Kenneth Walker's two cats were killed and he lost all of his possessions, but he, his wife, and their two kids are OK after a fire Wednesday in his apartment outside Buffalo, NY—a fire sparked after he received a racist letter telling him to quit the local volunteer fire department, the Buffalo News reports. Walker, who's been with the Gratwick Hose fire company in North Tonawanda for two years, is the only black firefighter there, and on Monday he received a letter in his home mailbox that read "N-----s are not allowed to be firefighters" and demanded he resign or "you will regret it," per WGRZ. Walker, 28, alerted the fire department and the police that night. Then, early Wednesday afternoon, the fire started in Walker's apartment. Neither he nor his wife and two young daughters were home; two other tenants in the four-unit building escaped unharmed, though all of the building's tenants are now displaced.
North Tonawanda's fire chief, who says he's "appalled" by the "sickening" note Walker received, says the blaze is under investigation; both local cops and the FBI are involved. Walker, meanwhile, says the community has stepped up to lend its support—including a donation drive Sunday set up by his firefighter colleagues, per the New York Daily News, and a GoFundMe page arranged by a firefighter in a neighboring town—that he won't be cowed by whomever sent the letter, and that he hasn't decided whether he's going to step away from the fire department, though he adds, "I am going to do what I have to do to protect my family." (Harassing online posts may have driven a Virginia firefighter to take her own life.)