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Community helps pay for fire victims funerals

Jan. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- An eastern Kentucky community is stepping up to help pay the funeral costs for five family members killed when their home caught fire.

Four children and their father perished in the blaze early Wednesday morning in the Pike County community of Jonancy. The children's mother was being treated for serious burns at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington.

Fire investigators said the blaze was accidental and broke out in the living room, but a cause has not been released.

Several media outlets reported that memorial funds for the Wilfong family have been set up at area banks, and students were bringing money to their schools to contribute.

In addition, a memorial has been set up at Valley Elementary School where the two oldest children -- 5-year-old Dakota and 4-year-old Tyler -- attended classes.

Guidance counselor Kim Weddington said the school is coordinating efforts to collect donations. On Thursday, they received almost $1,400.

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

Meanwhile, the school has called in grief counselors and set up memorials to the children. Teachers are asking students to bring in items such as flowers to attach to a fence outside the school and stuffed teddy bears that will go on a table inside the school.

Dakota's teacher, Noritta Collins, called his loss "extremely traumatic."

Assistant Principal Jimmy Tackett said the schools would help the extended family as much as possible.

"You just have to lean on your faith and pray for the family, pray for the grandparents and pray for the kids' mother," Tackett said. "This family really needs our support and they're going to need the support of the community ... a lot of support."

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