I found out about it after my spouse called me to ask if I was seeing all the traffic on our block's email list group. Once I saw all the emails I figured out whose house was on fire and since the owner and I did a few things that I thought would help. Speaking with someone we know in common, the owner is upset, but also upset about how the fire was portrayed in the news. So I'm not going to talk about it in any detail, out of respect for her and her family.
I will talk about the importance of support systems. The email list mentioned that the nearby church reached out to help. I also know someone from the mayor's office stopped by to offer help. Not sure if her own church got back to her, but they are aware of her situation. And the Red Cross provided hotel accommodations. The Red Cross is great for providing the most meaningful help quickly and I would give them money if they didn't pimp out my contact information (many non-profits do). When the block experienced a flood a decade back, they were out at my house with mops and cleaning supplies before the insurance claims inspector showed up. But most obviously were the many family members and friends who came out to pull things out of the house and go through papers and things to find what was salvageable. Her family was out there for two days helping and assisting.
A year or so back a friend of mine's apartment was destroyed by fire. In another unit, another tenant who was experiencing some personal issues, started a fire. My friend was able to escape with his laptop and more importantly, his life. I've noticed he too has a great support system, as he was able to stay with at a friend's while he dealt with the aftermath. He had renter's insurance and gently declined our offers of money and stuff. The hardest part it seemed was going through all the things not obviously destroyed by water.
Looking at my neighbor's house the aftermath will be hard. The fire did not tear the beautiful metal handrail off the building. There are a bunch of things in black plastic contractor's bags, things that could not be saved. In order to do their job the firefighters tear doors off, break windows, and get a whole bunch of things wet. I'm not sure who is responsible for nailing the plywood up so thieves don't come through to steal your copper pipes or pilfer through floors undamaged by the ordeal. I can only gather the homeowner is responsible for calling a service vacuum up all the water that flowed to the basement. The water damage clean up people were there hours after the fire.
Lesson from all this? I would say check your smoke detectors but I got 8 frigging CO and smoke detectors in my house.... waaay too much work. However, I will replace an old hardwired smoke detector. According to the National Fire Protection Association, you're supposed to replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. I'm slowly replacing those 8 alarms. Renter's/ Homeowner's insurance helps. And lastly, build up your support network.