Pictured here are the remains of the Grass Plains Store and the apartment of Kimberley Saffel, who lived above the store, which burned down on Nov. 7. (submitted photo)

Aid drives come to rescue of Grassy Plains Store fire victims

Three GoFundMe webpages for fire victims.

The Nov. 7 loss of the Grassy Plains Store on the Southside has hit the community hard, but it’s already bouncing back with the help of aid campaigns.

Three GoFundMe webpages were launched at night on the day of the fire, which burned down the store and an apartment above it.

One site is seeking donations to help out Gary and Faith Martin, who owned the Grassy Plains Store.

As of Nov. 9, $2,736 had been raised, out of a goal of $100,000.

“We need to show our thanks to the Martins for everything they’ve done for us. They’ve been a light in the darkness for everybody,” Xandria Ahlbrand, who started the GoFundMe campaign, told Lakes District News.

The Ootsa Lake resident said the funding drive was a gesture of gratitude for the Martin family after their generosity towards the community during last summer’s wildfire evacuations.

“They started feeding the community, the volunteers, the firefighters and they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Catherine Van Tine Marcinek, manager of the Pondosy Bay Wilderness Resort, also plans to set up a donation account for the Martins through the Bulkley Valley Credit Union – Burns Lake branch.

Another GoFundMe site was started by Kathy Wilson, sister of Kimberley Saffel, who was living with her two teenage children in the apartment above the store, where she also worked.

Ahlbrand launched a second GoFundMe site for the Saffel family.

On the morning of Nov. 7, Saffel explained that was getting ready for a shower when the smoke alarm went off.

She went outside and down the stairs and saw flames pouring out of a window at the store.

“I called 911 from my cell phone at 8:17 a.m.” and she and her children got their dog and three cats safely out of the apartment.

“I was in my pajamas, my daughter was in her pajamas, my son had managed to just get dressed,” she said.

Dieter Philips, a Southside paramedic was the first responder on the scene, and more people joined him soon after.

Members of the volunteer fire department and local residents managed to save an adjoining meat shop and some apartments above it, but Saffel lost everything.

For now she’s staying with a friend.

Saffel is very grateful for the GoFundMe campaign but said it’s hard on her.

“I’m not the type who has accepted something like that. I tend to be someone who does it for others. But in the circumstances I have to accept it because I have nothing,” she said.”

Wilson set a goal of $3,000 for her sister’s aid drive – “Three of them, $1,000 each. It’s not cheap to replace things,” she said.

The Grassy Plains blaze was the third devastating fire her family has faced since 2010.

“Everything happens in threes so our family should be over and done with devastation. It’s a weird sense of humour as way of dealing with things on a positive note,” she said.

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Volunteers on the scene managed to save the meat shop and items inside it after the adjoining Grassy Plains Store burned down on Nov. 7. (Mike Robertson photo)

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