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'Everything I had that represented my life is gone' — Massive fire leaves victims plotting uncertain futures

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Posted at 5:20 PM, Apr 15, 2022

CLEVELAND — Investigators from the Cleveland Division of Fire are still trying to determine what sparked a massive four-alarm fire Thursday evening that damaged or destroyed five homes and a dozen vehicles on the city’s far east side. For those affected by the blaze, Friday brought the difficult task of determining what to do next.

Lt. Mike Norman, the spokesperson for the Cleveland Division of Fire, said that the cause of the fire was still under investigation. The massive blaze completely incinerated the home at 1847 Mannering Ave. before heavily damaging the two adjacent homes. Another home two doors down suffered roof and exterior damage. The wind-whipped blaze also sent embers flying onto the roof of a home on Haldane Rd., which is directly northeast of Mannering Ave.

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Only one home on Haldane was damaged. Eugenia Brashers has the unfortunate distinction of living in it.

“I was watching [the house catch on fire] and I’m all the way in Mentor,” Brashers said as she recalled rushing back home to Cleveland from her hospice care worker job. “Even if I was here, there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”

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The red hot embers quickly burned through the roof of the home before spreading down the joists and support structure of the home. Cleveland firefighters managed to knock down the interior walls of Brashers’ upstairs unit and ultimately extinguished the fire. By that point, however, the damage had been done.

“I don’t have no family here. This was home. This was home for a very long time. Now it’s all gone,” Brashers said. “It really hurts me to see everything that I worked so hard for, it’s gone.”

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Brashers has lived in Cleveland for 13 years and has no family living in the area. She also isn’t married, leaving her largely to fend for herself in putting her life back together again.

The Northeast Ohio chapter of the American Red Cross has provided Brashers with hotel room vouchers, but Brashers knows it’s only a short-term solution. Although she’s extremely thankful for the assistance, she knows she has a long way ahead of her.

Her furniture is either burned or ruined; her kitchenware has been turned into charred debris; her family photos no longer exist. In short, she has the clothes on her back.

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“This was home. This was my home. And I loved it,” Brashers said. “Every day after working hard, I’d shut that door and leave that world out there. Relax. This was my peace. This was my everything. Now it’s ruined. It’s gone. It’s rubble. Everything that I had that represented my life is gone.”

Brashers, who continues to receive treatment after being diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in 2020, still remains determined.

“I have to be. It’s just me. I’m not married or anything,” Brashers said. “I’m a survivor. I work hard and help people when I can.”

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