Four people escaped an early Boxing Day fire in Port Alberni with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The Port Alberni Fire Dept. responded to a call at 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2022 for a fire in a two-storey house. “On arrival there was heavy fire involvement throughout the home,” deputy fire chief Wes Patterson said.
Some of the occupants were sent to West Coast General Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, he added.
Because the home was close to other residences, Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Dept. was called in for mutual aid to help ensure the fire didn’t spread. Firefighters were on scene for about six hours.
Fire investigators were at the house Tuesday afternoon. “Early reports are that it (started) in the vicinity of the attached garage,” Patterson said.
Brett Mckenzie, whose mother Trudee was one of the four occupants, found out about the fire on Facebook. He lives on the east side of Vancouver Island, and for a few harrowing minutes he didn’t know where his mother was or whether she had been injured in the fire.
“Kayla (Mckenzie’s partner) let me know.” he said. A friend drove by the burned house and sent them a photo, and he identified it as the home where his mother was living with three friends. He wasn’t able to learn anything from calls to West Coast General Hospital or the Port Alberni RCMP until an RCMP member contacted the fire department and relayed to Mckenzie that all occupants made it out of the house.
He still didn’t know where his mother was.
“My mom’s best friend contacted me on Facebook as well because she was concerned. She went around to hotels and found my mom.
“They’re OK. That’s the biggest concern,” he said.
His mother told him there was an explosion of some sort, and when she opened the door between the house and attached garage, thick, black smoke came through the door.
“I guess it started abruptly and spread quickly,” Mckenzie said. His mother yelled for one of the residents who lived above the garage, and he was already running downstairs to get out.
“They managed to escape with the clothes on their backs and nothing else, no phones, no photos, no contacts, nothing.
“Things can get replaced but they can’t.”
A four-month old kitten named Bella is missing from the fire, and family members are hoping she was able to escape. Neighbours are watching for her.
Mckenzie has started a gofundme fundraiser for his mother (My Mother Lost Everything, by Brett Mckenzie). He’s not asking for much: just enough to make sure his mother and her roommates will be able to have a temporary place to stay, buy some clothes and food.
They were provided with three nights’ accommodation in a hotel through emergency services, but that will run out soon.
“I am making this (fundraiser) in the hopes that my mother along with the three others involved will be able to get the help needed in order to move forward from this devastating loss.”