Fireworks gut house, spark community spirit of helping others

Edward and Nicholas Loftin had lived in their apartment for a decade. That all changed when an illegal firework destroyed everything they owned on July 2. Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

The first thing 22-year-old Nicholas Loftin noticed was a mysterious sound of crackling coming from outside his window right as he was about to go to bed on July 2. He then saw flames.

“The whole back of the house was on fire,” he said.

He ran to the living room to wake his father Edward Loftin and escape with only the clothes they were wearing. Edward had just fallen asleep on the couch after spending the day cleaning, sharpening and repairing tools that would only become lumps of charred metal and melted plastic by dawn the following day – all were tools Edward used at his property maintenance business.

“I did a lot of handyman stuff,” Edward said. “There wasn’t much I didn’t do.”

Everything was gone.


Edward Loftin was taking a nap on the couch in the living room when his son Nicholas awoke him after seeing flames outside the window of their Yakima Avenue residence. Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

The two-floor house along the 1900 block of South Yakima Avenue had other tenants at a ground-level unit. All escaped injury. The house and their belongings were destroyed as well. Tacoma Fire Department investigators determined fireworks caused the damage. 

Renter’s insurance, thankfully, will cover some of the costs of the personal belongings the Loftins lost in the blaze. Gone forever, however, are the family heirlooms like the glass figures Nicholas’ mother collected before she died of cancer when he was only 3 years old.

“We lost all of that,” Edward said.

The insurance policy also doesn’t cover the replacement of those yard tools Edward needs to trim branches, cut grass and clear brush so he can earn the money he needs to rebuild his life.

“It’s slow going,” he said. “I’m just taking it day by day. But it’s getting there.”

Loftin shows Ryan Waterman what used to be the kitchen of his residence that was destroyed by fire that was likely caused by fireworks. Waterman and Loftin were strangers before the fire but news of Loftin’s need for yard tools prompted Waterman to donate tools, and even swing by to drop them off. Photo by Steve Dunkelberger

That slow recovery effort includes a campaign, that is more than halfway to its $20,000 goal, and a stream of donations from clients, friends and strangers like Ryan Waterman. He decided he needed to do something after learning of the blaze on social media.

“I just had to help him out,” said Waterman, who donated a lawn mower, a weed eater, a fertilizer, two racks and a hedge trimmer from his collection of tools at Waterman Property Maintenance. “This is just stuff I had laying around.”

Waterman’s donation of tools meant Edward was working the next day, operating from a motel room the Red Cross provided until they can find more permanent housing.

“A lot of people don’t have the strength to carry on from something like this, but all you can do is dust yourself off and walk on,” Edward said. “I believe that if you are good to people, it will come back to you. That’s what I teach my son.” 

The blaze was actually the second house fire caused by fireworks in as many days in a city where all fireworks are illegal. Fire officials continue to investigate both fires as well as tally the final cost of damages fireworks caused around the city during Independence Day celebrations. 

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