2 families and youth home impacted by Lethbridge Boxing Day fire

Click to play video: 'Boxing Day fire rips through 3 homes in Lethbridge'
Boxing Day fire rips through 3 homes in Lethbridge
It's been a challenging 24 hours for three Lethbridge families who lost their homes after a fire whipped through a neighbourhood on Tuesday. Despite the devastation these families are now facing, the local community is stepping in to offer any support they can. Sarah Jones reports. – Dec 27, 2023

Halina Mielcarek has lived on Iroquois Crescent West for 28 years, and she was one of the people who lost their home during Tuesday’s devastating Boxing Day fire.

“I’m not ready to face the home, because we love that place,” said Mielcarek.

But despite losing irreplaceable family photos and books, she remains optimistic and is glad the families in each of the three homes got out safely.

“Stuff, you can always replace,” explained Mielcarek. “But you cannot replace life and health, so we are lucky. And I have all intention to re-build. I’m not moving. Because the fence and the trees behind, my husband and myself re-planted, so how can I leave my own forest? Impossible.”

Click to play video: 'Boxing Day fire damages Lethbridge homes'
Boxing Day fire damages Lethbridge homes

Luckily, Mielcarek was not home when the fire started, but Johnathan Tiu, who also lives in the same house, describes the terror he felt when he saw the fire.

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“I heard the blast, and I went upstairs, and the fire is big now, and I cannot put it out. Just nothing I could do, I cried in shock,” explained Tiu.

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An investigation into the cause of the fire continues, but Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services Platoon Chief Dave Heatherington says all three homes have been significantly damaged and indicated strong winds played a role in the spread.

“The fire was initially involving one home,” said Heatherington.

“However, due to the significant wind, the wind blew the fire into the second and third home”

“We have two homes that are occupied by families here. We have a third home that’s actually a youth home operated by a youth services agency, and there was six youth and two workers at the time.”

In response to the blaze, all five fire stations attended the scene, bringing along 30 firefighters and 11 fire apparatuses.

A release from the City of Lethbridge estimates the combined loss of the homes to be $2 million.

“The significant wind made our job terrible to work in,” Heatherington said. “We were very thankful though that we were able to limit this fire to only three houses.

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While everyone was able to get out of the homes safely and there were no reported injuries, Heatherington says the homes will likely require full re-builds.

Taking in the full extent of the damage, nearby neighbours and community members were in shock of the holiday disaster.

The Caldwell Family, known for their whimsical Christmas display, live just a short distance away and knew they wanted to help in any way they could.

“We have this beautiful network that we’ve already created through our Christmas lights and Christmas with the Caldwell campaign, and I just thought: we have to do something,” explained Vince Caldwell.

A post shared on their Christmas with the Caldwells Facebook page asking for donations in the form of gift cards immediately began to circulate on social media.

“We don’t have the room to store clothing,” explained Vince.

“Gift cards are kind of our main priority right now,” Chandel Caldwell said. “It’s something immediate that we can give them right away.”

Honkers Pub and Eatery have also stepped up to help, by offering to accept new or slightly used clothing and other essential item donations.

Items they’re looking to collect include clothing for the six teenagers ranging in age from 15 to 17, and items for the elderly men and women affected.

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Clothing donations will be accepted until Jan. 6, 2024, at Honkers located on 2808 5th Ave North. Gift cards and monetary donations can be given to the Caldwell family at 126 Red Crow Blvd West.

“It’s a big ask, because we did just do our toy and food drive,” said Vince. “But I think that we can try and come together one more time to help these people who lost everything.”

Chandel added: “We just want to do the neighbourly thing. You know neighbours helping neighbours because that’s all that we would hope for.”

For Mielcarek, while she knows it’s a long road ahead to re-build, she’s grateful for all the support from friends, family and the community.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Mielcarek. “A lot of support, love above all, love, support and kindness.”

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