MILTON-FREEWATER -- She left for work at a home for disabled adults last Wednesday in her painting clothes, Christa Shannon explained today.
It was an unexpectedly early departure for the Milton-Freewater woman, and she planned to return to later to change clothes and pick up her teenage son.
Later, however, there was no house to return to. No wardrobe, either.
Shannon and her family lost everything but each other in a fire that consumed their home just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The Milton-Freewater Rural Fire Department responded to the blaze, finding the 1978 mobile home fully engulfed in flames.
The house belonged to the Milton-Freewater Unified School District and was on land the district uses for farming education. The rent was minimal in return for Shannon keeping a watchful eye there, school officials said last week.
Her first clue came when her son Chandler called his mom from the bus ride home from school, Shannon said. "He was saying, 'Mom, everyone is texting me and telling me my house is on fire.'"
While no humans were home, the family lost their beloved blue heeler dog. They got Ace as a puppy 11 years ago, and "he was the best, best dog. Normally I would have had him at work," Christa Shannon said.
The fire's cause has not been determined. "They just don't know at this time," she said. Shannon, her children and her partner, Richard Breeding, had just completed a renovation of the home they had lived in for 10 years. Included in the project were all-new flooring, repainted walls and new cabinets for the bathroom.
And, in keeping with her love of the Western culture, Shannon had "beautiful Western art" on the walls, above all-new furniture in the home she described as "very comfortable" for her family.
"Everything was new, so this is hard for us. The school district had came in and inspected it and told us it was really nice."
The one thing Shannon had put off buying was renter's insurance, she said. "It just makes me sick. When you're budgeting, you put those things off. You just say 'It's not going to happen to me.'"
As far as she knows, none of her belongings will be covered by the school district's insurance, she added.
The family was given temporary shelter at the Morgan Inn in Milton-Freewater by the American Red Cross, a blessing that ends after Tuesday. In the meantime, she's had no luck in finding a home that fits her rental budget of about $500, Shannon said.
Plus, they'll need everything -- "We have no bedding, no towels, no dishes," she said, a tremor just beginning in her voice.
In the meantime, family friend and cousin Sherri Breeding has gone to bat for them, Shannon pointed out. "She is on the phone, setting up a bank account, everything. She is really trying to get this worked out for us."
Sheila Hagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8322.
How To Help
The Shannon Family Fire Relief Fund has been established at Bank of America; donations can be made at any branch. Those wishing to donate household items can take them to Rise and Shine home decor store at 914 S. Main St., or call 541-938-3675.
Clothing is being sought for a 15-year-old boy, shoe size 11 men's, size 28 waist and 30 inseam in pants and size small in men's shirts. Clothing is also needed for a 10-year-old girl, shoe size 6 in women's, pants in size 3 in juniors and tops in juniors medium.
For more information call Christa Shannon at 509-540-1666.