A family home on a Parkland County acreage southwest of Edmonton was destroyed in a million-dollar fire on Sunday evening, after it was reportedly struck by lightning during a powerful thunderstorm.
It happened just off of Range Road 271 north of Township Road 511, in the Graminia Country Estates subdivision near Graminia School.
Parkland County chief fire marshal Sean Cunningham told Global News 40 firefighters from Acheson, Devon and Parkland Village were called around 8:26 p.m.
“First crews arrived and the house was fully involved,” Cunningham said.
The family of five were all out of the home when the fire started.
Andrew Boitchenko, his wife Tatiana Boitchenko and their three kids were all in different areas when they heard the news.
“I think it was the will of God that we were out of the house,” Andrew said. “We are happy that our family is together and our kids are okay. That’s the most important.”
The couple’s youngest son Nathan was the last to leave the home.
“It’s a miracle,” Nathan told Global News. “I probably would have been home alone with my headset on playing video games.”
Instead, he accepted a last minute invitation to a friend’s home. He said less than two minutes after arriving he got a call from his dad to head home to check on their property.
When he arrived the fire was well underway. He went inside and grabbed a photo of his grandfather from the Second World War, before he was forced out.
Tatiana’s cousin, Ellen Trofimov, lives down the road from them. She told Global News a storm moved in quickly. They saw an “extremely strong” lightning strike and she knew it was somewhere near.
Trofimov said shortly after, she received a call from her cousin’s daughter asking her to check to see if there was smoke coming from the home.
“Someone called them and said their house might be on fire,” Trofimov said.
“There was a lot of smoke coming from the roof and you could see the fire coming from the broken windows,” she said.
“It was slowly growing and moving through the rest of the house.”
When she got to the home, neighbours were working to remove some of the family’s belongings.
“They were getting cars out of the driveway, the garage, they’re getting the boat out,” the woman explained. “It was actually a really nice thing”
One of those neighbours was Octavio Gil, who said he saw the home struck by lightning before the blaze broke out.
“We were taking pictures of the storm and then the lightning came down,” Octavio Gil said.
“There it was. Boom.”
The family would like to thank their neighbours, who stepped in to help.
“It was humbling to see all of those guys out here,” said Andrew.
“All of the neighbours were just like a big team.”
Andrew was one of the original developers of the subdivision and calls it a “family-like neighbourhood.”
He also thanked firefighters who responded to the blaze.
A total of 40 Parkland County firefighters from three stations — Acheson, Devon and Parkland Village — fought the flames, according to Cunningham.
Water had to be trucked in to the acreage from Devon, which is about 10 minutes away from where the fire happened. Firefighters finished putting out hot spots early Monday morning.
“All I can tell you is so far the fire is under investigation. We are working on tracking down some information and talking to neighbours,” Cunningham said, adding the call came in right after a fierce thunderstorm.
Cunningham said the fire appears to have started at the back of the home and does not appear to be suspicious.
The home will be a total loss, and caused an estimated $1 million worth of damage.
“I was actually in disbelief,” said Trofimov. “I was sure the firemen were going to put out the fire and they were going to sleep here tonight.
“Now they have no house.”
No injuries were reported to the family or fire crews, however the homeowner’s son said his father had to bring one of the family’s dogs to the vet to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
The family said the dog went back into the house, not realizing all the humans had already made it out safely.
“She just went from room to room to room looking for us,” Andrew said.
She later died. Another dog survived and did not appear to suffer any injuries.
Although it’s early, the family is already looking to rebuild in the community.
“This is our home,” the father said. “We are definitely going to stay here and hopefully rebuild our lives and move on.”
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News