Debora Lowe and Tara Williston lost everything when the house they were renting caught fire during the evening of Jan. 24. and now they’re left to pick up the pieces.
Fortunately, the Hazelton and area communities are rallying to assist them and the couple are overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from friends, family and community.
“People have just been amazing,” Lowe, who is a nurse-practitioner at Wrinch Memorial Hospital, said. “We’re so lucky to live in this community.”
The couple recognizes they may have dodged a bullet, as they were staying with family in Telkwa and couldn’t return to Hazelton when they wanted to due to a fatal collision on Highway 16 the day after the fire.
“We lost our dog Petey, which is thankfully the worst of it,” Lowe said. “But it could have been much, much more of a loss.”
A donation depot being offered by Hannah Huston and Chris Lawrence, at their home in Old Hazelton, is one way the community is showing its support for the couple’s unfortunate circumstance.
“Wendy Hunt did most of the organizing for the depot,” she added. “But Hannah is doing so much by opening her house for donations.”
A bank account has also been set up at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union in New Hazelton, but the couple insists they prefer donations.
“We’re doing fine as far as money’s concerned,” Lowe said. “Replacing household items is our main issue right now. We plan to move into a new place in a few months.”
Lowe and Williston are thinking ahead to the warm season as far as needs go.
“We don’t have any summer clothes anymore,” Lowe said. “Anything that didn’t burn smells like smoke now. Besides that pots and pans and general kitchen stuff is definitely going to be useful as soon as we find another place.”
The total loss won’t be fully known until they are able to survey the damage.
“They’ve boarded the house up for insurance purposes,” Lowe said. “We won’t be able to see the total damage or what we need to replace until we can go in again.”
The investigation into what caused the fire was conducted by the Village of Hazelton Volunteer Fire Department, who scoured the burning residence for evidence of life during the fire.
“I’m not sure how many [oxygen] tanks we used up,” Nick Marshall, fire chief, said. “But that’s standard procedure when a residence is going up.”
The fire is believed, at this point, to have started on the second floor and been ignited by some electrical system failure in the modified split-level home.
“I imagine it’s hard to determine where the fire started because everything is ruined,” she added. “But we’re definitely wanting to know how it happened. The fire department did an amazing job from what we could see.”
One of the major financial setbacks for Lowe and Williston is the fact that they hadn’t applied for renter’s insurance.
“We had the papers but never filled them out and sent them away,” Lowe said.
A surprising part, to Lowe, is what didn’t burn.
“The wood for our stove was untouched,” she said. “So depending on the place we end up renting, we may have some dry birch to give away.”
For the time being, the couple is staying in a furnished trailer and are looking for another place to settle into.
“We’re doing OK for the most part,” Lowe said. “We’re not going anywhere. We thank everyone for the ongoing support.”
For more information on where you can donate clothing, money or household items call Hannah Huston at 250-842-6500.