Jessie Godsil, her burned and swollen right arm bandaged from the fingers to above the elbow, chased after her four-year-old, Kiva, in the foyer of the motel they were staying in.
“Ouch,” she whispered as she hoisted him into her lap.
On Friday, Jan. 18, Godsil had raced out of her burning house on Nevada Street, Kiva in her arms. Her path to the door forced her past the burning sofa in the living room where the fire apparently started. Kiva wasn’t hurt.
But Godsil has angry red burns on the right side of her face and neck and on her right thigh. Doctors likened the face and leg burns to a bad sunburn. The arm, though, is close to third-degree burns, although doctors don’t use that term anymore, she said.
Godsil is taking a leave of absence from her job in the dietary department at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital as she heals. She happened to have the day off that Friday and was home with Kiva while husband Christopher was at his job at Tofurkey in Hood River and their 13-year-old son, Christian, was in school at The Dalles Middle School.
She was in the boys’ room cleaning at around 1 p.m. when Kiva ran in saying, “Hot! Hot!”
“I rushed out there. The couch was on fire. I tried to put it out. It was just too much, and I grabbed him and ran out.”
She said, “I did some things I probably shouldn’t have. I pushed the couch out of the way when I probably didn’t need to, but it was just more of—it was scary. I didn’t know what I was thinking.
“It was more an instinct of protecting him. He’s lucky he didn’t get burned.”
One of the two smoke alarms in the 900-square-foot house didn’t work, but the one in the kitchen did. It “eventually” went off, she said, as she was fleeing the house.
So she is grateful for Kiva. “I think if it wasn’t for him, we probably wouldn’t have …” Her voice trailed off.
“It was terrifying,” she said.
She fled outside for help. She didn’t have a phone, so a neighbor’s nephew called 911.
Another neighbor took Jessie and Kiva to their house.
“I was sort of hysterical because I didn’t know what to do.” She called her husband, who came right away. She could “sort of” see her house as it burned. “It was devastating.”
She was taken to the hospital. “My arm was more painful than anything, and at the time it wasn’t even blistering.”
She was treated and released but ended up back in ER later when it began swelling. Doctors drained blisters to ease the swelling.
As they endure their loss and a period of uncertainty, somebody drove by the other day and added to their misery. Christopher was at the house when a man stopped his car in the middle of the road, holding up traffic behind him, to yell, “They should have let it burn down.”
Jessie wasn’t there, but Christopher told her about it.
“It’s kind of hurtful, to be honest,” Jessie said of the comment. “It’s my house and if somebody driving by says something like that, just … I don’t know.”
She added, “I honestly hope he wasn’t serious. It was a small, cute house. I honestly don’t know what that guy meant by it. We keep to ourselves so I don’t know why somebody would say that.”
The house had been vacant for four years when they bought it two or three years ago, Jessie said. She cleaned up the overgrown front and back yards, and had been looking forward to starting a garden out back this spring.
Now, many things are up in the air. “My stomach’s in knots not knowing what’s going to happen. That waiting period is nerve wracking.”
She doesn’t know what will happen with her arm, which is so swollen she can barely move it. She sees a surgeon next week.
She doesn’t know what started the fire or if her house is a total loss. She hopes her family can move out of the motel soon into a rental.
She lauded the assistance from their insurance company, Oregon Trail Insurance. “They’ve been a huge help.”
At the time Jessie spoke to a reporter last Wednesday, Christian hadn’t been to school yet because Jessie can’t drive due to the pain medication she’s on. She doesn’t want him to walk over a mile and a half to a bus stop by 7 a.m. to catch a ride to school, because she doesn’t think it’s safe.
He did walk to school from his home on Nevada street, she said, and she’d welcome a carpool offer from the parents of one of his friends. She can be reached at the Fairfield Inn in The Dalles at 541-769-0753.
“I just haven’t felt like being out by myself to be honest, especially when [Kiva’s] hyper. It’s just going to be hard,” she said.
Co-workers bought Jessie some stuff, and her daycare provider is also helping gather donations. The American Red Cross provided money, which “was helpful,” Jessie said. Someone suggested she start a gofundme page, but she just hasn’t done it. “There’s so much to do right now.”
She had to call to get her utilities shut off. She has to go to the DMV to get her license reissued. She has to go to the middle school to fill in paperwork for a program that provides clothing to students who have lost all theirs. She has to fill out detailed information of everything in her house that was lost.
“I started on it,” she said of the huge task. “But it’s kind of hard to write with my hand because this is my writing hand,” she said of her bandaged arm.
She welcomes donations from the community, and said she’d noticed on Facebook that The Dalles residents are particularly giving, something she said she hadn’t seen so much in Hood River, her hometown.
She said Kiva is a 4T or 6T for shirts and pants and his shoe size is 11 or 12.
Christian is a 14-16 boys and shoe size 8 or 9.
She is a medium or large in shirts, and pants are 11-12. Her shoe size is 11.
Christopher is an XL in shirts and in pants is a 34x34. He is a shoe size 10.
She would welcome donations of “anything,” she said.
Christian is bummed about losing his PlayStation 4. And Kiva had just gotten a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, and it’s gone.
But in a bit of luck, firefighters found Christian’s wallet. “It smells like smoke,” he said.
Some documents were saved, along with Jessie’s camera, which was sitting in a camera bag on a dresser. The camera bag had melted to the wall, but the contents were safe. “I have to thank the company for making such a good camera bag,” she said.
One thing they can’t replace are the photos the camera produced. “Our computer burned so our pictures are gone. It was on a backup drive and all that. Unfortunately, that was in the house.”