A huge blaze completely destroyed a building at the Ashford at Stoneridge Apartments on Flat Shoals Road in Riverdale Wednesday evening. About 38 people have lost their homes and everything inside, according to the American Red Cross. However, no injuries or deaths were reported.
Witnesses say the fire broke out in an upstairs apartment just before 7:30 p.m. The fire sent a huge column of black smoke into the air that was visible north of the airport. A thick haze of smoke spread for about a quarter mile into surrounding neighborhoods.
After the smoke clears
The American Red Cross works closely with Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services and other local agencies to help people find temporary housing and navigate the bureaucracy after a fire or other disaster. Beware of scammers who may try to prey on you while you are under stress.
What happens if you lose your home in a fire or other disaster? The American Red Cross offers a guidebook called “Picking Up the Pieces After A Fire.” In it, people who have survived a fire can find out what steps to take, the emotions to expect, how children might react, how to deal with pets, how to get copies of your vital documents, and what to look for at the site itself.
Renters generally don’t have to worry about issues like structural damage repair and reconnecting utilities that affect homeowners. However, not all renters have rental insurance, which covers the contents of their apartment or rental house.
Based on the guidebook, we’ve compiled a list of helpful contacts. Consult with Red Cross Disaster Services about specific steps to take if you have any questions.
Replacing your paperwork
- Driver’s license: Georgia Department of Driver Services (replace lost or stolen Georgia driver’s license or ID).
- Government-issued ID: Contact the agency that issued the ID.
- Insurance policy: If you lost renter’s insurance, car insurance, life insurance, or other insurance policy paperwork in the fire, call your insurance agent or the insurance company.
- Military discharge papers: Call the Department of Veterans Affairs at (800) 827-1000 or TDD/TTY at (800) 829-4833.
- U.S. Passport: Call the U.S. State Department Passport Services Office at (202) 955-0430, which is open 24 hours.
- Birth/death/marriage certificates: Contact the state that issued the document. In Georgia, the Department of Vital Records issues birth, adoption, paternity acknowledgement, death, and marriage certificates.
- Passports /birth/death/marriage certificates from other countries: Contact your nearest Consular Office or embassy.
- El teléfono del Consulado General de México en Atlanta es (404) 266-2233. Llamar directamente a (404) 736-4141 para asistencia. Para ayuda en lenguas indígenas mexicanas, visite https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/atlanta/index.php/servicios-consulares-en-lenguas-indigenas .
- High school, college, and university diplomas: Contact the registrar at the institution that issued your diploma. Clayton County Public Schools requires you to order a copy of your transcript first, then place your order for a replacement diploma ($60). Current students also can order their student records or transcripts for free. If you graduated from a high school outside of Clayton County, contact that school system. Here are some area college registrar’s offices:
- Clayton State University
fax (678) 466-4169
- Georgia State University
Replacement diploma form ($20, must be notarized)
Request for certification of diploma form
- Atlanta Technical College
Credential Request Form ($25, within 5 years of graduation)
- Atlanta Metropolitan State College
fax (404) 756-5686
Diploma Reorder Form ($20)
- Savannah State University
fax (912) 358-3165
Diploma reorder through Tigerworld login
- Morehouse College
Diploma Reorder Form ($45)
- Spelman College
fax (404) 270-5234
Replacement Diploma Form ($35)
- Clayton State University
- Immunization records: Georgia immunization records can be ordered through the Georgia Immunization Registry or your local health department. For COVID-19 vaccination records, contact your local health department. (Here’s a list of all Georgia health departments.) The Clayton County Health Department‘s number is (678) 610-7199.
- Social Security and Medicare cards: Contact your local Social Security office. There is no cost to replace these cards, so do not pay anyone to do it for you. You also may be able to replace your card online through your mySSA account. There’s a Social Security office outside Southlake Mall in Morrow at 6670 Merchants Way, and another in East Point at 3800 Camp Creek Parkway, Building 2400, Suite 122. Closing time is 4 p.m. You also can call (800) 772-1213 or TDD/TTY (800) 325-0778.
- Credit/debit cards: Contact the issuer immediately. For VISA and MasterCard, especially for debit cards, call the bank that issued your card. Here are some other numbers to call:
- American Express: (800) 441-0519
- Discover: (800) DISCOVER (800-347-2683) or TDD/TTY (800) 347-7449
- Target: (800) 424-6888
- Walmart Credit Card: (877) 294-7880
- Walmart Pay Card: (800) 903-4698
- Best Buy: (888) 574-1301
- Wells Fargo Debit Card: 800-869-3557 (you may be able to get a PIN to access your account through an ATM until your replacement card comes)
- Wells Fargo Credit Card: 800-642-4720 (they will ask for your account number)
- Old tax forms: Contact the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-1040 or your tax preparer.
- U.S. Citizenship Papers: Contact the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services at (800) 375-5283.
- Wills: Contact your attorney.
- Stocks and bonds: Contact the issuer or your stockbroker. If you lost paper U.S. Savings Bonds, you’ll need to have specific information in order to replace them. If you don’t have the bond numbers, you’ll need at least the months and years they were issued, you Social Security number, the full names (including initials) on the bonds, and the address. The U.S. Treasury Department now issues electronic bonds as replacements for paper EE Savings Bonds.
- Titles to deeds: Contact the records department that covers the area where the property is. For Clayton County, that’s the Clerk of Superior Court’s Real Estate Division in the Harold Banke Justice Center, downstairs in Room 1CL25. Call (770) 477-3395 or e-mail ClerkSuperior@claytoncountyga.gov for help. Keep in mind that clerks cannot give legal advice. The office keeps records of “deeds, UCCs, intangible taxes, transfer taxes, plats, notary commissions, military discharges, and liens.”
- Mortgage papers: Contact the lender who issued your mortgage. You also might contact the closing attorney’s office.
Taking care of yourself
The American Red Cross also offers these tips for people who have been affected by a fire or other disaster:
- Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.
- Get rest and drink plenty of water.
- Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio, and in the newspapers.
- Focus on the positive.
- Recognize your own feelings.
- Reach out and accept help from others.
- Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
- Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.
- Realize that, sometimes, recovery can take time.
Renter’s insurance: worth the cost
For about $5—$14 per month, according to Forbes Magazine, you can insure all your possessions inside your apartment or rental home. Don’t count on your landlord’s insurance company to compensate you for your losses. Check Forbes’ recommendations for renters’ insurance.
Before disaster strikes
You can take action now to protect your possessions before a disaster wipes them out. The most important things you can do are to make a list of every valuable item in your home, including makes, models, serial numbers, and (if possible) receipts showing what you paid for each item or a list price you find online. Don’t worry about hand-me-down sofas that you can easily replace through Craigslist or Goodwill. Go through each room and write down serial numbers for things like:
- Cell phones
- Stereo systems
- Musical instruments
- Kitchen appliances
- Power tools
If you own books, write down or scan the barcode into your phone. Books can be expensive to replace. That includes textbooks for current students.
Once you’ve collected all the information, make a digital copy and e-mail it to yourself on an account that you know you will be able to access in the future (like a free Gmail account).
To avoid identity theft problems, do not include numbers from financial documents or vital records. Consider renting a safe deposit box at a bank to hold physical copies of your serial number list, your account numbers, passports, birth certificates, and other important records. You also can store small valuables (like jewelry) in a safe deposit box. Contact your bank for more information.
Smoke detectors save lives
Is your landlord’s smoke detector working? Hit the test button. If not, try replacing the battery. If that doesn’t work, contact your landlord to replace the smoke detector. If they don’t respond immediately, contact your nearest fire department, which might be able to check the detector for you or offer you or your landlord a free replacement.