Online donations help Forks woman saved from fire by her dog; matching funds pledged through Sunday
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Joni Evans sits with her dog, Gunnar, in the back of her sister’s sport utility vehicle in Forks in the days following a June 29 fire that ripped through Evans’ mobile home. — Laurie Evans

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — An anonymous donor has pledged to match online donations up to $2,500 that are received through Sunday to help a Forks woman bounce back from a fire that destroyed her home and almost took her life.

The pledge comes from a self-professed dog lover amid a fundraiser effort for Joni Evans, 53, whose dog, Gunnar, she credits with saving her life.

“Gunnar’s a hero in our family now,” said Cari Enticknap, Evans’ niece and an organizer of fundraising efforts.

Evans had set lit candles around her mobile home at 62 Elk Valley Road off Calawah Way the night of June 29 because an electrical outage was planned.

She dozed off while reading in her favorite chair.

At about 11:30 p.m., Gunnar jumped on her and awakened her.

“I thought the power was on because it was so light in the house,” Evans said.

The light was in fact from flames that likely began from a candle in the bathroom and were quickly spreading.

Evans said she grabbed her keys, phone and Gunnar’s dog dish and ran, calling 9-1-1 once she was outside.

Before fire crews were able to put out the fire, the home was destroyed, Evans said, adding that her home was uninsured.

“I just lost everything,” she said.

Now, Evans is living in a borrowed camping trailer on the Elk Valley Road property.

She has no electricity and uses water transported each day from her son’s house in Forks.

In the days after the fire, Evans said her sister, Laurie Evans, visited from the King County city of Enumclaw to help her recover and started the Joni Evans Fire Fund at First Federal to help her rebuild.

Not long afterward, Enticknap, who also came to Forks to help, started a page on the crowd-funding website www.gofundme.com to collect donations for her aunt.

The match available through Sunday for the crowd-funding effort is from an anonymous donor who pledged the money in mid-July, Enticknap said.

“It has surpassed all my expectations, the amount of support we’ve gotten,” she said.

Enticknap, who owns her own photography business in Enumclaw, said she is also planning to donate the proceeds of photo sessions this weekend to her aunt’s cause.

The overall fundraising goal is $10,000, she said.

That will cover complete cleanup, which likely will involve removing asbestos from the debris, and purchase of a new mobile home for Evans, she added.

As of Thursday, 32 people had donated $2,345 to the crowd-funding site, which Enticknap said has no deadline for accepting money.

Joni Evans estimated about $3,000 has been donated to the First Federal account. All but $1,100 has been used so far to pay for initial cleanup of the property and other costs.

She’s also received offers of free furniture and other home items.

“People have been absolutely overwhelming, from strangers to friends to family. I’m just so grateful,” Evans said.

Evans said she feels Gunnar, a 10-year-old German shepherd/boxer mix she named after her grandfather, helped her because she helped him.

She had raised him from a pup after her daughter found him among a litter of puppies dumped in a ditch in Clallam Bay nine years ago.

“He never had a mother. He just had me,” Evans said.

A month after the fire, Evans is grateful to her family, friends and especially Gunnar.

“I’m just absolutely grateful for everyone and thank God for my dog because he saved my life,” Evans said.

Donations can be made by contacting local branches of First Federal and asking to donate to the Joni Evans Fire Fund or by visiting the page Enticknap set up at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-firefund.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 31. 2014 7:52PM
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