Friends, family in Port Alberni rally around single mom who lost home to fire

Sister-in-law starts gofundme account for Monica Odenwald and daughter

A Port Alberni woman who used to spend her time helping others in times of crisis is looking to rebuild her life after her house burned on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Monica Odenwald had gone to pick up her daughter Samantha from a dance class the Grade 11 student was taking, and returned home to find her house on fire. They have been left with nothing except the clothes they were wearing that night.

“Tragically, Monica now finds herself in need of the help of her community,” sister-in-law Dawn Odenwald said.

Dawn has started a Gofundme account to help Odenwald and her daughter rebuild their home and their lives.

Fundraiser for Odenwald family

Odenwald lost her job at Kuu-us Crisis Line Society in October, and had recently started a commission-based home business. She “was not able to afford insurance, leaving her nothing to rebuild with,” said Dawn.

“This will be difficult disaster for Monica and Sam to recover from on their own. We are all chipping in what we can and hope that many others who know and love these two can help out – every little bit will help.

“Moni has always given whatever she could, even when she didn’t have much and always looks for the positive in every person and situation.”

Monica has started looking for a temporary place to live, Dawn said. She is overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the Alberni Valley who have offered to help. “She has had so many people offer places to stay, to foster her cats, shop owners are comp’ing her supplies for things she needed to buy for the kitties. Hats off to Port Alberni!

“Monica has always been the ‘giver,’ so this has been quite an experience for her to be the one receiving (and) learning to accept help.”

As of Friday afternoon, more than $4,000 of the $10,000 campaign had been raised.

Numerous people have offered household items, but Odenwald doesn’t have anywhere to store such items yet, Dawn said. She is hoping to find someone to help store and/ or coordinate donated items.

Odenwald’s house caught fire something Wednesday night, Jan. 8. Fire crews arrived shortly after receiving a call at 8:48 p.m. for a structure fire. They finally extinguished the blaze at 3 a.m. Thursday, Port Alberni Fire Department deputy chief Wes Patterson said. Crews stayed on scene watching for hot spots until 1 p.m. Thursday, when they turned the house over to Odenwald.

“The house is a total loss,” Patterson said. “It was a tough fire to put out due to it getting into the structure.”

The roof had been upgraded at some point, he explained, so it was part shingles, cedar shakes, plywood, tar paper and asphalt shingles. “It created small void spaces we had to pull apart to make sure the fire was out.”

The PAFD had two trucks plus the ladder truck respond. Chief Mike Owens had said Wednesday night that the fire was challenging to attack from different angles.

READ: Single mom loses everything in Port Alberni house fire

The house immediately to the south of Odenwald’s sustained minor damage due to the heat from the fire, but crews were able to save it from catching fire as well.

Firefighters hadn’t been able to determine the exact cause of the fire, Patterson said, but believe it started in the basement. “We weren’t able to determine the cause; the building isn’t safe to go into.”

All three of Odenwald’s cats, who went missing during the fire, have since been located and are being fostered until Monica and Sam have a place to live, according to Dawn Odenwald.

Members of the community stepped up to help search for the cats, and also to help Odenwald board up what remains of her house. Boarding up a structure following a fire is standard procedure, says Patterson.

“It’s important that a house, especially sustaining that kind of damage, is secured afterwards. For homeowners’ protection to ensure nobody goes inside it,” he said.

The BC Fire Code requires buildings be boarded up within a certain time period, as does a local bylaw, he explained.

Building owners are given an opportunity to do it themselves or for a fee the fire department will secure a building, Patterson added.

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