FSU student who lost dog in fire, other survivors get support from community, university (2024)

Jonathan Correa woke up around 2 a.m. on Monday morning to the smell of smoke and the crackling noise of wood burning.

He didn’t yet know it, but three homes and 11 units in his student housing complex, Campus Row Tallahassee, were on fire.

First only half-awake, the fourth year FSU pre-med student thought the sensations were part of a dream. But a pounding on his door from his neighbors and an orange glow emanating from his window awoke him to the dire situation he was in.

The Miami native bolted out of his bedroom, and when he looked to his left, the whole back wall of his apartment was completely engulfed in flames.

Correa then went to wake up his roommate and the two went out the front door to safety. He said their third roommate was away for the night.

Now outside in the windy night, they soon saw the Tallahassee Fire Department evacuating the complex’s residents and multiple fire trucks quenching the flames with tremendous, high-pressure streams of water.

Correa and his roommate became part of a crowd of both fellow survivors and onlookers from closeby student housing complexes like SAGA Tallahassee, which is home to hundreds of FSU students

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Many of the survivors could be seen watching the fire in loungewear with their pets, roommates, friends and significant others.

Correa escaped unharmed but experienced a terrible loss that night.

His five-month old foster dog Tater had died in the fire. The puppy was locked in its cage which was set against the wall that Correa had seen consumed by fire.

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He had only been fostering the black lab mix from a local non-profit called Champs Chance for two weeks. Correa said losing Tater has been “hard mentally” and that he currently does not have plans to get another dog.

Cause of the Fire

The Fire Marshal's Office has not yet determined the official cause of the blaze.

But a Tallahassee Police officer told Correa the fire was caused by a mini fridge plugged into an electrical outlet on the porch of Correa’s apartment. Flames then enveloped the wall and spread to other units, helped by the wind gusts on the breezy morning.

Correa said they had the fridge for four years and it never had any issues before.

Two dozen students lives upended after fire

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Correa is joined by 25 other students who survived the fire. In total, the blaze tore through 11 units in three buildings.

Like many others, the fire completely burned Correa’s apartment and destroyed everything he owned.

He had been in his apartment unit for almost four years, and it's the only place he has lived in while he’s been a student at Florida State.

A GoFundMe was created by Correa’s close friend Joseph Bridges to help him pay for necessities like clothes and toiletries, replace his belongings and secure temporary housing.

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The online fundraising campaign has so-far raised $3,220 of its $4,000 goal from 110 donations. The goal was originally set at $2,000 and then $3,000 before it was raised to its current amount.

Another GoFundMe campaign went live to raise funds for a group of 5 survivors in two adjacent apartments. It was created by Shea Dermody, a “best friend” of one of them. It has raised $2,870 out of its $30,000 goal from 40 donations.

“I'm raising money for the group to be able to afford temporary housing as well as begin to rebuild their lives by purchasing clothes and other essentials,” states the campaign’s description.

Another GoFundMe raised more than $11,000 for two Marching Chiefs who "lost cherished possessions and the sense of security that comes with having a place to call home."

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Campus Row’s management has reached out to Correa and others to help them get temporary housing and file renter’s insurance claims.

The survivors have also received support from the Red Cross and FSU.

“Florida State University is providing support to students impacted by the fire at Campus Row apartments. The Division of Student Affairs is aware of and working with 26 students who have been affected by the fire,” the university said in a statement.

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The statement also said survivors can apply to the university’s Emergency Relief Fund and have been utilizing its food pantry.

It also said the university’s student affairs team has been sending “letters of support to the students’ instructors to advocate for incomplete grades or to postpone finals.”

Correa said after discussing his situation with his professors, he still has to take some of his finals while others have been postponed.

Benjamin Taubman is a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat. He can be reached atbtaubman@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on FSU News: Florida State students reeling after fire; community sending support

FSU student who lost dog in fire, other survivors get support from community, university (2024)

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