Autumn Jones had just finished working out and was getting ready to leave her East End Road home on China Poot Court on Jan. 7. Her daughter, Destiny, 13, was in class at Homer Middle School. Her partner, Neils Cordes, was at work.
“Then some guy came and told me the house was on fire,” said Jones.
Hannah Walker, Jones’ longtime friend and neighbor — only a garage separated their homes — was away at the time. Her children, husband, Ryan, daughter, Trinity, 9, and son, Dallas, 5, also were away from the residence.
“I had just left about 12:30 p.m. to go shopping and I got a phone call that my house was on fire,” said Walker.
Within short order, the 18-by-24-foot cabin that was the Walker home, its attached garage and the trailer where Jones and her family lived were destroyed by fire.
Nobody was injured. One cat is being treated for injuries. Two cats remain unaccounted for. Kittens, turtles and tanks of fish did not survive.
Now, the community is rallying to replace belongings that were lost.
The American Red Cross of Alaska helped meet immediate needs.
“They put us in the Windjammer Suites for three days and Beluga Lake Lodge donated a week of stay with a kitchenette,” said Walker.
The Red Cross also provided a way for the families to purchase necessary personal items.
Through friends, the Jones-Cordes family has been provided a fully furnished apartment for the next six months.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Students in Transition liaison, Marlaina Thiel, “is trying to get us some vouchers,” said Walker.
“This can be a stressful time for children,” said Thiel of the services she provides in this type of situation. “All I can do is support the children so they can continue in school as stress-free as possible.”
Accounts at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and Spenard Builders Supply are available for donations.
George’s Storage on East End Road has donated space for people to leave donated items.
Paul Banks Elementary School, where the Walker children are enrolled, is collecting donations from faculty and staff to help the families. The student council at McNeil Canyon Elementary School also is lending a helping hand.
A bake sale at Safeway on Saturday, operated by Charity Stewart, Madi Elkington and Brita Restad, raised more than $1,100.
Kathy Johnson is organizing a community spaghetti feed and auction to be held at the Elks Lodge at Jan. 26. Dessert is being donated by the Church of the Nazarene.
“This is a growing experience for our family,” said Walker. “It’ll make us stronger in the end. … I’m keeping myself together. I have to for my children. It’s all about them. And getting our house back up and livable.”
Jones acknowledged the support the families have received.
“The fire went quick, but this community has helped out so much. It’s been wonderful and a little overwhelming,” she said. “I’m definitely glad we live here.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.