NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Several people remained homeless Tuesday after a Christmas Day fire forced them to evacuate from their apartment building in Chelsea.
As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported Tuesday, among those forced out was an internet-famous dog that has brought goodwill to thousands of New Yorkers.
A day after the fire, the community was opening its arms to Louboutina the “Hugging Dog” and her owner.
Loboutina is best known in New York City for making strangers smile on the street with her hugs. But now, Louboutina and her owner, Cesar Fernandez Chavez, are the ones in need of love.
“I can sense that she’s sad,” Fernandez said. “I’m numb. I’m numb. I lost everything.”
Their apartment was destroyed on Christmas Day when flames ripped through the building on West 19th Street near Seventh Avenue. They lived next to the unit where the fire began.
All the belongings that Fernandez was able to save were inside plastic bags. Outside the American Red Cross Tuesday afternoon, Fernandez said had it not been for the luck of timing and an afternoon walk together, he did not even know if his golden retriever would be alive.
“That’s not usually the time I walk her, but I was like, ‘Hey girl, let’s go for a walk to CVS And thank God I did,” Fernandez said. “I just went around the corner and voila, the flames were coming out of the windows.”
Fernandez doesn’t know when or even if he’ll ever be able to return to the apartment. But in the meantime he’s getting a lot of help from a canine friend – and she too, has been going through a terrible loss.
Back in the fall, Loni Edwards’ internet-famous pup, Chloe the Mini Frenchie, died in a rare medical accident involving a routine procedure at a local animal hospital. Still grieving, Edwards started a GoFundMe page for Fernandez and Louboutina to help them get back on their feet.
“She says, ‘I want to do this, do I have your permission?’” Fernandez said. “I said yes, because I don’t have anything.”
So far, they have raised about $40,000 – double the goal of $20,000.
“It really means a lot,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez and his dog will be in a hotel for the next two nights. He is not sure where they will go after that, but at least he knows lovable Louboutina will be at his side.
“It’s everything I need actually,” he said.
The fire was raised to three alarms Monday afternoon. Fire marshals determined that it was caused by unattended candles and was accidental.
Smoke alarms were “present and operational,” the FDNY said on Twitter Tuesday.
The fire broke out around 4 p.m. Monday on the building’s top floor. A fire company is located immediately next door to the building.
Two people were recovering from injuries Tuesday.