A major fire made Bill Borgman homeless on his birthday.

The Yuma man quips good-naturedly that it will be easy for him to remember the date of that disastrous day.

Borgman turned 75 on Wednesday, the day a fire destroyed his 81-year-old roommate’s front house on the property located at 161 N. 9th Ave. in Yuma. His home, the back house on the property, was not destroyed. However, fire damaged that house’s access to electricity, water and gas.

“We would just be sitting there in the dark without water, without nothing,” Borgman said. “Basically we are needing a place to live.”

On Friday, Borgman and his roommate, Sal Asselta, were staying at a local motel. The American Red Cross arranged for the men to stay for five nights at the hotel.

Borgman flatly admitted Friday that their options are few, with his closest family living in Colorado.

The men have visited numerous social service agencies since the fire, receiving a mixture of help and the promise of possible assistance next week. Borgman said one agency offered some furniture if the men could find someone to provide housing.

The fire also destroyed Borgman’s car, so they are using Asselta’s vehicle to make their visits to local agencies. “Yes, my car is a fried little fritter now,” Borgman said, chuckling. “I am homeless and now I don’t have a car.”

The home and car were not insured.

Another major problem is the fact that all of Asselta’s medication burned in the blaze. 

Borgman and Asselta were in San Diego for medical appointments when the fire happened. No one was injured during the fire, which authorities say remains under investigation.

Local real estate agent Samir Moustafa is asking the community to help the two fire victims in any way they can. 

“They are the nicest people you will ever see,” Moustafa said. “They are both very nice, good human beings. They would give you the shirt off their backs.”

People wanting to make a donation can do so at Camel Pointe Realty, 1416 5th Ave. in Yuma. Moustafa can also be reached at 928-246-0261.

Borgman said he and Asselta have lived in Yuma for 10 years. Before that they owned a wholesale nursery in San Diego for more than 40 years.

Borgman says the reality of the fire and its consequences was still difficult to comprehend on Friday.

“Well, that all of this has happened really hasn’t hit yet,” he said. “It’s like a dream that hasn’t quite come to fulfillment. One of these days it’s going to hit.”

Borgman added that he’s never considered himself to be “strong.”

“I never thought of myself that way. You are when you have to be, I guess,” he said. “What are you going to do? Sit down and cry? You have to keep going.”

Darin Fenger can be reached at dfenger@yumasun.com or 539-6860.

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