‘She was a giver’: Loved ones, Silver Spring community mourn woman killed in apartment fire

Dozens of loved ones, community members and building residents gathered in front of the Arrive Silver Spring Apartment Complex in Maryland Thursday night to honor the life of Melanie Diaz, who was killed in an apartment fire there last weekend.

Diaz’s boyfriend, Sobalvarro, described her journey from Coconut Creek, Florida, to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. After graduating, she accepted a job at the Aspen Institute.

“At school, she always had the biggest smile,” he said. “If she ever saw somebody that was left out, she would bring them into the crowd.”

Diaz was killed and at least 15 others were injured in the Saturday fire that cost $2 million in damages and left over 400 people without homes. The fire started in the living room of a seventh-floor apartment.

The building didn’t have a sprinkler system, according to Maryland State Fire Marshall Brian S. Geraci.

Speaking in front of posters with pictures of Diaz, and flowers and stuffed animals, Sobalvarro described Diaz’s love for her dogs, Sammy and Ella.

“What really speaks to Melanie is the fact that when they found her, they found her hugging Sammy and Ella,” he said. “She removed her jacket and covered them so as to maximize their ability to live. That’s who Melanie was — she was a giver. She was a fighter.”

Odalys Roblero recalled routine trips to Ulta and Starbucks with Diaz.

“Every single time I felt alone, she would always be there,” Roblero said.

Some building residents attended the vigil, expressing frustration with the building’s communication in the aftermath of the incident.

Yeabe Fekade moved into her unit in December and said the apartment is “currently condemned.” She’s planning to move to another building elsewhere in Silver Spring.

“There has been a lot of inconsistency in terms of what I’ve been told about the safety of my unit and whether I’m able to return to my unit,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yohana Woldu said she’s seven months pregnant and described the fire as a “horrible thing to go through.”

She said she heard rumors of people stealing property from the units impacted by the fire.

“We don’t know if our stuff is safe,” Woldu said.

A memorial mass service for Diaz is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Georgetown University, Sobalvarro said.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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