday evening.
21 News' Erin Simonek followed the scene of neighborhoods being notified to seek shelter and how the East Palestine School District stepped up to help.
"We're glad to be here for the community," said Chris Neifer, Superintendent of East Palestine City Schools. "There's really nowhere else to go unless you're going out of town at this point."
Trooper Myers with OSP and several other law enforcement officials evacuated homeowners in a close radius of this intense fire.
"When the fire started spreading behind my house, I knew it was time to go," said William Hugar of East Palestine. "Police came up and told me. I knew it was time to evacuate."
Early Saturday morning brought a scene of deserted homes and empty streets as officials worked to tame the fire.
East Palestine Schools already have a plan in place to make their high school an emergency hub for situations like these. The district brought school buses around the community and picked up homeowners affected and bring them to East Palestine High School for shelter. The American Red Cross was also assisting people once they were inside of the gymnasium.
"We got the phone call from the police department and they asked us to enact our all-call system and use our social media to alert everyone of the evacuation situation," Neifer explained. "We [East Palestine High School] are one of the county management systems here in the county so we came down and opened the buildings for people to keep warm."
The district provided water, coffee, and snacks to families in the gymnasium on the high school. Many families had sleeping bags and they made their makeshift beds on the bleachers. The temperature outside was 7 degrees when this was unfolding.
"I had to wake him up," said Ann McAnlis of Lyons Ave in East Palestine, talking about her husband. "And my neighbor texted me and she asked me if I knew that there was an accident with the trains. She took a picture of the glow in the sky from the front porch. That's when I knew how substantial this was."
Dozens of community members remained calm in the gymnasium and praised the school district for doing what they could to help.
Locations including Studio 25 are also open for people in need of a place to stay.
The evacuation is in place until it's deemed safe enough for these families to go back home as of Saturday morning.