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Rush of goodwill follows fire for Keizer business owners

Of the Keizertimes

“The fire dept is coming. My dryer lit on fire. Thank God I was awake,” Nancy Duvall, Facebook, 1:02 a.m., Thursday, March 17.

Given all the possible things she could have done while waiting for the fire department to come and extinguish a dryer fire consuming their home, she posted to Facebook.

Beware boredom, it strikes at every possible opportunity.

The thing Duvall didn’t expect when she put up that brief note was just how many people were awake at the same time or how many well-wishers would follow on their heels.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people, the extra layer of communication,” she said.

It came from all sectors, not just the result of Facebook networking.

“We were out having a meal and someone picked up the tab for our dinner after overhearing the story we told our server. I grew up in southern California, and I barely knew my neighbors. The outpouring from people has been incredible,” said Kent Duvall, her husband.

The Duvalls live just outside Aumsville with their children Quinn and Catie, but own the Keizer UPS Store, 5434 River Road North. Nancy discovered the nascent blaze when she got up from bed planning to send an e-mail to business associates that threaten to keep her from sleep.

“I had thrown Quinn’s baseball uniform in the dryer before I went back to the bedroom and when I got back out to my office I heard clicking coming from the wall behind an electrical panel,” Nancy said.

She turned down the heater and made a loop of the house before returning to her office where the clicking had grown into a bright glow behind the wall panel. She went out to check the dryer and saw a bright halo of light behind it. She woke Kent who checked the dryer himself and saw flames were beginning to sprout from the rear.

The family called 9-1-1 and retreated to a detached garage to wait for fire crews to arrive. While they waited the fire spread to consume their laundry room, heavily damage their kitchen and send smoke throughout the rest of the house.

“I figured it would be a small fire and the fire department would go in and hit it with a couple of fire extinguishers and be done, but I started hearing popping glass and then flames were coming out of the window,” Kent said.

“It felt like the Fourth of July with all the lights and fire,” added Catie.

Fire crews arrived, extinguished the blaze and asked if they wanted them to call in the American Red Cross.

“Initially, we thought we’re independent people and we’ll be all right, but then I thought, don’t say no to help,” Nancy said.

Red Cross representatives arrived with wool blankets, water and an offer of assistance to set them up in a hotel for a few days along with a gift card to replace a couple of days worth of clothing.

“I always thought of them as the group that responded to hurricanes and held blood drives, but they were just great,” Kent said.

The Duvalls sent Quinn and Catie with Nancy’s parents and retrieved a few things from the home before joining them.

“I grabbed a suitcase and we started packing clothes,” Nancy said. Much of the family valuables including a 140-year-old family Bible, photographs and other items were spared heavy damage, but Kent lost a baseball card collection. With initial damage estimates totaling about $120,000, the family is likely to remain in the hotel where they’re currently staying for up to four months.

“It’s just a lot more cramped. My room at home is bigger than the whole hotel suite combined,” Quinn said.

Slowly things have begun to return to normal, but the comforts of home are missed in small and gnawing ways. After four days, they broke down and bought an Xbox for the hotel room.

“We need to recreate the normal,” Nancy said. “Right now, I’m really missing the TIVO. “

Given the emotional roller coaster they embarked on in the wake of the fire, their slowly figuring out the way forward.

“We started thinking about all the things we’re going to need to replace and we’ve decided we’ll be making all the purchases from locally-owned establishments in thanks for all they’ve done to reach out,” Nancy said.

Taking the new normal in small bites helps them keep things in perspective.

“People in Japan have problems, we’ve had a bump, but we’re all okay and healthy. They’ve got real problems,” Kent said.