OLYMPIA - Dannielle Price saw her and her children's belongings go up in smoke early Friday morning after an engine fire started in the RV where she and about six others had been sleeping at a metered parking space on Jefferson Street off of Fifth Avenue downtown, near the artesian well.
Price, 33, said she, her four children and several other friends who had been staying with her in the RV had returned to Olympia on Thursday after spending Thanksgiving in Wenatchee.
She said her computer, ID cards, including bank cards, her phone and nearly all of her and her children’s’ belongings were ruined. Everyone managed to escape the burnt-out RV safely, including their 8-month-old black Labrador retriever, Beast, and their pet rat, Tomorrow, she said.
But the fire ruined the family’s only home, leaving Price, her children and the rest of the RV’s occupants scrambling for a place to stay.
Olympia Fire Department Battalion Chief J.D. Young said firefighters first tried to hook up Price with the local American Red Cross chapter, but because the family was staying in an RV, they did not qualify for temporary Red Cross assistance.
Young said the family was referred to the Union Gospel Mission on Franklin Street, where service providers offer a free breakfast, lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, and a free lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.
The fire appeared to have started in the engine area, Young said. Firefighters quickly put out the blaze, he said. “The important thing is that everybody got out,” he said.
Young said the Union Gospel Mission also offered Price and her family free shower and laundry facilities.
Over at the Union Gospel Mission on Friday, Price, her fingers and face still besmirched with soot, ate a hot meal and pondered her next move. “I’m kind of in shock still,” she said.
Jeff Marchell, assistant to the pastor at the Union Gospel Mission, came over to where Price was eating and told her that the mission would pay for a room for one night at the Bailey Motel in Olympia for her and her children.
Many people were taking advantage of the free lunch at the Union Gospel Mission on Friday. Marchell said over the past year, the mission has become more and more crowded as the recession has deepened and there are more people in need.
“We’re feeding 5,000 people a month,” he said.
Over at the scene of the blackened Pace Arrow RV later Friday afternoon, Price’s children had gathered their burnt belongings, including DVDs and books, and laid them out on a tarp. Their dog was tied to the back of the RV, and their pet rat was safe in its small cage.
The children included Price’s twin 13-year-old girls, their 11-year-old brother, and a 13-year-old boy in Price’s legal custody. The children were eating wrapped sandwiches that were dropped off by a good Samaritan who drove by, they said.
The children said that the RV’s engine was on early Friday morning, about 8:50 a.m., when the engine started smoking. The fire then spread quickly, leaving no part of the vehicle untouched.
Price’s daughter Sonya Hall, 13, said that they first started noticing problems with the RV when they arrived back in Olympia Thursday night. “When we parked here last night, it was just overheating a little bit,” she said.
A cardboard sign was propped up on the RV’s front. It read: “RV Burnt Down. Please Help.”
Price said she is originally from Spokane. She had been planning on making a trip to Portland, but wants to make Olympia her home. She said that before the fire, she had recently turned in a business license to start a service program in Olympia for troubled teens. She said she is hopeful the fire will not set her back in meeting her goal.
She added that she suffers from disabilities, but she looks on the bright side. “I’m lucky, I can walk and talk and most people can’t tell,” she said.
OFD Battalion Chief Young said that it may be a day or two before the RV is removed from the parking spot downtown. If Price’s insurance cannot take care of its towing and removal, the responsibility will likely fall to the Olympia Police Department, he said.
Marchell said the Union Gospel Mission relies on donations to continue its programs that provide assistance for those in need. The Union Gospel Mission takes food donations, personal hygiene products, as well as cash. Contributions can be made by sending items to the Union Gospel Mission, P.O. Box 7668, Olympia WA, 98507, he said.
People who want to make a donation to Dannielle Price and her family can contact the Union Gospel Mission directly, at 413 Franklin Street, in downtown Olympia a couple of blocks behind the Olympia Transit Center.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465