Richmond mother and 6 kids lose home in Chamberlayne Avenue fire: ‘Everytime I close my eyes, I still see the fire’


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– A Richmond woman and her six children are displaced after a fire destroyed their home a week ago. Now, the Ginter Park community is coming together to help the family.

Leoni Wells and her six children have no home to call their own right before the Christmas holiday.

On Thursday, Dec. 3, flames broke out inside her home while her kids were attending Global Girl Power, a virtual learning and mentorship program.

Wells came home to a thick plume of smoke and flames were coming from the bottom of her front door.

“I hear the smoke alarm going off in the house. I open up the back door and I can just see black smoke everywhere,” said wells.

Wells told 8News she was hysterical and immediately called 911. Richmond firefighters arrived at the home on the 3800 block of Chamberlayne Avenue around 8:30p.m.

The family was able to salvage some clothing and special mementos like pillows or teddy bears, but their home was destroyed. The family had to get rid of all of their furniture. Wells and her children have been living in a hotel.

“Everytime I go to close my eyes, I still see the fire,” said Wells.

Dozens around the world have reached out to help. David Chewning is the Treasurer for the Rotary Club of Richmond and is one of the main individuals making sure the Wells family is taken care of.

According to Chewning, Rotary Club of Richmond officers jumped into action once they were notified of the tragedy.

“Three people have already donated clothing,” said Chewning.

23 years ago, Chewning had a similar experience. He too, lost his home in a fire.

“The roof caved in. Everything was gone. My rotary club stepped up to the plate. Different organizations I was in, stepped up to the plate. By the afternoon after the fire, we had so many clothes, we couldn’t wear them all. I suspect that’s what’s going to happen with Leoni.”

Rotary Club of Richmond currently has plans to purchase a storage unit where Wells can store all of her donations until she finds a new home.

Prudence Justis lives nearby in the same neighborhood as Wells and her family. Justis has set up a GoFundMe account. In one day, the account has raised more than $8,000.

“When I heard about the story, I just felt compelled to help,” said Justis.

“The outpouring has been amazing. I would have never imagined that this type of tragedy or trauma would bring this many people close to us,” said Wells, who told 8news that she is grateful her family is alive.

She was told an electrical space heater started the fire. According to Wells, the heater was plugged in an outlet and a fuse triggered a spark in the walls. With the outpouring of support, she hopes that she will be able to find her family a new home before Christmas.


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