The Etquibal family did not plan to spend Christmas Eve in a hotel.
At their Lea Hill rental home, Kindra and Andy Etquibal had a tree decorated, stockings hung, and presents wrapped. Yet their Christmas plans were ruined after an electrical fire started in the neighbor’s garage spread to their property in the early morning of December 24.
Shortly before 3:00 a.m., the Etquibals awoke to bright light in the bedroom window and a loud booming noise. From the bedroom window, they could see their neighbor’s garage, “it was engulfed in flames,” Kindra Etquibal said.
While her husband got dressed, Kindra Etquibal ran to wake up her kids, ages twelve, eight, and three. She initially didn’t realize how quickly flames were spreading. “My plan was to go get the kids up, and I was going to go out the front door just to be safe,” Kindra Etquibal said.
But soon, the fire spread to their home, coming inside through a shattered bedroom window. The entire family escaped just in time. Kindra Etquibal handed her youngest over their fence to a neighbor. She and her other two kids climbed over the fence with a ladder.
While the kids stayed at a neighbors house, the Etquibals watched as Valley Regional Fire Authority fire crews put out the final flames on their home. Firefighters broke portions of the roof to allow smoke and flames to escape, shared Kindra Etquibal.
VRFA Public Information Officer Kimberly Terhune confirmed there were no civilian or firefighter injuries. Kindra Etquibal shared she had a scratchy throat from smoke inhalation the next day but was not treated by medics.
Whatever Isn’t Melted or Burned Up Still Can’t Be Saved
Some of the worst damage occurred in the master bedroom, where the fire first entered the home. That also happened to be where Kindra Etquibal kept the family’s valuables, including items belonging to her mother, who passed away from cancer this year.
“Whatever isn’t melted or burned up still [can’t be saved] because of all the smoke and ash,” Kindra Etquibal said.
The Etquibal’s landlord, Ana White, shared what happened to the family on Facebook. That’s how White’s sister, Christina Sims, heard what happened. “I can’t imagine having to be in that position. So I asked my sister if she could start a GoFundMe, and she did. I just started to reach out to everybody I knew in Washington,” Sims said.
The GoFundMe campaign White started has raised over $6,000 in donations. The GofundMe campaign explains the Etquibal’s renters insurance had lapsed. A second GoFundMe campaign started by an employee at Andy Etquibal’s job has raised over $27,000.
Stephanie West, a childhood friend of Sims and White, saw the GoFundMe campaign on Facebook. West posted a message in a local Bothell community Facebook group asking for donations to help the Etquibals. “Quickly many responded. Some were so eager to help they dropped off that morning despite having their own Christmas Eve plans. It was amazing as it truly takes a village, and any of us could be in [a] similar fate,” West said.
That’s not the only help the family has received. The Etquibal kids escaped the fire barefoot and only in their pajamas. Through donations, the kids received more toys this year than they normally would, shared Kindra Etquibal, “We had a lot of people who donated toys and clothes and shoes. Because of that, the kids had a great Christmas.”
Donations from the community, help from friends, family, and coworkers, along with the Gofundme campaigns have given the Etquibals back a little bit of hope. “We are so grateful for everybody who donated, and I can’t believe how many people have helped- people we don’t even know,” Kindra Etquibal said.
Moving forward, the family hopes to find a new rental home soon. Otherwise, they will consider moving into an extended stay hotel.
The Auburn Examiner reached out to residents of the home the fire began but did not receive a response at the time of publication. According to Terhune the adult female and teenager in the home evacuated safely and are being assisted by family.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help assist the residents of the home, as well as the owners of the house.
To write this story, the Auburn Examiner interviewed Kindra Etiquibal, Stephanie West, and Christina Sims, spoke with Ana White, reviewed both published GoFundMe campaigns, and received information from VRFA.
Last updated 12/30/20 8:40pm to add the third GoFundMe campaign