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Yakima Valley women's soccer team jumped into action to help family during house fire

Yakima Herald-Republic - 4/18/2021

Apr. 18—It's not uncommon for Yakima Valley College athletes to give back through volunteer work aimed at improving the community or helping those in need.

Those activities almost always feature plenty of time to prepare, something the Yaks soccer team didn't have when former Davis midfielder Brianna Garfias spotted smoke rising from a home just down the street from YVC's field while taking a break from sprints on March 31. Garfias said a panicked small child walking in the alley confirmed something wasn't right, and when she heard a mother yelling about her house burning, Garfias told coach Abby Drollinger to call 911 as the team sprang into action.

Assistant coach Delany Romero sprinted towards the fire with players close behind her, quickly doling out different responsibilities. While the flames tore through the home, some players tried to calm the distraught mother and her three children who had safely escaped, and Garfias braved some smoke to help free the family's pit bull from underneath a fence.

"I felt like I was going to burn my hand off," said Garfias, who lives in a house on the other side of 16th Avenue, visible from the soccer field. "I was like, whatever, you know, I've got to get this dog out. It's their little dog and the girls were crying because of the dog."

Players tried to find ways to help as the family helplessly watched the fire spread from the back of the house to the inside, burning most of their belongings. Assistant coach Dylan Barnard said he focused on ensuring the players avoided putting themselves in dangerous situations.

Forward Isella Olivera, a freshman from San Diego, stayed for a while with the middle child, who she said is nine or 10 years old. She also joined former Garfias and East Valley defender Dianna Tello in helping to calm the family, especially the mother, by speaking to them in their first language, Spanish.

When a next-door neighbor came home, Garfias explained the smoke had entered his house and he needed to quickly go in and bring out his dog, which Garfias then caught as it came racing out the door. Garfias and Romero then went to other homes, including one with multiple families, to let them know to come outside while other players stayed close to the family that had escaped the burning house.

"That helped for team bonding," Olivera said. "A lot of communication happened for who's going to get who, who's staying with who, and who's gonna go run and tell all the neighbors to get out of their house."

Barnard praised the timely arrival of 19 firefighters and five engines that helped prevent the fire from spreading beyond the home. Olivera said once the emergency responders took control, players went back to the field, said a prayer for the family, and returned to practice.

Garfias said instinct guided the players' reactions, which Barnard said demonstrates how much they care about their community beyond the soccer field. They proved that again when Olivera got food for the family the day after the fire, and several players created Easter baskets to take over the following weekend.

"It shows that we talk about soccer and we're worried about what they do on the field, but there's a much bigger context to everything we do," said Barnard, who teaches at Franklin Middle School and recognized one of the kids from class. "It's really nice to know that we have such outstanding citizens on our team that are willing to drop everything and help out those in need."

The team played its second home game of an unusual short spring season on Saturday, and Olivera created two of YVC's best scoring chances in a 1-0 loss to Walla Walla. Not far beyond the north goal, the burned house sat empty and entirely black from the back, with its windows boarded up and the roof nearly gone while furniture and other items lay strewn out in the yard.

Garfias said the mother's sister took the family in at a home near the opposite side of YVC's campus. The mother and father both expressed interest in joining the limited capacity crowd for a game at some point this season, and the players certainly won't forget them.

"It's like, yeah, we're YVC soccer, but it's bigger than that," Garfias said. "We're here for our community, not only for ourselves or our families."

Reach Luke Thompson at and on Twitter: @luketscribe


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