As Jackie Freeburger watched her Loch Raven Village row house burn early on the morning of July 4, a neighbor she did not know walked up and handed her a box of tissues and a bottle of wine.
“She said she just wanted to help but didn’t know how,” Freeburger said. “It was like the sweetest thing. I didn’t know how to help me either at that point.”
In the aftermath of the Independence Day fire, which damaged five row houses in Loch Raven Village, Freeburger said the response from the community has been overwhelming. Neighbors, as well as her co-workers at Ridgely Middle School, have come together offering money and other donations to help the affected families get back on their feet.
“The community has been amazing,” Freeburger said. “Our family and support system has been phenomenal.”
The fire started sometime after 2 a.m. July 4 in the 1800 block of Edgewood Road, said Elise Armacost, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman. It was extinguished at about 4:20 a.m. Five homes were affected, with damage estimated at $750,000, she said, and the cause is still under investigation.
About 35 units responded to the two-alarm fire, and one firefighter suffered minor injuries, Armacost said. There were no civilian injuries, she said. Freeburger said three pets in total died in the fire.
Multiple families were displaced, including Freeburger’s; she, her husband, Tim, and their 2-year-old son, Christopher, will be out of the house for at least a year while it is gutted and rebuilt, she said. They are living in a hotel until they can move into temporary housing in York Manor near Ridgely Middle School, where she works as a music teacher.
They lost nearly all their belongings, Freeburger said, including her son’s favorite toys, her wedding dress and her grandmother’s Christmas ornaments. One firefighter salvaged some baby and wedding photos off the walls, but the rest of their possessions were largely destroyed.
But as Freeburger and the other affected families took stock of what was lost, the neighborhood launched its efforts to help.
Colleen Baldwin, a Loch Raven Village resident who lives around the corner from where the fire took place, was one of the community members who took the lead in disseminating information on the private neighborhood Facebook page about ways to help.
“I looked out my window that morning and saw all of the activity going on and started to think about what we could do,” Baldwin said.
“We’ve had people offering everything from thoughts and prayers all the way up to a house,” Freeburger said. “It makes things less awful.”
Some volunteered their houses as donation drop-off points for tangible items. Others worked with an older couple affected by the fire without a social media presence to make sure people knew how to help them. Ridgely Middle School also collected donations for Freeburger and Courtney Bucci, who was living with the Freeburgers during the fire and also works at the school as a special education teacher.
Baldwin’s 8-year-old son, Ryan, decided to launch a lemonade stand with a group of neighborhood children ranging from 3 to 13 to benefit the families affected. The venture on July 7 brought in more than $1,000, Baldwin said.
GoFundMe pages were set up on for each of the victims, and neighbors established PayPal accounts to accept donations on their behalf. The Loch Raven Village Community Association, which encompasses more than 1,400 homes, plans to put a PayPal button on its page, too, said president Peter Moulder.