Community members in East Lyme are donating items to support families displaced by a fire earlier in the week.
Monday evening, a fire tore through the Midway Plaza in Niantic. The fire appears to have started in one of the upstairs apartments, according to Chief Chris Taylor, from the Flanders Fire Department. The cause is under investigation.
Large flames shot up from the building as firefighters from multiple departments rushed in to help. The upstairs units were left destroyed, with the roof gone and two-by-fours and insulation exposed.
According to the owner of the building, Joe DiBuono, the fire damaged four businesses and destroyed several second floor apartments. He said four families are displaced.
"It is tragic. I feel badly for the people that lost everything," said DiBuono.
Teams of contractors have been on-site and DiBuono said he is focused on rebuilding. In the meantime, community members have been helping to support the people affected.
"People have been reaching out to donate money, clothing, gift cards, blankets," said DiBuono. "It's been incredible."
Joanna Tian lived in one of the apartments that was destroyed. She was in New York celebrating Lunar New Year when the fire broke out. She returned to Connecticut to learn that she, her mom, and her toddler were all displaced.
"It's gone, but I am lucky for my family is safe," said Tian.
In addition to living in the plaza, Tian works there too. She owns a nail salon and had frequent visitors Wednesday as strangers offered up donations.
"We have to come together as a community and help these people. Kindness goes a long way," said Terri Bongo-Facchini, one of the people who dropped off a donation to Tian.
Salon Champagne, another business in the plaza, is collecting donations for anyone affected.
"They have nowhere to go. They have no beds- nothing. So anything helps," said Dana Champagne, owner of the salon.