Trust fund established in memory of fire victim

Sasha Parker

Neighbor Helen Reid has established a trust fund to help the family of 20-month-old Alyssa Staples, who died last week after a fire at the Hillcrest Apartment Complex.

Donations for the family are being accepted at any National City location.

Reid lives on the second floor of the three-story building in the complex on Silver Meadows Boulevard. She used to baby-sit for Alyssa’s mother, Julie Sweet, every day.

“Julie is a very good mother and like a daughter to me,” Reid said. “I’m totally lost without my friend or her kids. I often find myself going downstairs and sitting on the steps, trying to make sense of this whole thing.”

The fire started when Alyssa’s 5-year-old brother set a loveseat on fire while playing with a grill lighter, said Kent Fire Capt. John Tosko.

Sweet, the brother, and Dwayne Douglas, Sweet’s boyfriend, were already outside when the firefighters reached the scene at 9:44 a.m. June 13.

“When we arrived, a lot of people were yelling ‘There’s someone trapped inside,'” Tosko said. Firefighters immediately began a quick search of the apartment.

Firefighter Patrick Edwards found Alyssa face down in the living room between the coffee table and the couch, firefighter Brock Murphy said.

“When (Edwards) put her on the cot, she had 80 percent of her body burned,” Murphy said. “At that point, she was still breathing with a good pulse.

“She was the first child burn victim I’d ever had. It was a lot of work doing all the things that needed to be done, but my main concern was just getting her to the hospital alive.”

By 9:51 a.m., Alyssa and paramedics were en route to Akron Children’s Hospital.

When firefighters got inside to do a second, more thorough search, the fire had burned out.

“It was a weird fire,” Tosko said. “Usually, a fire will put itself out when it’s completely sealed in, but passers-by had kicked in the window and front door so it had to have put itself out before that happened.”

Hillcrest landlord Mike Kunar estimated about 75 to 100 percent of the apartment was destroyed in the fire.

“The fire was contained to only one unit because the building has a cast and plate structure,” Kunar said. Each of the 12 units are completely sealed with concrete to prevent the spread of fire, he said.

The rest of the building suffered only mild smoke and water damage.

Contact city and courts reporter Sasha Parker at [email protected].