Burlington Press Free
Sunday June 10, 2018
When Asha Haji was rushed to University of Vermont Medical Center late Saturday morning, she felt a great fear.Along with her family, neighbors — and firefighters — she believed her eldest son, a young adult, had been trapped in the building. Several members of the refugee family speak Somali; a language barrier helped cause initial confusion about everyone's whereabouts, authorities said.
A fire had destroyed her family’s home in Burlington’s South End. Haji had jumped from a second-story window shortly after 11 a.m. to escape the flames.
Thirty agonizing minutes later, a relative reached her son on the phone: He had not been in the townhouse apartment at 36 South Meadow Drive, and was safe.
Tears of relief and cries of “Alhamdulillah” (Arabic for “praise God,” or “Hallelujah”) swept through the extended family of new Somali-Americans gathered beneath a nearby tree.
Hospital officials had not released Haji’s condition by mid-afternoon Saturday. Nastisha Abdullahi, her niece, said Haji had perhaps injured in back after leaping to safety.
The cause of the three-alarm fire at the low- and middle-income housing complex remains under investigation, Burlington Fire Chief Steven Locke said.
Three other units in the townhouse suffered fire and water damage, Locke added.
Residents in those units, as well as those in four additional apartments in the Champlain Housing Trust-owned building, are being relocated to hotel suites, Michael Monte, chief operating and financial officer at Champlain Housing Trust, told the Free Press.
In the longer term, homes for those tenants would be found in other housing owned or managed by the Burlington-based nonprofit, Monte said.
Champlain Housing Trust manages 2,200 apartments and stewards 565 owner-occupied homes through a shared-equity program, according to its website.