Community Rallies Around Family of 13 Left Homeless After Fire

Columbia Falls fire officials have not determine cause of Oct. 31 fire on Sandy Hill Terrace

By Justin Franz

A Columbia Falls family of 13 is picking up the pieces after a fire destroyed their home on Oct. 31. The blaze left the family homeless.

The Shestak family was at church on the evening of Oct. 31 when the fire was first reported at 65 Sandy Hill Terrace. No one was injured, but the home was a total loss.

“By the time they showed up everything was in flames,” said Veronica Derov, the niece of Julia and Alex Shestak. “The only thing they had were the clothes on their back. They lost everything from A to Z.”

Columbia Falls Fire Chief Rick Hagen said the fire began in the basement just below the kitchen, but it is hard to determine how it started. Hagen said the agency has ruled out foul play.

“There was just too much damage in that specific area (below the kitchen) to really figure out what started it,” he said.

The fire was first reported shortly after 9 p.m. and first responders from Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Evergreen, West Valley, Three River EMS and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office responded.

As of Nov. 9, more than $22,000 had been donated to a Go Fund Me page set up to help the Shestak family. The family is currently living in a hotel and is looking for new housing.

Derov said the Shestaks still need appliances and furniture, especially beds. She said donations could be dropped off at 99 Sandy Hill Terrace. People can also donate money directly to the family by going to a local Wells Fargo Bank and making a deposit for the Shestak family. For more information and to learn how to donate visit www.gofundme.com/6s7u8nxw.

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