Website raising funds for Chimacum family that lost everything in fire
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Crystal Craig/East Jefferson Fire Rescue
Jennimae Hilliard, Ashley Kehl and their two children were left homeless after this fire destroyed their rental home on West Egg & I Road in Chimacum this week.
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Ashley Kehl; Fenix Norton, 9; Jennimae Hilliard; and Forest Kehl, 2, from left, lost their Chimacum rental home on West Egg & I Road in a fire Tuesday night.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — A family who lost its home to a fire this week has contributed to the community often, including organizing this weekend's plant and seed exchange, according to a friend who predicts the community will help the Kehl-Hilliard family rebuild their lives.

A Tuesday night house fire in the 700 block of West Egg & I Road in Chimacum consumed the rental home and the belongings of Jennimae Hilliard, 35; Ashley Kehl, 28; and their two children, Fenix Norton, 9, and Forest Kehl, 2.

No one was hurt in the blaze. East Jefferson Fire-Rescue personnel were investigating the cause of the fire Wednesday.

“They donate an insane amount of support to everyone,” said Natalia Robinson, a friend of the family.

“They are big givers. They are always there when things hit the fan,” she said.

“I know people are going to rally around them to help them gain back what they lost.”

A “Wild Song Fire Relief Fund” website at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Fire went online early Wednesday to help the family start over.

As of 5:30 p.m., it had raised $5,726 of a $20,000 goal.

Robinson said the family “was in shock” after the fire but nevertheless aided in building the crowd funding site to raise money.

“They lost a tremendous amount of valuable things,” Robinson said.

“They collected songs for the community. They collected seeds and canned a massive amount of food to give away to others — and lost it all.”

The family was offered assistance through the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of the American Red Cross but declined, saying they would stay with family and friends in the area, said East Jefferson Fire-Rescue spokesman Bill Beezley.

A call to the family was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The family, who had left the rental house at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, returned to find it in flames and called East Jefferson Fire-Rescue at about 8:30 p.m., according to the fire department.

Finding the house engulfed in flames and discovering that no one was in the house, firefighters decided to fight a defensive battle — which means limiting the blaze to the structure already burning by preventing it from spreading to adjacent structures or trees, Beezley said.

The fire was declared contained by Assistant Chief Brian Tracer at midnight.

Firefighting was hampered by the location of the house at the end of a long, winding dirt driveway in heavy woods, a large metal arch framing the driveway that was too small to allow a firetruck to pass and a lack of fire hydrants in the area, Beezley said.

Beezley said the family members told firefighters they don't smoke and that no candles had been lit but that they had used a wood-burning stove earlier in the day.

The house is owned by Carl Wayan-Levine and has a value of $63,273 according to the Jefferson County Assessor's Office.

Robinson said the family gives to people all across the state.

'”Their reach goes beyond Port Townsend. They contribute food to a variety of people,” she said.

“This is all volunteer. It's not like they are selling things.”

The third annual Plant and Seed Exchange, which is organized by Kehl and Hilliard, will go on as planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St.

The purpose of the event is to allow people to bring in any unwanted plants, pots or seeds and exchange them for something they can use, Kehl told the Peninsula Daily News last year.

Robinson said many of the seeds for the exchange were lost in the fire.

“We are putting out a call for anyone who has seeds or plants to come down and share,” she said.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 09. 2014 6:59PM
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