'We were called terrorists': Family moves after causing July 4th fire

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

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. - A family who took responsibility for a fireworks accident in Graham last July says they faced massive backlash that led them to move out of the neighborhood.

On July 4, 2016, then 13-year-old Ryan Skog was setting off fireworks in his backyard with his mother’s supervision, when a mortar tipped over and fired over his neighbor’s fence. It went into her shrubbery, quickly setting the neighbor’s house ablaze.

“I ran and got my hose. Ryan ran to her house,” Rhiannon Skog said. “I kept spraying, but I couldn’t reach the flames.”

Kathy Heller lost her home and so many of her possessions. She didn’t move back in until last month.

Earlier this week, Heller shared more about her difficult year. She even mentioned the Skog family.

“I’m sure she and her son feel terrible about this,” Heller said. “So it wasn’t just me that lost.”

Rhiannon says her family took responsibility, which the Fire Marshal’s report confirms. She says their homeowner’s insurance doubled, and they faced guilt that still wears on them.

“I know Kathy has been through a horrible ordeal, I know that,” Rhiannon said through tears. “I think about her not being in her home for the holidays. I think about all those things.”

But, Rhiannon says her family also faced abuse on social media and within the neighborhood, including the night after the fire.

“A neighbor across the fence yelled out, ‘it should have been your house that burnt. Your kids should have been inside,’” she said. “We were called terrorists on social media, careless nitwits, domestic terrorist, I mean, I have a whole list.”

“I thought really I was going to go to jail and something would happen and someone would hurt my family,” Ryan added.

Rhiannon says her family decided to leave Graham. Early this year they purchased a house in Bonney Lake and left for a fresh start.

The mother of four says her kids still startle easily. They only roast marshmallows with a hose nearby. And they’re worried with July 4 approaching.

“We will never touch another firework,” Rhiannon said.

Just one of the ways this holiday will feel different to the Skogs.

To see the state Fire Marshal's list of fireworks ordinances by cities and counties click here.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off