‘The fact that nobody got hurt was a miracle:’ Fire in Hamden displaces a Quinnipiac graduate

Chatwan Mongkol, News Editor

A fire broke at Hamden Chestnut Hill Apartments on 925 Mix Ave. in Hamden Saturday night, leaving around 90 residents displaced. Among the 90 was Quinnipiac University recent sports journalism graduate Bonssa Tufa.

According to the Hamden Fire Department, there were no injuries, but the building will remain inhabitable for six months to a year.


On the night of the incident, Tufa returned home at 1 a.m. He said he saw fire from the roof, police cars and fire trucks from Hamden and neighboring towns.

“I got out (of my car), the first person I saw, I asked him ‘what the hell happened?’” Tufa said. “Then I talked to an AMR paramedic. I talked to other residents at the back of the building and that’s when I was learning that some people in the apartment heard what sounded like firecrackers.”

Although the damage was spread through the building, Tufa said he was glad nobody was injured. He stayed up the whole night before he got help from the American Red Cross and the Town of Hamden.

“One of our neighbors and her family looked through 80 hotels from Hamden to Hartford and all of them were booked,” Tufa said. “So we didn’t have a place to stay overnight. So we either had to sleep in our cars, go to a loved one’s house or stay outside all night.”

A fire broke at 925 Mix Ave. in Hamden on June 26, displacing 90 families. (Hamden Fire Department)

In an email to The Chronicle, the American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region​ Communications Manager Andreina Sosa said the organization has given direct assistance to 84 individuals from 39 different families after the incident.

“The Red Cross also provided a recovery envelope containing information helpful to families recovering from a fire, including tips on cleanup, notification of important contacts, dealing with damaged items and more,” Sosa said. “The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits containing personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving supplies and other items a resident might need when suddenly displaced from their home by a fire.”

Sosa said the caseworkers will connect with people who were affected in coming days to work on a longer-term recovery plan.

What Tufa received from the Red Cross was a $500 cash card for food and essential items in a short term. He also said the town offered the families an up-to-three-week stay in a local hotel.

Besides the help from the American Red Cross, Enfield resident Tina Davis started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe for Tufa. With a goal of $2,500, the campaign has raised over $1,900 as of publication.

Tufa’s next plan is to look for an apartment.

“We have this hotel for a couple of weeks, but for me I’d rather be in an apartment on my own than the hotel,” Tufa said. “I’m probably going to try and move, move further up north because I work at a racetrack up in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.”

Journalism associate professor Rich Hanley, who had Tufa in a sports feature writing class, said he was saddened but was not worried when he heard the news about one of his students

“I know Bonssa is a person who has great resilience and he’s somebody who can take anything that comes at him and shrug it off and find a solution,” Hanley said. “He’s a really exceptional person in that way.”

Hanley said he wants Tufa to keep being himself.

“You’ll get through anything. This is just a little bob,” Hanley said. “I know you can see it as a challenge and an adventure and that you will find great humor and dignity in the challenge.”