Many initiatives launched to help victims of Saugerties fire

The memorial at 18-20 Russell St. (photo by Christina Coulter)

A small memorial, a pair of crosses and a wreath outfitted with flowers and balloons, sat quietly this week outside the gaunt and charred remains of 18-20 Russell St., paying a silent and poignant tribute to the tragedy which happened there less than two weeks ago.

The cause of the deadly fire on April 21 that claimed the life of 46-year-old Tanya Conklin won’t be determined until the end of May, according to Saugerties Police Chief Joe Sinagra.

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Investigators have determined that the fire began on the first floor of the building. Although rumors have circulated as to the blaze’s precise cause, no answers have yet been released to the public.

“If there’s anything that could’ve been prevented, I think we all need to know,” said neighbor Mary Schultz. “We need to know what we can do to avoid anything like this in the future — anything we can know about this would be appreciated.”

More apparent is the outpouring of support for the Conklin and Khan families, who lost a lifetime of material possessions in the blaze. Since April 22, Mirabella’s has been receiving donations of clothing and creature comforts organized by the Saugerties Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary for those affected.

“It was overwhelming, the amount that we did get,” said Mirabella’s manager Jerry Malgieri. “We got clothes, we got gift certificates, we got shoes — all types of stuff they dropped off.” 

Price Chopper branches within the county, including the location on Ulster Avenue that employs Brittany Conklin, whose mother Tanya succumbed to the blaze, have been matching donations up to $1,000 to support the Conklin family. In addition there have been Two GoFundMe initiatives, one for the Conklin family and the other for the Khans; $2,805 and $3,100 have been raised, as of midweek, respectively for the two rebuilding families. There’s also a daily yard sale at 1676 Old Kings Highway put together by Jessica Churchill. From noon until 6 p.m., weather permitting, until the 15th of this month; they are accepting all donations except clothing.

“I actually personally know the Khan family. I used to live in that house and was their neighbor — their children played with my children,” said Churchill. “It really touched me because I had lived there, and if I hadn’t moved out to buy a house with my mom and my grandmother, we could have been in the fire as well. They’re a loving family, and they’re good people. At the beginning, there was nothing spoken about the Khan family and I wanted to help them. We spread out over Facebook and we got numerous donations for them.”

Churchill said at this time they are looking for gift cards, household items and toiletries, including a laundry basket, toilet paper, a toaster and kitchen supplies. Thus far, they have raised about $350 for the family and $75 in gas cards.

Donations are still incoming and appreciated. Members of the Conklin family include a man in his 40s that wears 32×32 pants, size 10 ½ shoes and men’s large shirts; a male in his 20s that wears 29×32 pants, size 9 ½ shoes and medium-sized shirts; another male in his 20s that wears 32×32 pants, size 8 shoes and medium-sized shirts; a female in her  20s that wears size 0 or 1 pants, small shirts and size 5 shoes; another woman in her twenties that wears size 1 or 2 pants, size 3 shoes and small shirts; a girl in her mid-teens that wears size 4-5 jeans, size four shoes, large leggings and medium-sized shirts and a nine-year-old girl that wears kid’s size 10/12 jeans, kid’s large leggings, kid’s medium-sized shirts and kid’s large leggings. In terms of toys, the young girl is interested in “Shopkins Pet Shop” toys, Hatchimals, Baby Alive toys, LittlePetShop toys and baby dolls. The Khan family has three children; a boy who wears a boy’s size 12/14 and is interested in dinosaurs, drawing and Minecraft; a girl who wears a girl’s size 10/12, size 3 girl’s shoes and is interested in stuffed animals, flowers, nail polish, dolls and Disney princesses; and a three-year-old girl who wears sizes 3T and 4T and wears size 8 toddler shoes. All of the children involved lost their bicycles in the fire. The Khan parents wear a men’s size medium and a women’s size large respectively. Both of the families could use gift cards to local restaurants and stores like Target and Walmart.

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