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Woman whose home burned last July 4th asks for caution this holiday

A fire burns a home in Graham on July 4, 2016 (Photo: Graham Fire & Rescue)

GRAHAM, Wash. -- What a difference one year makes.

Last July, Kathy Heller's house suffered major damage after a neighbor accidentally shot a firework sideways over the fence and set her home ablaze.

A couple days later, burglars ransacked what remained, taking electronics, jewelry and Heller's wedding ring.

"It's been a loss, for the whole time," Heller said. "53 years of stuff. And it's been hard. It's been hard."

Heller's insurance covered most of her rebuild, but it's been a long and grueling process. She just moved back into her home last month.

"I love my new home," Heller said smiling. But it's not the same as the house she spent decades in with her late husband.

"I lost something, and I'll never get that back, because it's gone," she said.

Heller is concerned with another July 4th approaching. She expects another busy holiday with fireworks in her neighborhood.

She plans to spend the evening at home with family, watching her property, prepared if anything goes wrong.

Graham Fire & Rescue, like many other fire departments, warns that every year they deal with stories like Kathy's because of reckless use of fireworks.

"Most fireworks, even the legal fireworks... they're unpredictable, uncontrollable," Battalion Chief Mike Fortier said. "Things can get out of hand very very quickly."

Different cities and counties in Washington have fireworks bans, which are posted on the Washington State Patrol website.

So this year, Kathy has a request for families around Western Washington.

"Be smart, be safe, because this could happen to you," she said.

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