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Red Cross steps in to help fire victims

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The American Red Cross is stepping in to help those displace from the International Residence Apartments.

Imagine losing all your personal belongings in an instant. That's what happened to many families living in a northwest Austin apartment complex after a fire swept through their homes.

"It was surreal when everyone was being evacuated, especially because we had no way out," said Sue Hollenberg, an evacuated tenant.

Sixty-eight units at the International Residence Apartments on Copper Creek Drive were destroyed by intense flames.

"I just grabbed a suitcase and just threw in socks, a few pairs of socks, a few pairs of underwear for us.  Joey, his suitcase got left behind, so he's just got the clothes on his back," Hollenberg said.

FOX 7 found Sue Hollenerg and her family at the emergency shelter set up at the Northwest Fellowship Church.

"None of us went to bed last night expecting to be here today, so I can only ask that everyone takes a minute, checks their smoke alarm and talks to their family about what they would do if there was an emergency," said Sara Kennedy, with the American Red Cross.

Sue focused on packing up her families' memories.

Sue said, "Patrick's mother is from Korea and so we can't get those photo albums back that were hers, we can't replace those things, they're irreplaceable."

Sara Kennedy, with the American Red Cross says they're helping by replacing things like food and clothing.

Kennedy said, "We're helping families replace medications...we also have mental health professionals who are Red Cross volunteers, here, speaking with people."

Sixty-eight people are staying at the shelter and it will be open to all members of the family for as long as they need.

"As much routine as we can maintain, the better this is.  It helps reduce stress for both people and pets," said Kennedy.

Rows of vehicles at the complex were engulfed by the fire, even melting the tires.

"Not optimistic for the items that are in the living room...according to the fire department, it's probably heavy water and smoke damage," said Hollenberg.

Still, sue and her family consider themselves lucky.

"We've got great insurance that's going to reimburse us, you know, for everything," Sue added.

And won't be accepting any donations.

"We'll be in a hotel for Christmas, not home," added Sue.

They're not focusing on what they don't have.

Sue said, "It really makes you look at what's important and what's not."

Sue's grateful to have the two men in her life, safe and sound and by her side.

The Austin Disaster Relief Network is accepting all donations--basic necessities like toiletries, food, clothes, even mattresses and for the kids, they're collecting toys.

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