Young couple overwhelmed by donations after Bonaparte Lake Resort fire
BONAPARTE LAKE – Most lessons on what is truly important in life come in the form of trials and tribulations that test the spirit.
Joey Dunkin and Halla Fuhrman have been living that experience these past few days after the Bonaparte Lake Resort cabin that housed the engaged couple’s studio apartment burned to the ground Friday. The fire claimed all their worldly possessions and their beloved dog, as well as one of the primary cabins used by the resort.
But they have also been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received in the days since, including donations of clothing, furniture, and (as of Tuesday morning) $3,200 donated through a Gofundme.com website set up by Halla’s mom, Heather Cruz. An additional account was set up by Bridgette Sterling at U.S. Bank in Tonasket (see info below).
“It’s just amazing that in two and a half days that people have been giving that much to us,” Halla said. “We’re just super grateful. A lot of people have done so much, but especially Mike and Bridgette Sterling. The Red Cross gave us a donation, so I want to thank them. People have been dropping off stuff. It doesn’t matter if people have donated $5, $10 or more, anything has helped and we appreciate it so much.”
“It’s amazing, people we don’t even know have been trying to help,” Joey added. “But it’s hard to look at the website and know why people are giving to you.”
Heather and Eric Cruz, along with Heather’s parents Dave and Sandy Anderson, have owned the resort since 2010. It recently hosted the Bonaparte Lake Snow Drags, and the cabin that burned down was booked from May through most of the summer.
“I’m waiting on the insurance timeline,” Heather said. “If we can, we will rebuild it by summer. That’s our intention, anyway, but we’ll have to see.”
“People have sent in their deposits,” Dave added. “So it will be a big impact if we can’t rebuild that quickly.”
Though the fire is still being investigated, Heather said that it apparently started in or around the wood stove that heated the shop on the lower floor.
“The wood stove was closed,” she said. “So we don’t know if it was a flue fire or an ember that popped out.”
Joey had been working in the shop, and he and Dave were the only ones on site when the fire started.
“I needed to make a phone call (from the main lodge) and while I was on the phone I saw smoke in the doorway,” Joey said. “I called 911 but for some reason it wasn’t working. So Dave ran in and tried calling again.”
Joey tried to get into the upstairs apartment to try to save belongings and the dog, but quickly became disoriented and was fortunate to get out.
“I kind of got lost and started to panic a bit,” he said. “I had to feel my way out.”
Okanogan County Sheriff and EMS responded, and Joey was treated and released at North Valley Hospital, primarily for smoke inhalation.
Fire response, though, took more than two hours, Heather said. They had been unaware that they were not in a fire district, so they were left to watch the building burn and attempt to keep the fire from spreading on their own.
“That’s a tough way to learn that lesson,” Heather said. “Tonasket Fire came pretty much out of the goodness of their hearts, but there were just ashes to spray down by then.”
Halla and Heather had been hiking near Tonasket when Heather’s husband Eric called with news of the fire.
“We didn’t know what had happened and I didn’t want to believe it,” Halla said. “I still can’t. Mom and I started back up here, but when we were at about Aeneas Valley we saw the ambulance coming down so we turned around and waited for Joey at the hospital.”
Engaged since October, Halla and Joey, both 18, are looking at other living options. She’s been working at the lodge and he was laid off from his job last October, though he said news of the fire may have provided him at least a part-time job opportunity.
“We’re looking for a place,” Joey said. “We have some ideas, but if we need to we have a trailer we can stay in for awhile.”
It’s been a challenging stretch for the Bonaparte Lake Resort proprietors. Heather is recovering from a near-fatal bout with Lyme disease contracted through a tick bite.
“You just have to keep a positive attitude,” Heather said. “Bad things happen in the world all the time. It’s what you make out of them. There’s things to be learned from everything you experience. Being sick, I wouldn’t change it. I’ve learned so much about what’s important and what’s not. It’s certainly been an interesting journey.
“It’s brought tears to my eyes how many people, even strangers, have stepped up to help, especially Halla and Joey that have lost all they have,” she added. “It’s a great reminder that in a small community a lot of people treat each other like family. That’s been a huge growing experience for those kids to see how loving and caring people can still be in this world.”
And as Halla said, she and Joey are now part of the long history of the resort.
“Someday people will look back and talk about the year the cabin burned down,” she said. “And we can say, yeah, that was us.”
Financial donations can be made online at Gofundme.com, or at the U.S. Bank in Tonasket in Halla Fuhrman’s name.