‘Couldn’t do it on my own.’ Westport community rallies around family who lost everything in fire

Westport fire officials said crews managed to keep the flames from destroying the rest of the barn. Grace Frith told News 12 she lost all her belongings.

Marissa Alter

Jun 19, 2023, 11:55 PM

Updated 344 days ago

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Grace Frith, of Westport, is a strong believer in God.
“That morning, I was just—I just got up,” Frith explained about waking for an unknown reason before 6 a.m. on June 5. “Then I smelled something. I was like, ‘What’s that?’”
Frith said she started to check it out when her landlord banged on the door.
“He said, ‘Fire! Fire! Get out!’” Frith recalled, adding she woke her 12-year-old daughter and an aunt who was staying with them, and they all safely escaped.
Frith and her daughter, a student at Coleytown Middle School, had lived there—an apartment in a converted barn on Old Hill Road—for almost a year. Frith said once out, they watched the flames consume a wing in the U-shaped barn until firefighters arrived.
“I saw that to the left of us [our apartment] was on fire. The entire roof, like the second floor above us was on fire, and it was just going,” she remembered.
Westport fire officials said crews managed to keep the flames from destroying the rest of the barn. Frith told News 12 she lost all her belongings.
“Everything that I've acquired on this earth living in the U.S.,” she added. “I've been in the U.S. 16, 17 years.”
Frith is originally from Jamaica, which is where her extended family is, but she and her daughter have been in Westport for several years.
Now, the community has stepped up for Frith. The town’s department of Human Services and the Red Cross offered immediate assistance. She said the philanthropic group, Westport Onyx, showed up that morning to help and set up a meal train. Parents at Coleytown Middle School held a clothing drive and created a GoFundMe campaign for the family that's topped $50,000.
“On occasion, I'd look at it and am like, ‘What?’ You know?” Frith said incredulously. “I'm also part of a charity organization called FancyFrenz that this is what I do. I give to people that are in need. And now I was in a Red Cross truck, you know? It's just surreal.
The biggest concern for Frith is finding a new home. She said renters' insurance is covering a hotel room, but without an extension that will end this weekend.
“Right now, my main desire is just to find somewhere within Westport that I can move my family in comfortably and just continue living,” Frith explained.
She called the assistance from friends and strangers overwhelming but welcome.
“I couldn't do it on my own. For me, I just have to give God thanks,” she told News 12.
The Westport Fire Marshals Office is investigating the cause of the fire.


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