Flames engulfed the furniture, clothing and other personal belongings of USF students residing in The Province apartments Thursday.
The fire displaced 172 residents as it moved through building 18. Of those 172, 41 were unable to move back in due to damage, according to spokeswoman Gina Cowart.
The USF community is not taking the situation lying down, as three GoFundMe pages have been created to support the victims of the fire.
“We have other sorority sisters who lived in the complex, and we heard how bad it was,” said Kyra Lowery, the organizer of one of the GoFundMe pages and member of Kappa Delta. “We weren’t sure at first who was affected, how many people were affected, that it was even our sisters.
“Immediately we had people running out to buy the essentials: tooth paste, tooth brushes, shampoo, face wash, deodorant. Then it became apparent that they had lost pretty much everything and it was all gone. They had no money, they had no computers, and they had no clothes.”
According to multiple reports, discarded “smoking material” on the second-floor balcony started the fire.
The fire engulfed the building and burned four apartments before being put out by Tampa Fire Rescue. All of the residents of the building were temporarily removed.
The apartment complex has put those affected by the fire up in hotel rooms.
“The Province community has worked together to take care of each other during this unfortunate incident,” Cowart said in an email to The Oracle. “We were able to provide temporary accommodations to all residents who requested it. We also worked with nearby apartments to provide a list of vacancies to make it easier to find a new place.
“Residents were also provided with a list of USF resources in case additional support is needed.”
Between the three GoFundMe pages, over $4,800 has been raised. Lowery’s page, “USF Kappa Delta Sister Fire Damage,” has raised 75 percent of that, with $3,610. She said donations are continuing to come in.
The page “Province Fire Fundraiser” has collected $970, and the page “Province Fire Fund,” organized by the USF Panhellenic Association, has collected $230.
“We’ve had a lot of Kappa Deltas across the country contribute,” Lowery said. “But we’ve also had plenty of USF students and adults who know Danielle (Golson) and Shelby (Winkler) who were affected, and we’ve had just anonymous people who wanted to help out with the cause.”
Along with the GoFundMe page, Lowery said the sisters of Kappa Delta and others in Greek Life have been collecting spare clothes, food and toiletries for those impacted by the fire.
“At first, they were very positive about everything, and I think they were trying to keep their spirits high and not think about everything they’d lost,” Lowery said. “When they found out that their sisters had started this GoFundMe and had immediately started donating clothes and essential items, they completely just broke down.”
Lowery said she never thought they’d raise as much as they have and that every donation helps, regardless of the amount.
“I was just amazed at all of the support and love that was pouring out of everybody whether they knew someone effected or not,” Lowery said. “It just shows you that everyone is there for you in times of need and it just warmed my heart. It made me cry and I wasn’t even directly affected. The support from everyone has just been amazing and I couldn’t thank anyone more.”