York County community rallies to assist victims of deadly fire

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Fire victim Christina Miller, holds her dog Sky, while attending a donation collection organized by the Southern PA Incident Network (SPIN), Sunday, March 8, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Members of the York County community rallied together to donate clothes, furniture and gift cards to assist more than a dozen people who were displaced in a deadly York City fire Thursday. 

Dozens of bags and boxes of clothing, baby items and shoes piled up as community members showed up to U-Stor-It, located at 1331 N. Sherman St., to a donation drive organized by the Southern PA Incident Network. Donations will also be collected from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday. 

"We didn't know how many people cared about us until this," said Erik Frey, who lost his home in the fire.

Frey, along with 13 other adults and four children, was displaced in a fire at 608 S. Pershing Ave. It took firefighters three hours to extinguish the blaze, which damaged two neighboring houses and resulted in about $400,000 in damage, York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff said.

Frey's cousin, Brandon Raye Eaton, 24, died while trying to save their family's dogs. More than $3,800 was raised through GoFundMe for Eaton's funeral expenses, and Prospect Hill Cemetery in York City is providing the family with a plot at no charge. 

More:Officials ID York City man who died trying to rescue dogs from fire

Christina Miller, Frey's girlfriend, said when the fire started she was awake and began running through the house alerting family members to get out.

Choking up and with tears in her eyes, Miller said Eaton saved her daughter.

"The young man that died in the fire is the one who carried her out of the house before running back in," Miller said. "He didn't make it, but he saved my baby."

Miller's dog, Sky, was also pulled out of the apartment just in time — but her litter of five puppies didn't make it. A litter of four kittens and two chinchillas also didn't survive.

Members of the Southern PA Incident Network (SPIN) collect donations for recent fire victims, Sunday, March 8, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Patrick Schiding, a volunteer with SPIN, said the community's overwhelming response wanting to help the fire victims prompted organization members to start the donation drive.

"We do what we can to help out," Schiding said. "These first responders help everybody else, and this is our way of giving back."

Cheryl Finefrock, who showed up at the donation drive, said she had planned to donate items to Salvation Army but decided to give clothing and shoes to the victims after hearing the affected families needed items. 

"I feel so sorry that they've lost everything. My heart goes out to them," said Finefrock, of Manchester Township. "I'll be bringing more."

Fire fighter Brian Witmer and Southern PA Incident Network (SPIN) volunteer, loads collected donations for recent fire victims into a truck to place in storage, Sunday, March 8, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

In the wake of the fire, Frey said the community's support and generosity has been vital for his family. 

"I can't even put it into words," Miller added. "We appreciate everything that everyone's done."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.