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Responding to the call: Key West firefighters lead community effort to replace home lost to fire

a woman cuts the ribbon a new home built for her by members of the community
Nancy Klingener
Alelia Butler cut the ribbon Wednesday on the new home that replaced the one that burned almost two years ago.

On a usually quiet Key West lane, dozens of people gathered Wednesday morning to see Alelia Butler get the keys to her new house.

It's not a new address for Butler, 77. It is an entirely new structure, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home replacing the mobile home that burned in January 2019.

"I don't know how to describe it, because it's such a wonderful feeling," she said. "I can't jump from joy but I wish I could, because I'd be jumping. I'd be jumping, doing my thing."

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Key West Fire Department Capt. Jason Barroso coordinated the building of the home, leading firefighters to clean up the site and calling on local contractors and suppliers who willingly helped out.

"The Butler family is a very big family here in Key West, many generations. All of us have grown up, we've worked with some of the Butlers. They've been firefighters with us as well. We all felt a very special connection with Miss Butler," Barroso said.

The firefighters "responded to the call, not only the call for service, the fire, but to go above and beyond the call, to provide her a brand new home in time for Christmas," he said.

Butler said the new home is a lot safer than the mobile home it replaced.

"It's all up to the current building codes, it's above flood, metal roof," he said. "She should be able to be here for many, many, many, many years."

Butler got the certificate of occupancy and keys to the house Wednesday, then cut a red ribbon across the front porch.

The house is fully furnished, with fire sprinklers throughout and it even includes a Christmas tree.

A woman receives kisses from her son and grandson in front of the Christmas tree in her new house
Nancy Klingener
Alelia Butler, center, is congratulated by her son Derek Butler, left, and grandson Derek Butler, Jr., in front of the Christmas tree in her new home in Key West.

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Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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