The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Heres Goldendale
Diana Notestine 

Behind the scenes of fire victims


Almost everyone knows about the Fire Victims Fund but very few know the stories behind the use of those funds. In the next week or two, I am posting personal stories from those families victimized by fire. I am sharing their own words, but not their name or address.

“We had a chimney fire at 3 a.m. in December, 2017. The house was a total loss. The house didn’t come down—Rural 7 saved it before it got too bad, so we were able to get our wedding pictures, family heirlooms, our child’s cedar chest with all of his special things in it as he’s grown (baby book, pictures, going-home outfit), things like that. We will eventually get those things all professionally restored to get the chemicals out of them from the smoke.

“They still smell like smoke to this day—almost six months later. Technically anything that wasn’t glass or metal should have been thrown away because of the chemicals. We did throw almost everything away. But special things we put in a storage unit we are renting at S&S storage in town. Deputy Melissa Wykes was the first one to respond to our 911 call and saw me on our front porch in the snow and ice in jammies and a spaghetti strap top, wrestling with our cat (who was trying to run back inside!). If it wasn’t for Deputy Wykes, that’s all the clothes I would’ve had on. Deputy Wykes also later that day gave us a laundry basket with laundry soap and supplies in it. Once the fire was out, Fire Chief Tony Browning came over and handed us a check and said he hoped it would help us. I broke down and cried. We’d been to the fire victim’s yard sale and auction every year but never thought we’d be the ones standing in our driveway with just the clothes on our backs being handed a check. We didn’t even have coats.

“In the days that followed, the money bought us obviously food and clothes, but what sticks out in my mind were the little things that people don’t really think of. Like fingernail clippers. About a week after the fire, I noticed our son’s fingernails were long and needed trimmed after a bath. Then I realized we didn’t even have fingernail clippers. For me, it was all the small things that meant the most to have the fire victim’s fund money to help out with. It was right before Christmas, so we also used some of the money to buy milk and cookies to leave for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. We tried to keep things as normal as possible for our son and that money helped us to do so.

“The entire community helped us out immensely, so much that I’m sure we will work at paying back the kindness until our last days. When our son went back to school after the incident, he cried because he didn’t have a back pack anymore. So a backpack went on the shopping list. And there were also lots of Kleenex boxes as there were lots of tears (some were even happy ones!)! I can’t even begin to express our gratitude and appreciation for Rural 7. Saving our house before it was gone completely and allowing us to get our irreplaceable things out in time and giving us a way to provide for our immediate needs in the days and weeks that followed was something that just saying thank you will never be enough.”

So, when you ask yourself, where can I donate my gently used things, remember the Rural 7 Firehouse on W. Brooks stores those kind of things for next year’s auction and yard sale. If you need it picked up, call 773-4246 and leave your name and number and address. They will pick up your things.


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