Lincoln Heights community trying to help family who lost home to fire, leaving them living in tent

Tim Pulliam Image
Monday, July 25, 2022
Lincoln Heights family loses everything to fire, now living in tent
A Lincoln Heights family lost everything when their apartment went up in flames.

LINCOLN HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Lincoln Heights family lost everything when their apartment went up in flames.

Now neighbors are rallying to help them get back on their feet.

The displaced family has been sleeping in a tent, barely getting by.

"It's been tough on all of us, mostly my mother. I've seen her cry the most and it really hurts us to see this is the reality we are living through," Gabriel Benitez Jr. said.

You can hear the devastation in their voice. The Benitez family is traumatized by this violent fire ripping through their apartment off Griffin Avenue in Lincoln Heights.

"Everything that's burnt is in front of us so just seeing that hurts," said Mariachristina Benitez.

Overnight on Tuesday, the family woke to see their kitchen on fire.

"Me and my mom break the fire extinguisher and we use it to sort of put out the fire but it wasn't enough," Gabriel said.

Firefighters battled the plumes of smoke and flames shooting from the two-story apartment building as neighbors scrambled barefoot, wearing little clothing and in shock.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said at least three families were displaced from the blaze.

On Sunday, the Benitez family showed Eyewitness News what's left of their home. Each room was burned and damaged.

The family said the landlord gave them back their security deposit and that's it.

"She said our lease was terminated because of the fire, a fire that wasn't even our fault," Gabriel said.

Without a place to go, the family is relying on a GoFundMe page, raising more than $25,000 and lots of awareness.

People have brought them food and water.

Tenants' rights advocates hope the funds will help them find a place to stay in the community, as affordable, safe housing remains challenging.

"They are living in a rent-controlled unit and compared to market rates in Lincoln Heights, right now that amount of money we have raised won't get them very far," said Araceli Veloz, L.A. Tenants Union tenant advocate. "They have been pretty much priced out of the community."

The landlord has not responded for comment.