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A fire Dec. 30 destroyed the house of longtime Ellensburg resident Fran Cuhtahlatah. Cuhtahlatah had been living at the residence on West First Avenue since 1979. Todd Mildon, whose family has been a part of Ellensburg for generations, started a GoFundMe website to raise money for Cuhtahlatah.

“I raised two kids there and had grandkids in and out all the time,” Cuhtahlatah said. “And I don’t know why, but I took a picture of my hallway with, you know those lines you make with your kids’ names and how tall they are? I don’t know why, but I just did that a few months ago for some reason.”

The hallway Cuhtahlatah took pictures of was destroyed in the fire, and all that’s remaining are her pictures.

Mildon said he created a GoFundMe page because Cuhtahlatah has been such a staple of the community. There also is a fundraiser through Facebook that was setup by Cuhtahlatah before she knew Mildon made one.

“This was a terrible tragedy for someone to lose their home right in the middle of the holidays,” Mildon said. “Fran is a close friend and longtime friend of me and many folks in the community. She has given so much to Ellensburg over the years, she has been a longtime community organizer. I would have helped out anyone, but Fran has given so much to the community, I felt it was important for the community to give back.”

Cuhtahlatah moved to Ellensburg in 1972 after she was abandoned by her husband. In 1974, she was a member of Headstart (now Bright Beginnings) organization. She is currently the president of the board of the non-profit Blue Bear Puppet Lab and a representative for aging and long-term care. She is also a retired northeast quadrant chairperson for the Community Action Agency.

Already, over $8,000 has been raised through GoFundMe, and another $5,000 has been raised through Facebook. However, the damage to Cuhtahlatah’s home is extreme. Firefighters had to tear apart the roof and the walls to chase the fire.

“I am so freaking humbled and grateful. I never knew so many people cared for me as much as they did,” Cuhtahlatah said. “Thank you, thank you everybody.”

Since the fire, Cuhtahlatah has been living in a motel, which was paid for by the Red Cross and an anonymous donor. Another donation was made by the local company Tarp-it, which sent a team to cover the structure with their tarps to protect from any more damage.

According to Cuhtahlatah, the fire marshal said the cause of the fire was most likely electrical. Nobody was injured in the fire, but nearly everything was destroyed. She does not know yet if it’s possible to repair the structure, or if she will have to find a new place to live.

People looking to help Cuhtahlatah can still donate to the GoFundMe account at http://gf.me/u/zd4773. Or at the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/donate/2899644473648409/1596578524063090/

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