Prineville family starting over after destructive fire

'Everybody was safe ... that's what counts more than anything'

Fire destroys a Prineville family's home

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Torched beams, ash and a few albums are all that's left after fire tore through a Prineville-area family's home Friday night.

"It's kind of like I want to go in that front door, and I can't." Barbara Killian said Saturday. "I know I got that in there, but it's not in there, it's empty."

Barbara's parents and her youngest daughter had just left the home on NE Birdsong Lane east of Prineville shortly before the fire was reported.

"They had (noticed) a small of smoke, but they weren't sure what it was," said Kevin Killian, who lost his home to the fire. "The neighbors also had a burn pile so they thought maybe it was that. Didn't pay any attention to it, and went ahead and left."

The fire was reported just before 5 p.m. Friday by a neighbor, after flames were seen shooting out of the home's roof.

Two fire engines, two water tenders, an ambulance and a dozen firefighters responded, as did Crook County sheriff's deputies, said Crook County Fire Marshal Casey Kump.

"It was clear that it was (fully) involved," said Fire Chief Matt Smith. "There were some downed power lines that were a safety issue and a large propane tank that we needed to protect.

"And so we were in a defensive operation, not only to protect the firefighters safety, but to protect that people that were around."

Kump said Saturday their investigation had determined the cause was a failure in the power cord behind the family's refrigerator.

Losses were estimated at $125,000 for the house and about $50,000 for the contents. Kump said the family reported having renters' insurance.

The Killians were at work when the fire started. Kevin, a former volunteer firefighter for Redmond, has seen this happen to many homes before, but said it's entirely different when it's your own home.

"I didn't really know what to think or do -- just kind of stand back and watch. Just kind of feel helpless -- there's not much you can do," said Kevin, describing what happened when he saw his home in flames.

The Killian family will stay in a friend's home for the time being, and are receiving help from the Red Cross. They say although their home is gone, they are glad the irreplaceable things are still here.

"Everybody was out, everybody was safe, the animals are safe, and that's what counts more than anything," Kevin said.

The Killians' family dog was trapped underneath their back porch throughout the fire.

Kump said after hours of firefighting work put out the blaze, the family was called to the back porch to answer some questions about the appliances. Once they stepped onto the wooden porch, they heard the noise of the family's dog, Whiskey, beneath it.

Firefighters helped lift the porch to free the dog, who had not been hurt.

Disaster volunteers from the Red Cross assisted the three-generation family displaced by the blaze. Agency officials said four adults and two children had been assisted with food, clothing and comfort kits.

Family member Marcie Sweider said Kevin and Barbara Killian and their two teen daughters "lost everything except for a freezer full of beef they were able to save."

Kevin Killian has been studying to become an EMT, she said. The couple were away at work, in Bend and Redmond, while their girls were at a basketball game and with their grandparents when the fire broke out, Sweider added.

Sweider told NewsChannel 21 the family stayed with a friend Friday night and has an empty home to stay in for now, "so they need a cook stove, all household items, clothes, blankets, towels etc." Barbara Killian's parents were staying with them and also lost some belongings.

Sweider said she can help arrange to pick donated items up; her number is (541) 350-8854.

Sweider said on Saturday that the family was in the process of buying the home they had leased for a couple of years.

"They have received an abundance of support from our community," she said. "Goes to show you how many wonderful people we have in our community."

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