A Lewiston business took quick action to help members of the community have heat during a widespread natural gas line interruption.
Bill’s Heating & A/C distributed about 3,000 space heaters to residents affected by the suspension of services. People began lining up at the door at 1:20 p.m., and the queue at times wrapped down G Street to Lincoln Street.
Trina Fuchs, of Lewiston, was one of those who was struggling to stay warm in her home.
“We woke up just freezing this morning,” she said. “We just woke up with nothing.”
Wednesday night Fuchs turned her stove off and on to produce some heat without burning the element. She lives with her husband, who is disabled, and has been bundling him up in blankets to keep him warm.
Her daughter is also without heat and hot water and has five children. Fuchs gave her an extra microwave so she could heat water for sponge baths.
“This is going to help a lot,” Fuchs said about having access to a space heater. “I’m one person trying to do it all.”
With a heater, Fuchs can now heat one space in her home at a time and keep it by her husband.
Mason Potts, of Clarkston, also went without heat Wednesday night. He tried to order a space heater from Amazon, but it’s not scheduled to arrive until Saturday.
He heated his home by turning the oven on and leaving the door open, but it didn’t circulate the heat well. It was 66 degrees in his home Thursday morning.
“If we can just get the living room heated up, I’ll be good because we can keep the doors open,” Potts said.
Salina Brown, of Lewiston, was at the Nez Perce County drug court and got a group text about the distribution at Bill’s Heating & A/C. She didn’t have any kind of heat Wednesday night.
“I went to bed early, so I was snuggly in my blankets,” she said.
When she woke up later at 1 a.m., it was freezing.
“A heater will be so much better,” she said.
Brown has a roommate, so she’s planning to use the heater in the living room to warm more of the home.
“I’m just glad to get one,” she said.
Even though Fuchs later left with two heaters, she recognizes some people are still going to be without heat because Bill’s Heating & A/C had only so many heaters and there are several thousand homes without services. She said people who were at work weren’t able to be there for the distribution event.
“I pray for those people that they get help,” Fuchs said.
“This just hit everybody out of nowhere,” she said, but she noted it was fortunate it didn’t happen “in the middle of a blizzard.”
Even though Potts was able to stand in line for a heater, he was getting one for his friend who was at work and has two young children at home.
Fuchs and all those in line were grateful for the generosity of Bill’s Heating & A/C.
“What these guys are doing is amazing,” she said. “To pay it forward like this is going to help.”
Shaun Lacy, of Bill’s Heating & A/C, said that the owner, Nathan Norman, decided to distribute the space heaters that the company uses when they make repairs to customer’s furnaces and they need supplemental heat. There were about a thousand heaters in the first load and more were coming from other business operations in Post Falls, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Those who received a heater have been asked to return it when the gas line is repaired. In total, 3,000 heaters were distributed, according to the company’s Facebook page.
“We have sourced every heater we could get our hands on,” Lacy said.
The efforts started Wednesday when the company heard about the outage and realized most people would have about 12 hours of residual heat to stay warm before their homes got cold.
“Tens of thousands of homes were going to be without heat,” Lacy said, so they began to act.
The Lewiston location opened only a month ago, but staff were mobilized to get heaters for members of the community as well as working with Avista to help with services.
“We here, we’re doing whatever we can to help,” Lacy said.