CRESTVIEW — Losing a home and receiving an outpouring of generosity is difficult to process, Ritchie Golden says.

CRESTVIEW — Losing a home and receiving an outpouring of generosity is difficult to process, Ritchie Golden says.

"We're just overwhelmed right now," he says. "It's hard to be really grateful when it's not all sunk in yet."

Golden; his wife, Tammy; their pregnant daughter, Jewelie Bellew; paraplegic adult daughter, April Hutchinson; and their 10-year-old granddaughter, Trinity Cassell, have received plenty of help since Wednesday. That was when a morning fire forced them from their Mount Olive Estates home into sub-freezing temperatures and consumed most of their belongings.

Community response

The American Red Cross' Crestview branch relocated the family to the Hampton Inn, where Tammy Golden works. She said her employer will allow the family to stay there beyond Monday's Red Cross housing voucher expiration as they seek a new home.

"I can't say how grateful I am to them," she said.

Northwood Arts and Sciences Academy, her granddaughter's school, gave Trinity jackets and shoes, which Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Deputy Michael Jacobs, the school's resource officer, delivered to the hotel.

"That was really awesome of him," Trinity said.

Every donation helps since everything the family had is gone.

"We lost everything. We have nothing," Tammy Golden said. "... A modular home like that is going to go up in no time. Everybody is safe and my two dogs are safe and we're counting our blessings there. But it's still a shock that everything's gone."

Two other residents, Ritchie Golden's son and grandson, both named Ritchie, were visiting out-of-town relatives when the fire occurred, and also lost most of their belongings.

"If I had thought about it, I would've grabbed the baby's stuff," Bellew said. She recently received gifts of baby clothes and supplies.

'We watched it burn'

The Goldens believe the 4:20 a.m. blaze started with an electrical mishap. Tammy credited Hutchinson for calling out when she noticed the fire. The home's fire alarm didn't sound until after the family evacuated, Ritchie Golden said.

"We got everybody out, but the light by the back door was on fire," Tammy Golden said. "My husband took a fire extinguisher and tried to put it out."

Ritchie Golden said they saw "a glow near the roof" while evacuating and realized the fire spread to the attic.

"We watched it burn before the (Dorcas Volunteer Fire Department) got there," he said. "The firemen were digging out photo albums and slinging them outside."

The temperature outside was 27 degrees Fahrenheit, causing firefighters' water to freeze.

"We had ice all over everything," Dorcas fire Chief John Polinsky said. "The fire hydrant we used sent spray all over the trees and stuff. They were covered in ice."

After the fire, Tammy Golden said she clings to her faith as the community rallies to support her family.

"Everybody's helping us already but we've helped people, too, so this just shows that God watches out for you," Golden said.

"We want to thank the community for all their prayers."



Drop off donations at the Dorcas Volunteer Fire Department, 4418 Poverty Creek Road or the Hampton Inn, 3709 S. Ferdon Blvd., Crestview. 


Here are family member’s clothing and shoe sizes.


Pants: 34/34

Shirts: XL

Shoes: 12-13


Ritchie: (adult son)

Pants: 32/34

Shirts: L

Shoes: 12


“Baby” Ritchie – 3 years old



Pants: 7

Shirts: Medium

Shoes: 11


Jewelie Bellew: (seven and a half months pregnant; having a boy)

Maternity clothes: L

Shoes: 8.5


April Hutchinson: (paraplegic)

Pants: 0-1

Shirts: Medium

Shoes (doesn’t wear shoes)

Trinity Cassell– age 10

Pants: 12

Shirts: Medium

Shoes: 4

Other: “Girly girl,” loves hair ties, accessories, purses

Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.