Fundraising effort underway to help Union family after house fire

Jan. 6—UNION — Josh Kildow was folding laundry on Tuesday, Dec. 27, when he walked into the living room and found himself facing a thick wall of smoke.

He grabbed his sons — Damien, 5, and Colt, 4 — and left the one-story house at Bellwood and East Grande streets in Union.

Firefighters from the Union Fire Department arrived quickly and extinguished the blaze in 15 to 20 minutes before the flames did any damage, but heat and smoke took a toll.

The east side of the house sustained such extensive damage that Kildow and his wife, Sharon Gardner, who was at work at the time of fire, and their two sons can no longer live there.

"The walls are black from the smoke," Kildow said.

And there are many other problems making the home uninhabitable. For example, electrical outlets are now exposed, posing a safety hazard.

Kildow and Gardner and their two boys, who moved to Union from Boise, Idaho, five months ago, have lived in various places since the fire, including a motel in La Grande. Presently the family is sleeping in their car.

The couple's boys have been able to continue attending school in Union after the fire. Damien is a kindergarten student at Union Elementary School and Colt attends Head Start classes.

Kildow anticipates it will be one to two months before his family can return to their home.

"It will be awhile," he said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with expenses. To access the account, go to and search for "Keep the Kildows Moving Forward."

Kildow said he feels incredibly fortunate that nobody in his family was hurt. It could have been much worse, especially considering the fire was not noticeable at first.

"I didn't hear or smell anything," Kildow said. "If we had been asleep, we would have been toast."

After he and his sons were outside they saw smoke emerging from under the home's doorways and other openings.

Kildow and Gardner have been leasing the house. To help cover their rent the tenants had done painting and drywall work on the east side of the home, which was not damaged by the fire.

Kildow does not know what the immediate future holds, but he does know his family hopes to remain in Union.

"We want to stay because the community has been so wonderful to us," Kildow said.

Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer. Contact him at 541-624-6016 or