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New Brunswick woman copes with losing her home by fire, just months after her mother was killed

Samantha Sanford and her mother Tina are seen on Sanford's birthday several years ago. Submitted by Samantha Sanford

A New Brunswick mother says it’s been difficult losing her home in a fire after also having lost her mother who was killed in May 2020.

Fire destroyed the Sanford family home in Riverview-Albert, N.B., on March. 14.

Samantha Sanford says her three children, husband and pets are all safe, but all their possessions, including things belonging to her deceased mother, are gone.

She says she was at home with her two oldest children, doing dishes and laundry that Sunday afternoon.

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“I just started the dryer, say, 20 minutes before my daughter came to the top of the stairs and said there was smoke.

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“She said ‘I don’t know what’s happening, but there’s something wrong.’”

Sanford said she rushed upstairs, not expecting what she found: flames coming from the dryer and its electrical cord going into the wall.

She says what felt like seconds later, the flames spread. “It was almost like you blinked, and it was through the whole entire bathroom.”

A fire destroyed the home of a family of five in Riverview-Albert last weekend. Laura Tingley / GoFundMe

The first thing Sanford did after calling 911 was make sure her children and dogs were safe outside. But, one of her three cats was missing and the other two had run outside.

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Fire services arrived at the house around 2 p.m. and stayed until after 9 p.m. The house was burned to the ground.

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While fire crews battled the fire, the family took refuge at a relative’s home.  Luckily, when Sanford and her husband returned to the house at 10 p.m. and called for the cats, all three showed up.

But, the family lost all of their belongings.

Read more: Firefighter injured, two animals perish in West Kelowna house fire

“I was very panicked,” Sanford said. “I didn’t even think about it, and looking back it’s like, ‘Oh, well I walked by that; why didn’t I grab it? Why didn’t I take that out?

Sanford said she is lucky that the community quickly rallied to help her family out.

Within hours of the fire, they had already received clothing donations to her mother-in-law’s house. The family also received help from the children’s school.

“It is overwhelming how fast everybody came together,” she said. “I don’t even know how to say thank you enough.”

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While Sanford says she feels lucky to have all the support, her family is still grieving the loss of their home – especially her children.

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“They really want to go home,” she said. “When I’m sitting with them before they go to bed, and the boys especially, are like ‘Mom, I really wish I had this right now’ … or ‘remember when we were at home and we could do this.’”

She tries to comfort them by telling them this situation is only temporary.

Read more: Fire causes extensive damage to Guelph house: officials

As for Sanford, she misses her home and often thinks about the things she wishes she still had. “But, everything can be replaced,” she said. “The only thing that was in the home that I’ll never replace are my mom’s belongings.”

New Brunswick woman copes with losing her home by fire, just months after her mother was killed - image
Submitted by Samantha Sanford

Samantha Sanford is seen with her mother Tina and her daughter.Her mother, Tina Tingley-McAleer, died in what was ruled a homicide in Hillsborough, N.B., on May 2, 2020.

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A 49-year-old man who was living with Tingley-McAleer at the time was charged with first-degree murder.

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Tingley-McAleer’s sister, Laura Tingley, told Global News back in May that Tina was “a person that you could always count on, she was always there to make you smile and laugh.”

“I want her to be remembered as an amazing sister, a great mom, a wonderful grandmother,” Tingley said back then.

Sanford says having to cope with a second tragedy only months apart is not easy.

Submitted by Samantha Sanford
Submitted by Samantha Sanford. Submitted by Samantha Sanford

“I just try to keep as upbeat as I can, because if I get upset, then it kind of trickles down through, and the kids can sense that,” Sanford said.

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“My seven-year-old, he is just so soft-hearted. Even if you just shed a tear, he’s right there beside you doing the same thing. He doesn’t know why, but just you can tell it just it breaks his heart.”

Sanford said she’s been trying to stay strong for the children, at least until they go to bed at night.

“Then usually I have a little cry about everything and look forward to the next day,” she said. “At least we’re still here.”

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Now, Sanford says the family is looking forward to moving on. On Wednesday, she said they found a rental and are hoping to move in this weekend.

The family’s long-term goal is to rebuild their home on the same Forest Road property in Riverside-Albert.

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“I just love that spot … We love the location. We grew up here, and that’s where we want to raise our kids,” she said.

“Our main goal is we have a piece of land, so we’ll keep working, and saving, and rebuild.”

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