Newcastle Elementary School teacher amazed by support after house fire

February 5, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Jessica and Paul Smith have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from neighbors, co-workers and people in the community following a Dec. 21 fire that destroyed their Issaquah home. 

 “Quite simply, it’s overwhelming. It’s a good overwhelming,” said Jessica Smith, a part-time third-grade teacher at Newcastle Elementary School. “We feel so blessed by what everyone has done for us.”

Jessica and Paul Smith take an inventory of the items donated to them after a fire destroyed their South Cove house in December, as their 1-year-old son Grayson looks on.  Photo Contributed

Jessica and Paul Smith take an inventory of the items donated to them after a fire destroyed their South Cove house in December, as their 1-year-old son Grayson looks on. Photo Contributed

Neighborhood children donated $700 that they raised shoveling snow. Friends, neighbors and total strangers have donated items, including cash, gift cards, clothing, running shoes, blankets, bedding, toiletries and luggage. The items fill the basement of Jessica’s parents’ home in Bellevue, where the couple and their 1-year-old son Grayson have stayed since the blaze.

Grayson will be outfitted in clothing for the next two years and he has more toys than before the fire, his mother said. The Smiths have also received several baby items. Jessica Smith is five months pregnant. 

Christy Otley, Newcastle Elementary principal, said school staff members have collected money and presented Jessica with a gift certificate.

“We have a pretty amazing community of colleagues that work together at Newcastle, and we take care of one another just as a family would,” she said.

The fire remains under investigation. Officials said they were 90 percent certain the blaze began in the kitchen, but how it started is uncertain, Paul Smith said.

The Smiths were at a relative’s house having dinner at the time of the fire. Shortly after 4 p.m., Steve Sanelli, a neighbor, spotted smoke coming from the back of the house.

The blaze caused about $600,000 in damage, according to Gerry Kenny, a fire investigator for the King County Sheriff’s Office. Sanelli and his family, as well as neighbors Matt and Cindy Wimmer, organized a relief effort for the Smiths.

The fire came two days prior to the Smith’s three-year anniversary of owning the house, Jessica Smith said. The couple plans to return and rent a house in the neighborhood.

“We just love the neighborhood and we realize even more so now that we want to raise our children here to see them graduate,” she said.

Paul Smith, a general contractor, said the fire has taught the family the importance of community.

“I’m so humbled and grateful,” he said. “This whole experience has been overwhelming, amazing, and the sheer volume of generosity has floored me.”

 

How to help   Go to any Bank of America and directly deposit funds into the “Paul and Jessica Rebuild Account.” The Newcastle branch is at 6950 Coal Creek Parkway S.E. Call 206-585-6844.

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