Fundraising campaign for Chimacum family left homeless by fire exceeds $10,000

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

CHIMACUM — A fundraising campaign for a family burned out of its home has amassed more than $10,000 to help the Kehl-Hilliard family start over.

The cause of Tuesday’s night’s fire that destroyed the home in the 700 block of West Egg & I Road in Chimacum has been ruled undetermined, Bill Beezley, East Jefferson Fire-Rescue spokesman, said Thursday.

Not injured but left homeless were Jennimae Hilliard, 35; Ashley Kehl, 28; and their two children, Fenix Norton, 9, and Forest Kehl, 2.

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

As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, it had raised $10,614 toward the $20,000 goal.

Before the fire destroyed their belongings, the family was preparing for the third annual Plant and Seed Exchange, which will go on as planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St., Port Townsend.

Since many of the seeds to be exchanged were lost in the fire, organizers are asking participants to bring their own seeds for exchange.

The family will be in attendance, and there will be an opportunity for people to make contributions, according to exchange organizer Marla Streator.

“I think it’s amazing how the community has come together to help them and how they will be there only days after they lost their home,” Streator said.

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.

Results of a Wednesday fire department investigation into the cause of the fire were inconclusive.

“It could have one of a couple causes,” Assistant Chief Brian Tracer said.

The fire could have originated from a wood-burning stove that was in use earlier in the day, “and the origin of the fire in the trailer behind the unfinished wooden structure is consistent with that possibility,” Tracer said.

Other possible contributing factors include the age of the trailer, the condition of the wiring as well as propane fuel burners in the area of the wood-burning stove, he added.

Tracer said a metal beam below the wood-burning stove was the only one that was deformed, which might indicate it had been exposed to more heat or for a longer duration than beams elsewhere in the trailer.

The remote location of the house contributed to the severity of the situation, according to Chief Gordon Pomeroy.

“Our crews ran into some difficulty reaching the site of fire,” he said.

“The long winding driveway in particular was a challenge. The driveway had some tight turns, and brush hampered our engine as it tried to maneuver to the fire.”

The family is staying with friends, Beezley has said.

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

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

Last modified: April 10. 2014 7:02PM
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