Single mom and three kids lose Alberta home to fire, days before Christmas

Click to play video: 'Family loses everything following house fire in Hardisty'
Family loses everything following house fire in Hardisty
WATCH: A single mother and her children are homeless after a house fire in Hardisty. As Kim Smith reports, the family lost everything, including their pet dog and specialized ski equipment for a wheelchair-bound teenager – Dec 24, 2017

A single mother and her three kids have lost their home and all their possessions following a house fire near Hardisty, Alta., east of Edmonton.

“Took the kids out to do birthday supper and stuff. We went back at 8 p.m. and there was nothing left,” said Jodi Chilson.

Chilson lived in a trailer home on an acreage with her three kids aged 16, 14 and six. She also has a 19-year-old son who doesn’t live at home anymore.

On Thursday, they were celebrating six-year-old Pyper’s birthday when they returned to learn their house was gone.

The family’s two cats and rabbit were safe, but their dog Charlie died in the blaze.

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“They’re really sad about our dog… but they do get that the rest is just stuff,” Chilson said.

Chilson said the wooden chest where she kept important mementos — such as her kids’ first sleepers — was destroyed.

“It’s just stuff. It really is just stuff. But when it’s all gone it’s just bad… especially all the photos.”

“Yesterday I was homeless, which is a gross, terrible feeling. Especially when you have kids. It’s the yuckiest feeling that you could ever have,” she said.

READ MORE: Man dies following Red Deer house fire

Friends and even strangers from Hardisty and surrounding communities immediately pitched in to donate furniture, food, clothes and linen. They’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign as well as a couple of in-trust bank accounts.

The family has moved into a home that was for sale.

“Three or four people offered houses, but this one is wheelchair accessible,” she said. “I’ve never woken up and had 111 text messages.

“It’s amazing. When everyone should be at home making their own Christmas, doing their own presents with their own family, everyone is here cleaning a house and making beds.”

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Chilson works as a nail technician and knows many women in the community. Catherine Crone met Chilson about 14 years ago.

“She hates to be a charity case, but we said ‘you are going to get help this time. We’re going to help you and all you’re going to do is say thank you,’” Crone said.

READ MORE: 2 people found dead after trailer fire in eastern Alberta

Crone said she’s been overwhelmed with the amount of support she’s seen.

“People have been donating gift cards galore and money,” she said.

Chilson’s 14-year-old daughter Hanna uses a wheelchair and is an aspiring ski racer. She trains with the Rocky Mountain Adaptive Camp in Banff, but some of her ski gear was lost in the blaze.

Through an in-trust account, the community is raising money specifically for her to continue skiing.

“It’s a bad thing that happened to them, but maybe they can be better people for it,” Chilson said. “And maybe they’ll one day try to give back the same way that people did to us.”

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The fire is believed to have been ignited by a heater that was being used to thaw a water pipe under the home.

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