Community, deputies help out La Plata family after fire destroys home

Joshua Kellogg, Farmington Daily Times
Published 2:44 p.m. MT Oct. 12, 2020


County fire fighters have some helpful tips to keep your Butterball from turning into a fireball if you plan to fry it this Thanksgiving.

Farmington Daily Times

Online donations have been set up on a Facebook page

Story Highlights

  • Lisa Stephens and her husband Virgil Stephens lost their home to a structure fire on County Road 1470 around 11:35 p.m. on Sept. 16.
  • The family has been overwhelmed by the community’s reaction to the fire.
  • The Stephens’ have a mobile home they are working to fix up as their new family home.

FARMINGTON — A family that lives in La Plata is overwhelmed by the community’s response after their home and all of their belongings were destroyed during a structure fire in September.

Some of the fundraising efforts were started by members of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office who wished to help the family out during a dire time.

Lisa Stephens and her husband, Virgil Stephens, lost their home on County Road 1470 around 11:35 p.m. on Sept. 16 after a stove in the kitchen was accidentally left on.

The resulting blaze gutted the home and also killed three household cats, according to the Stephens Family Home Fundraiser Facebook page.

The Farmington and San Juan County fire departments responded to the call, leaving the scene around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, according to San Juan County Spokesman Devin Neeley.

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Members of the Stephens family and friends are pictured next to Stephens’ home, which was destroyed in a Sept. 16 fire. Seen from left to right are Jessie West, Jacob Jung, Lisa Stephens, Sandra Gherardini and Shawn West. (Photo: San Juan County Sheriff’s Office)

Lisa Stephens told The Daily Times the family lost everything. There were no injuries to family members, as most of them were not home. Two of the cats that died in the fire had belonged to her for more than 12 years.

“My reaction was complete shock. I never thought anything like that would happen,” she said.

The family, including 25-year-old Jacob Jung and 14-year-old Sandra Gheradini, have been staying at property Virgil Stephens owns in the area.

The family has been overwhelmed by the community’s reaction to the fire.

Lisa Stephens, a manager at a Speedway gas station in the La Plata area, said her boss notified all the regional managers about what happened. Area employees pooled their money to help the Stephens family.

Some community members donated items like clothing, blankets, shampoo and makeup. A local woman helped Lisa Stephens clean up the site of the fire and tried to locate their pets.

Two local construction companies helped tear down the burnt-out house and cleaned up the site, along with donating three truckloads of gravel to help prepare the pad for another mobile home.

“I’m super blessed that we live in such a wonderful community,” Lisa Stephens said.

She was also thankful for the response by the area fire departments and local churches, which helped the family during this time.

Sergeant Andrew Gilbert of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office visited the property a couple of days after the fire and learned of the loss the Stephens family suffered. It was speaking to Ralph Danielle, who hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Stephens family, that prompted Gilbert to action.

“It kind of spurred my thoughts about what we could do to help them more,” Andrew Gilbert said.

Gilbert helped promote the “Uncle Ralph’s” spaghetti dinner fundraiser and collaborated with Detective Katie Becenti to set up an online fundraiser for the family, along with a non-profit bank account.

“I can’t imagine losing absolutely everything in a fire,” Katie Becenti said.

The Stephens’ have a mobile home they are working to fix up as their new family home. The needed repairs include a new roof, a ceiling in the living room and plumbing work.

Some work will be required for the foundation in order to hook the residence up to utilities.

Information on donating to the Stephens family can be found at or (case sensitive).

Those who wish to make donations can also donate at Citizens Bank by mentioning the Stephens’ family home fundraiser account.

People can request the IRS Tax ID (EIN) Number by messaging the Facebook page.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at [email protected]

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Wednesday November 2, 2022