DEVESTATING FIRE – On Sunday afternoon

DEVESTATING FIRE – On Sunday afternoon

Community rallies around families after devastating fire

Lacombe and area citizens continue to rally around two families who lost their homes after a devastating fire on Sunday.

Lacombe and area citizens continue to rally around two families who lost their homes after a devastating fire on Sunday.

Donations and support continue to roll in for the family of four and a retired couple who live on Elisa Close in the Elizabeth Park neighbourhood of Lacombe.

On Sunday afternoon, the winds were high and it didn’t take much for the fire, which started in the garage of one of the houses, to grow and fully engulf two homes in the residential close. The Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) was called out to the Elisa Close fire around 5:06 p.m.

“We were called for initial alarms ringing,” said LFD Chief Ed van Delden. “But we were shortly informed by multiple callers it was a structure fire.”

The LFD was already dispatched to and tending to a grass and structure fire in the southeast corner of the fire district by Joffre along RR 25-4 and Hwy. 597 just before 4 p.m. Nova Chemicals, Clive and Blackfalds Fire Departments were also requested to attend the grass fire scene and the LFD were quickly dispatched back to Lacombe to the Elisa Close fire.

“Upon arrival, two homes were already engulfed in flames and there was a serious threat to two adjacent homes,” said van Delden.

Helping hands from the Bentley Fire Department and the Blackfalds Fire Department also arrived on scene in an attempt to control the fire and protect the nearby homes. “It was fairly windy that day, so that was a contributing factor.”

High winds continued to gust while the firefighters battled the blaze. The location of the natural gas utility shutoffs, located between the two homes, also contributed to the complexities of controlling the fire. Eventually ATCO Gas was able to access the scene and close off the line.

The fire was declared under control around 6:21 p.m. Blackfalds and Bentley firefighters were released from the scene shortly after. The LFD worked tireless until 2:30 a.m. to ensure the fire was completely extinguished at the scene.

No one was present in the home where the initial fire started and all neighbours in the surrounding area were able to get safely out. No injuries were reported but one family dog did perish in the fire.

The fire is still under investigation as a cause has yet to be determined. van Delden noted the fire is not suspicious and damage to the four affected homes is expected to exceed $2 million.

Residents in the area were quick to react, with many immediately jumping in to action after seeing the homes engulfed with flames, asking, “What can I do to help?”

Such was the case for Levi Gudwer, a high school student, who after hearing about the fire went over to the scene to see what he could do to help.

Gudwer and his family were one of the three families who lost their homes in the Henner’s Landing fire this past July.

“During that, we had a tremendous response of the community,” said Ron Gudwer, Levi’s dad. “We had quite a few people just come up and ask how they can help.”

After seeing that not much remained of the two houses in Elizabeth Park, the Gudwers determined the best way to help the victims was to return home and immediately start a GoFundMe account.

“All we want to do is pay it forward and show the kindness that was shown to us going through the same thing,” said Ron. He said they decided to leave the GoFundMe account open-ended for the next week or so, to allow those who want to donate to do so.

Once the account fills up, the funds raised will be turned over to Lacombe Victim Services who will ensure the victims receive the money.

Among the many residents also called to action was Sue Sage, an employee at the Lacombe Storage Center.

After last year’s fire, Sage saw an opportunity to help out where she can in the community, by volunteering the use of a 10 x 10 portable storage unit to collect clothing and other physical donations for the fire victims.

The response was overwhelming last July and she’s doing it again with the help of her son Brayden. They hope to fill as many portable storage units as possible with donated items including clothing, blankets and toiletries.

Even on the evening of the fire, Brayden was out collecting donations from Lacombians. Citizens began dropping off donations at the storage center on Monday morning and can continue to do so throughout the week.

Even though she’s collecting for the fire victims, Sue said all of the items donated would be put to good use. “If they can’t use it, it still will go to someone that can.”

Other donations will be distributed throughout the community to local thrift stores and Line of Hope in Red Deer.

A trust fund account for the fire victims will also be set up in the coming days.