Jason McKee

Fire leaves Alberni family without home

On Friday, Dec. 9, a home on Gibson Road caught fire and the family is now facing the difficult task of finding a new rental unit.

When Calie Haberland, her two young daughters and her boyfriend fell asleep in their living room next to the fireplace last week they didn’t think they’d be waking up to smoke and flames engulfing the room around them.

It was about 4 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9 when Haberland woke up to find her living room, where she and her family were asleep, in flames.

“I opened my eyes and there were flames everywhere,” Haberland said. “The whole entire wall was shooting orange flames…I started screaming and got the kids outside.”

Her two daughters, who are nine years old and a year and a half, were asleep on blankets right in front of the fireplace where the chimney caught fire.

The family, along with their three dogs, cat and turtle, live in a rental property in the Cameron Heights neighbourhood on Gibson Road.

(Story continues below)

Shortly after Haberland called the Port Alberni fire department, crews were on scene extinguishing the flames.

Randy Thoen, Port Alberni Fire Department chief fire prevention officer, said the fire was an accidental issue caused in the chimney by a “non-conforming building construction.”

He said since the house is quite old, it was built prior to the city having building and fire inspections.

“There wasn’t enough clearance between the chimney and the exterior wall of the house,” Thoen said.

Thoen said the reason why a small clearance is needed between the chimney brick and the wood of a house is so that air can move between the two.

“Essentially at the end of the day, at some point, both things degrade to the point where the heat inside the chimney can freely pass through to the wood that’s on the house and because it has that lowered ignition temperature you end up with a fire happening,” Thoen said.

Thoen urges people to undergo regular chimney and heating system maintenance and cleaning to avoid a fire, especially with the minus temperatures.

Due to the fire, Haberland and her family lost all their living-room furniture, their TV, some of the kids’ toys and all of their Christmas decorations that were hanging on their mantlepiece, including their stockings. The artificial Christmas tree that was in the room also melted and both levels of the house experienced water and smoke damage. Haberland said although the bedrooms are downstairs, and the fire happened upstairs, their beds smell so badly of smoke that they won’t be able to use them again.

“My boyfriend stayed in the house until the fire department arrived trying to put it out. He got carbon monoxide poisoning and I had smoke inhalation because I kept going back in trying to get him out and we had dogs we had to get out,” Haberland said.

The family was taken to the hospital by ambulance to be assessed. When released from the hospital they met with Emergency Social Service (ESS) workers at the Best Western Barclay Hotel.

“They got us a room, they’ve been really great,” Haberland said. “I didn’t realize how much they actually do.”

Emergency Social Services in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is a volunteer-based, community response program that provides short-term (generally up to 72 hours)  needs for evacuees and response workers in the event of a disaster or emergency.

In addition to setting the family up with a hotel room, Haberland said the support workers have helped them with food and Walmart gift cards to purchase any necessary items.

Because Haberland and her boyfriend were renting the home, and the landlords plan to renovate and eventually sell it, she is on the hunt for new rental accommodation for her and her family. So far, she added, it’s been a struggle.

“Housing (in Port Alberni) is next to impossible to find with animals this time of year,” Haberland said.

According to a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation rental report, two-bedroom vacancy rates for a townhouse or apartment went down to 2.6 per cent in 2016 from 3.2 per cent in 2015.

“I just want to focus on getting through the holidays,” Haberland said. “I’m feeling better now but for the first few days I was feeling lost.”

The community has shown their support to the family with clothing and toy donations, something Haberland says she is very grateful for, and a GoFundMe campaign—titled Calie, Jason & the girls—has been started that has raised $445 so far.

 

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Vancouver Island communities receive gov’t funding for infrastructure projects

Huu-ay-aht First Nations builds community with $1.8M grant, one among six on Island

Island poets take the mic at July’s virtual Words on Fire in Port Alberni

Jude Neale, Joe Lunchbucket bring distinctly different styles to Quite Determined Literary Road Trip

Summer never ends at Port Alberni’s DRAW Gallery

Exhibit showcases four new Ucluelet artists

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

Port Alberni RCMP searching for missing man

Jeff Buck was last seen June 25, 2020

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read