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Community helping out after devastating fire destroys home

Still trying to recover from the destruction of their Fort Ward-area home last Saturday are (L-R) Nick and Kari Durrant, twin sister Kori Hiser, her son Bentley and fiancé Nick Sutton. Many community members have quickly stepped up to help the two Coast Guard families. - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
Still trying to recover from the destruction of their Fort Ward-area home last Saturday are (L-R) Nick and Kari Durrant, twin sister Kori Hiser, her son Bentley and fiancé Nick Sutton. Many community members have quickly stepped up to help the two Coast Guard families.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

It was a fire created by an inexplicable explosion.

Nick Durrant was working last Saturday afternoon on a wooden key fob he was creating in the garage of his home on Fort Street when he decided to apply some Super 77 Adhesive spray to the small object.

Apparently, firefighters said later, the spray made contact with “an unknown source of ignition” and the can of glue immediately exploded into a ball of fire.

Durrant, who said the fire might have been caused by the spray igniting fumes from a pre-stain conditioner, dropped the can and ran into the house to get a fire extinguisher.

But upon his return, the garage was totally enveloped in fire, so instead he called 911 and ran upstairs to tell his wife, Kari, who was taking a nap, that the house was on fire and they needed to exit immediately. Kari was dazed and confused after being abruptly awakened, but the Durrants and the family dog escaped before smoke started filling the large house.

Fortunately, the four other occupants of the island home were elsewhere and Durrant suffered only singed hair on an arm. Kori Hiser, Kari Durrant’s twin sister, was at Bay Hay and Feed with her two sons, Ethan, 4, and Bentley, 1, and her finance, Nick Sutton.

Firefighters from Bainbridge Island, Poulsbo and North Kitsap departments responded to the three-alarm fire on the south end of Bainbridge, but there was no saving it. The two-story building was burned to a shell and nearly all of the families' possessions were destroyed.

“By the time firefighters arrived we found a significant amount of fire in the house, maybe 75 percent,” said Bainbridge Island Fire Marshal Luke Carpenter. “We knew everyone was out of the house so we chose a defensive operation, not to risk firefighters, and set up hose lines.”

Carpenter said it was fortunate that the summer hasn’t been hot because the house is surrounded by trees. “Their were burn marks high on the trees,” he said, “but nothing caught on fire.”

Carpenter said the fire has been ruled accidental and the investigation is closed.

The only items that didn’t go up in flames were the contents of two fireproof safes and an American flag that had served as the burial Stars and Stripes for the funeral of Nick Sutton’s father, who died in 2010; it had been placed in a bag near one of the strongboxes and miraculously survived unscathed.

Both Durrant and Sutton are non-commissioned officers stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard 13th District in Seattle, and have been placed on emergency leave.

“We’re still shocked, just completely stunned and in a daze about what happened,” Kori Hiser said four days later. “We’re just glad the kids weren’t there and that no one was injured. Ethan tells everybody who asks that his ‘toys and my house are dead.’ Right now we’re just trying to find a new rental home on the island that we can have until our transfer, which is in three years or so.”

While the six victims of the fire were trying to get their heads around what had happened on a pleasant, warm summer afternoon on an idyllic Puget Sound island, forces were already rallying to come their assistance.

The initial aid call went to the West Sound Red Cross office in Bremerton, which reached Dave Rasmussen, the organization’s director of emergency services. He contacted the families involved, then had someone go to the scene to assess their specific needs, which in their case was just about everything except vehicles and the clothes on their backs.

“I’m really glad you’re giving this family visibility,” Rasmussen said Wednesday. “It was an awful thing for them to go through and it’s obvious they need a lot of help.”

The Red Cross provided shelter at the Bainbridge Island Best Western Plus Hotel and a limited-use credit card to buy food, clothing, shelter and other basic needs. Each situation is different, Rasmussen said, but his organization quickly “reached out to the Coast Guard family, and it has begun to respond, too.”

And so has the Bainbridge community, beginning with the school Ethan attended.

“The moment we heard they had lost everything we went to our Montessori Country School family to ask for help,” said Patty Christensen, the director of the 40-year-old island school that serves families with toddlers and kindergartners. “We have such a strong community that the donations started coming in right away. Within two hours we had 10 to 15 responses with piles of clothes and other necessities piled on the school’s front porch.”

The Arrow Point Drive school, which has about 100 youngsters attending it each year, also approached Bainbridge Island Storage, which offered a free unit to hold the many big items – such as dressers, various electronics, books, shelves and beds – that the school families donated.

Hiser said that they have several appointments to look at houses and have one application pending. She said several people have offered to provide rooms for them to stay in until they settle.

Durrant said the community’s response “has overwhelming... it has helped.”

“It makes you feel good about the people,” Hiser said. “We want to stay here and we want to continue to live in the same house, so we need something large.”

They plan to go to Portland for a change of scene “and put this behind us for a couple of days,” said Sutton. “We’re just overwhelmed.”

The twin sisters grew up in Vancouver, and their mother lives in Portland, which is where Ethan has been spending the last few days.

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