Fire destroys family home; community rallies


A family shocked by the loss of their home to fire Thursday night is also amazed at the instant support pouring in from the community.

Fifteen years ago, Warner Whybark built their home on a hillside overlooking Banks Lake in the North Shores development. Last week, they escaped after a neighbor called to tell them to get out of the house.

In under 45 minutes, everything was gone.

Shortly after 10 p.m., local fire departments got the call, but there was little they could do by the time they arrived.

Both the house and the garage were “fully involved when we got there,” said Ken Dexter, the first of Electric City’s volunteers to arrive on the scene.

Fire engines arrived from Grand Coulee, Coulee Dam and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as well, but could do little more than keep the blaze from spreading.

The last truck and crew left about 6 a.m., Dexter said.

Left in ashes, most of the structure is barely recognizable.

Electric City Fire Chief Bill Miley said the fire apparently started near a barbecue close to the outside of the garage.

Reached on Tuesday, Warner Whybark said he, his wife Nevada and daughter Brianna have rented a house on Pine Street in Coulee Dam and are taking it “one step at a time.”

Left with nearly nothing last Thursday, though, the family stayed that night with Nevada’s parents in a house Warren built for them in Coulee Dam last year.

They had no cars; one burned completely except the frame, the other rendered not drivable next to where the garage had been.

That changed almost immediately.

“All of a sudden we have two rigs to use,” Warner said, praising the community response, his voice wavering a little with emotion. “The community has been beyond belief.”

Help was needed. The day after the fire, the family had to get to Spokane because Nevada and Brianna needed eyeglasses immediately. Warner said he was still in pajamas at that point, but at least Nevada had her wallet and a credit card. Warner had shoes from a motor home parked in a pole building away from the house.

Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Since then, he said, they’ve been overwhelmed with the community’s help. “We had no idea,” he said. “I couldn’t choose a better community to live in.”

A spaghetti dinner to raise funds for the displaced family is planned for Saturday at the Eagles club, which is providing the food. The spaghetti dinner and auction will take place at 4 p.m.

Heather Downs, a friend whose own home burned down five years ago, is organizing the event. She said items are coming in the auction, with more than 20 businesses donating and lots of individual contributions.

Downs said she is issuing receipts for cash and turning it into cashiers checks, and she advises that checks should be made out to Warner or Nevada Whybark.

The Village Cinema and The Star newspaper will also collect donations from those who won’t attend the fund raiser.

Thinking of her own experience, Downs said that at this point, funds are likely more useful than items in terms of helping the family.


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