'Ain't nothin’ gonna stop him': Community supports lone survivor of Riddle house fire

The 38-year-old mother who died from injuries sustained in the Riddle house fire lived in Philomath for many years. Residents in the community remember Tabitha Howell as a rodeo queen, veteran, and compassionate mother. Photo courtesy Leanna Steinke

MONROE, Ore. -- Jimmy Howell, the sole survivor of a Riddle House fire that killed six people, is expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday.

His family says he's doing physical therapy twice daily and continuing treatment for minor burns.

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Now, they say they're drawing from an outpouring of support to give Jimmy a fresh start.

“He’s been very strong mentally and has really been an inspiration to a lot of us that can’t quite understand the tragedy,” his aunt Holly Howell said.

Jimmy was born and raised in Monroe.

He was a champion wrestler and graduate of Monroe high school, like many Howells before him.

“Most of ‘em all grown up here, have kids here, now have grandkids here," Holly said.

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Jimmy's no stranger to tragedy.

His brother died from leukemia at a young age.

Then, a car accident left Jimmy paralyzed from the waist down.

But Monroe has a history of coming together in hard times.

“The community is not only just neighbors, but also family,” Holly said. “They all come together at the time of need and the outpouring is just amazing.”

Monroe is hosting a fundraiser, dinner, dessert, a live auction and a silent auction, to help Jimmy with medical expenses and everything else.

“Basically start over from scratch. A lot of the fundraising going on is to rebuild his life and put him in a positive frame of mind," Holly said.

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The fundraiser is still weeks away, not until April 14, but already it's drawn a huge response.

“Every day I open my email and I just am amazed at the response that we're getting, just emails and phone calls, it's amazing," Jennifer Gamache, the organizer of the fundraiser, said.

“Actually, it has reached across the United States. We have people back east that also have heard of the tragedy and friends and families from back there that also want to donate and help also," Holly said.

They're looking for specific items to auction off, as well as gift cards, financial donations -- anything helps.

“He said to please let everybody know how much he deeply appreciates everybody and their support," Holly said.

Holly said upon his release from the hospital, he'll stay in Monroe with his mom and dad and then hopefully get a place of his own.

“He is very independent, very strong.”

Holly said it's an unimaginable tragedy but for Jimmy, life goes on.

"Ain't nothin’ gonna stop him, I can guarantee ya."

Anyone can donate in person or online at Wells Fargo or Umpqua Bank to The Jimmy Howell Foundation Fund.

For more information on donations needed for the auction and how to donate, go to the Howell Family Dinner and Dessert Auction Facebook page.

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