Local woman loses home to Christmas Day fire

PRINCETON, WV (WOAY) – A Princeton woman loses nearly everything in a fire on Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Molly O’Donnell wanted to do a load of laundry. A simple task quickly turned into a disaster.

“She came back and they had a wood or coal stove and the whole wall behind the stove was in flames,” said Kathryn Keatley, a family friend.

After seeing the flames, O’Donnell called her daughter and then the fire department.

“I just live right behind her in a trailer” said Emma Gum, O’Donnell’s daughter. “I took off running down to the house and by the time I got there, you could see the smoke coming out the top of the house.”

When all was said and done, the fire had badly damaged one side of her house. What the fire didn’t reach, the water did.

“All of that water, soot, ashes and insulation came down on everything,” said Gum. “Everything is frozen from when the temperature has been cold. I don’t know that there’s going to be too much that we’re going to be able to salvage.”

It wasn’t long before word got out about the Christmas fire and community members started offering their help.

“We have had tremendous help,” said Gum. “My neighbor across from us has brought food to us. People have been donating clothes to us. They have been giving us money to buy supplies, you know, like cleaning supplies, things that we might need.”

Keatley has known O’Donnell for decades and says the aftermath is devastating.

“Every time that I’ve ever been here, it’s just full of so much love,” said Keatley. “I mean, you can feel it. She’s the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. Knowing that she’s going through this is awful.”

For a woman who has done so much for her, Keatley wanted to give back.

“Seeing [her daughter’s Facebook post], I was devastated right then, knowing that she was out of her home,” said Keatley. “We instantly called to find out what we could do. That’s when I set up the GoFundMe page.”

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.