A family of eight that was displaced by the recent Washington Street fire is scrambling to get back on its feet after losing nearly everything in the blaze.


 

A family of eight that was displaced by the recent Washington Street fire is scrambling to get back on its feet after losing nearly everything in the blaze.


Cliff and Gail Loud, who lived in the first floor apartment with their son Jay, his fiancé and their four young children, have been living in their car off-and-on since the fire scorched their home at 401 Washington St. on the afternoon of Saturday, April 19, they said.


“My whole life is in ashes there,” Cliff Loud said.


They were already close to the edge financially, and this latest setback has just about pushed them over, they said.


The Louds had been living in a two-room apartment on North Walker Street when they got a call in September that is every parent’s worst fear.


Jay, a construction foreman who was living in Florida, was fighting for his life. He’d had open heart surgery at 14 and would need open heart surgery again to replace a heart valve or he would die.


Gail used all the couple’s scarce resources to fly to Florida with another of their four sons, Joey Loud, to bring Jay back to Massachusetts for the surgery, she said.


While at the hospital, he had a heart attack that sent him into a coma, and his lungs collapsed. It was touch and go, but he pulled through, Gail said.


With Jay unable to work, the Louds took Jay and his family in. For a while, the only option was to squeeze into the North Walker Street apartment.


But then things started looking up. They found the three-bedroom Washington Street apartment for $1,000 a month a few months ago. They loved the apartment. The landlord seemed like a great guy, and they could just manage the rent by splitting it down the middle, Cliff said.


Jay is on public assistance while he recuperates. Gail earns $12.50 an hour doing full-time clerical work at a warehouse. Cliff has worked for a temp agency for years and recently finished up a stint at Super Coups making minimum wage.


Cliff and Gail could probably swing a smaller place for themselves. But that’s not an option. Their son and his family need them, and they don’t plan to let them down, Gail said.


The Louds have squirreled away three weeks worth of Gail’s paychecks, but they won’t dip into that for a hotel room because they know they’ll need it for a security deposit and first month’s rent if they can find another apartment big enough for everyone that they can afford, she said.


They’ll also need money for furniture and clothes and just about everything a person relies on in day-to-day life, Gail said.


“I had on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and he had on jeans and a T-shirt when we went out to play with the dog, and that’s about what we’ve got left,” Gail said.


Family members have helped the Louds set up a fund to get through this crisis. Cliff Loud said that’s a tough pill to swallow.


“In my family, we don’t ask for help. I don’t want to be here, but I have four grandchildren to take care of,” Cliff said.


Jay, his fiancé Roxie and the four kids are bouncing around among relatives now, Cliff said. The youngest, a baby girl named Chass, is 2. Next comes, McCrain, who is 4, followed by Amara, 5, and Roxpert, 7.


They were home making breakfast in the kitchen when the fire broke out, but, fortunately, no one was hurt. When the smoke detector went off, Jay grabbed the kids and ran up the stairs yelling, “Fire. Everybody get out,” Gail said.


The man on the third floor had only been there a month and the landlord lived on the second floor, Gail said.


Investigators have determined the fire started when a trash bag containing smoldering cigarette butts ignited in Cliff and Gail’s bedroom.


Gail said she was the one who made the mistake of emptying an ashtray into the trash.


She’s been beating herself up about it, but Cliff tells her, what’s done is done.


Cliff and Gail had just gone out for a walk with their dog Baby, who is now living with them in their car, when the fire broke out. The pit bull mix is a rascal but as friendly as can be and is like a member of the family, Gail said.


She’s been through a lot with them and they don’t want to give her up, which adds another hurdle to finding an apartment.


Gail remembers seeing the smoke and wondering if she could help.


As they got closer, they realized it was their house on fire.


A firefighter told Cliff he could go inside but warned him the front room was completely destroyed. That was the Louds’ bedroom.


“Like an idiot, I went to the front. Talk about dropping to your knees and crying,” Cliff said.


Cliff is a collector. He can’t resist Civil War memorabilia, old Pepsi collectibles and anything to do with the Miami Dolphins. He also had about 10,000 sports cards.


It’s all gone, he said.


For Gail, losing family photographs is the hardest part.


She can still see the one of herself at 17 with their eldest child, Cliff Loud III, in her arms. Her father, who died in 2005, took that photo. There’s another of Jay at about 3 that’s etched into her mind. At least, no one can take the memory away, she said.


“That picture I can’t replace. What I had left is gone, but the kids are alive,” Gail said, her voice choked with emotion.


After the fire, the Red Cross put them up in a hotel room for two nights and St. Vincent de Paul helped out for another two nights. Then they stayed in their car for a night.


Friends helped out for several nights after that, but they were expecting to be back in their car Monday, Cliff said.


Gail said it seems lately the difficulties have been piling on so heavily it’s hard to keep going.


She was recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Cliff’s dental problems came to a head, forcing him to have 11 teeth pulled a couple of weeks ago.


And then a few days ago, Cliff found out his mother, who lives in Las Vegas, has a life-threatening stomach ailment, he said.


Cliff remembers walking down the street a couple of days after the fire saying to a friend, “Well, at least it can’t get much worse,” just before he got the call about his mother.


“We keep hitting brick walls,” Gail said.


She said bluntly, “Life really sucks.” Then she added, “There are some flowers that bloom.”


Cliff, who grew up in Holbrook, and Gail, who grew up in Whitman, met when she was 15 and he was 21.


Cliff, who had just gotten out of the U.S. Army, remembers the first time he laid eyes on Gail at a friend’s house. He took one look at her and knew she was the woman he’d spend the rest of his life with, he said.


It hasn’t been a fairy tale.


But it has been a love story.


Through it all, they’ve stuck by each other and supported each other.


Without Cliff, Gail said she doubts she’d be able to find the strength to go on.


“You just do what you have to do,” Cliff said.


“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Gail said.


Anyone who would like to assist the Louds may send a donation to “The Loud Family Fire Victims Fund,” C/O the Taunton Federal Credit Union, 14 Church Green, Taunton, MA 02780.


Taunton Call