SEQUIM — Recalling the night she stood outside her home as it was engulfed in flames, Rachael Healey said she’s “never seen a fire burn so fast.”
She and her two daughters escaped their Dungeness home just after midnight on Aug. 23.
“I couldn’t even grab my glasses,” she said in a telephone interview. “I just ran out.
“It’s very eye-opening when you end up with nothing.”
For more than 10 years, Healey and her daughters, 18-year-old Kaitlyn and 16-year-old Kenzie, had lived at the 100-plus-year-old, three-bedroom home on the 2800 block of Towne Road.
The fire destroyed the family’s home, two cars, belongings and their beloved dogs, Ollie and Stella.
“They were great companions,” Healey said. “They were my babies. That’s the most devastating part.
“When we were leaving the house, they were behind me, but I didn’t get a second chance. They went back under the bed.”
The fire consumed most of the home, Healey said, but she was able to get some toiletries from a bathroom. However, she found it difficult to go into her heavily damaged bedroom where her dogs died under her bed from smoke inhalation.
Firefighters told her that if the family’s doors hadn’t been closed, she and her daughters would have died too, Healey said.
She was asleep when Kaitlyn, who was awake playing a game upstairs, called her phone.
“She said, ‘I think something is burning,’” Healey said.
There was so much smoke in the hall, the sisters couldn’t see or breathe, she said, so they ran down the stairs and to the outside.
Healey said she saw fire coming from behind the oven before she ran outside.
Battalion Chief Chris Turner with Clallam County Fire District 3 said the fire investigator is considering if the fire started either as an electrical failure due to a possible temporary power outage or surge earlier in the night reported by some neighbors and/or an air fryer malfunction.
He said the district recommends residents unplug air fryers when not in use.
Healey said the air fryer was turned off after it was used earlier in the night.
At this point, the family is staying in a Sequim hotel while looking for a new place to rent. It’s difficult, Healey said, because prices have gone up so much since she rented her home.
Healey’s United Services Automobile Association (USAA) renter’s insurance is covering their stay for about a month with the possibility to extend that if they cannot find a place to live, she said.
“If I didn’t have (insurance), I’d be relying on friends and family,” Healey said.
“The whole blessed part is I was smart enough to do renter’s insurance. You never know. You don’t think (something like a fire will) happen.”
She and her daughters picked up school supplies from the Back to School Fair on Aug. 26, and some people have donated clothes and gift cards to them.
Both their cars were insured, Healey said, and her employer, Dr. Agnieszka Niemeyer, gifted her a van, so now she’s looking for a vehicle for Kenzie.
Paragon Dermatology, 558 N. Fifth Ave. in Sequim, started an account at First Federal under the “Rachael Healey Family Recovery Fund,” and they’re also available to take donations for Healey. For more information, call 360-681-6900.
A gofundme account was also set up at gofundme.com/rachael-plus-two-teens-displaced-after-home-fire.
“The community has been phenomenal,” Healey said. “I’m so overwhelmed.
“It’s hard for me to accept help, especially accepting help from people I don’t know.”
She adds that “so many people are so concerned.”
“It’s very eye-opening how much this community helps each other,” Healey said. “We’re blessed to be in this area.”
So far donated funds have helped the family purchase clothes and food.
“We have to buy things that are precooked or easy to cook because there’s not an easy way for us to cook,” she said.
Anything extra will go towards their next place to live.
“I just need a place to rent,” she said.
Healey said she’s looking to rent something between $1,200 and $1,600 per month so “she’s not financially strapped,” but it’s been difficult to find a place in the Sequim area due to a slim and expensive renter’s market.
“We want to stay here,” she said. “We don’t want to leave. I consider this area my home.
“If needed, I have my deposit ready for the first and last month’s rent. I just need a place.”
Those with information about a place for rent to help Healey can contact Paragon Dermatology at 360-681-6900.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.