Community helps with funeral costs for family killed in Pike County fire

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 10, 2013 

People are stepping up to help with the funeral costs for the family of a father and four children who were killed Wednesday in a house fire in Pike County.

Meanwhile, state Fire Marshal Bill Swope said his office might be ready to release the cause of the fire by Friday.

The fire started in the living room near a space heater, but the exact cause remains undetermined, according to a statement from the fire marshal's office. The home did not have any smoke detectors.

Those who were killed have been tentatively identified as Billy Wilfong, 39, and his children: Dakota, 5; Tyler, 4; Cheyenne, 2; and Emily, 6 months.

The children's mother, Tammie Tucker, 29, was listed in serious condition Thursday at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Hall & Jones Funeral Home in Virgie will handle arrangements. But the funeral probably will not be held until next week, when the bodies will be released by the state medical examiner's office after autopsies.

The fire happened about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday at the family's home on Elswick Branch Road near Jonancy, south of Pikeville.

It was one of the worst fires in the state since 10 people, including six children, were killed in a house fire in Bardstown in February 2007.

Valley Elementary School, where Dakota and Tyler attended classes, is coordinating efforts to help the family, guidance counselor Kim Weddington said.

People wishing to help the family should make checks out to the "Wilfong Memorial Fund" at any Community Trust Bank branch in Kentucky, Tennessee or West Virginia, she said.

"Our students are so outstanding," Weddington said. "They have actually been bringing us their candy-store money to donate to the family."

Almost $1,400 was collected Thursday.

There also is a "Tucker-Wilfong Memorial Fund" set up through U.S. Bank. Checks can be made out to that fund at any U.S. Bank location.

Grief counselors were at the school Thursday morning to talk to students.

The Kentucky Senate in Frankfort had a moment of silence Thursday for the fire victims. Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, introduced a resolution in their memory, and all 38 members of the Senate joined in signing it.

A moment of silence also was held at Wednesday night's middle school basketball game between Virgie Middle School and Mullins Middle School.

"We also handed out blue ribbons in memories of the children," Weddington said.

On Friday, children at Valley Elementary will hold a "hat day," when children will wear ball caps and other headgear in memory of the children who died.

Another effort is to allow people to attach flowers or other memorials to a fence outside Valley Elementary School, Weddington said.

"We're just now in the process of getting that started today," she said. "We're hoping to send letters home tonight to let parents know so they can start sending things" on Friday.

Some people have already sent stuffed Teddy bears to the school, Weddington said.

"We're planning on setting up a table inside the school with the Teddy bears and a banner," she said.

Staff Writer Jack Brammer contributed to this report. Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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