A Yelm family of five, including children ranging in age from 2 to 14 years old, are homeless after a fire tore through their doublewide mobile home on Stevens Street Wednesday, June 12.
Billy Lemm, father of Ashton, 14, Jazzlyn, 11, Byllie, 6, and Taitayn, 2, is currently living in a tent on the property along with his wife, April.
Though authorities have not made any public announcements, Lemm said foul play is suspected as the family had been the target of recent threats. He also believes it could be linked to the death of his 19-year-old son Austin last December, which he described as a murder. There have been no arrests in the case, he said.
“The kids are taking it pretty rough,” Lemm told the Nisqually Valley News Thursday. “They’re scared. The big word ‘arson’ comes out of the firefighter's mouth and that tends to put a spook in them.”
Fire officials with the Southeast Thurston County Fire Authority have not announced a cause of the fire.
The urn containing Austin’s remains was pulled from the ashes of the fire, but other than that, the family lost just about everything in the blaze.
The family wasn’t home at the time of the fire, but their black labrador Blue was inside. A neighbor kicked in a door to allow the dog to run to safety, Lemm said.
“Quite a heroic move on their part,” he said.
Lemm, who was born and raised in Yelm, said the family had been at the Stevens Street home for about eight years. Now that it’s gone, he and his family are left looking for a house or apartment to rent.
He said he’d rather not move into another mobile home or camper. The damage wrought during the fire has left his children in fear of such structures, he said.
Support has come in the form of the Lemm family’s church. Jesus Name Pentecostal Church, located at 204 Jefferson Ave NW, is accepting donations to replace the family’s belongings, and the family does have a storage unit. A family member has created a campaign on the online crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com. As of Monday, about $600 had been raised out of a goal of $5,000.
“We’re relying on our church to try to calm the storm for us,” Lemm said. “We’re relying on the Lord to calm the storm for us.”
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/our-sister-lost-her-home-in-a-fire.
The fire, which occurred just before 6:30 p.m., caused a temporary closure of a portion of the street as firefighters with the Southeast Thurston Fire Authority extinguished the blaze and cleared the scene.
As of June 13, the cause of the fire was still under investigation, according to Southeast Thurston Fire Authority records. In addition, the fire was confined to the mobile home and the area of the fire’s origin included a heat source.
Four fire authority vehicles arrived to fight the fire, while six personnel were dispatched.
The alarm sounded at about 6:26 p.m. and the fire authority dispatched that same minute. It took about eight minutes for the Southeast Thurston Fire Authority to arrive at the scene from when it was alerted of the fire.
“Upon arriving I connected (Southeast Thurston Fire Authority’s) LDH to the hydrant at Fourth and West Road E. and noticed what appeared to be a fully involved structure fire of a double-wide mobile home with law enforcement already on the scene…” wrote Lt. Russ Barstow in the fire authority’s record of the incident. “I would estimate that we used about 2,000 gallons of water for extinguishment.”
It was the second house fire in Yelm in just two days.
On Tuesday, a residential fire destroyed a two-story house on the corner of Solberg Street and 133rd Avenue in Yelm. Authorities believe it might have been the result of arson, a narrative from Southeast Thurston Fire Authority suggests.
Lemm, the former occupant of the burned home on Stevens Street, said he doesn’t believe the same person set both fires.