The sister of a London, Ont., woman whose family lost everything when a fire tore through their east London townhouse on New Year’s Day has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the family try to rebuild their lives from scratch.
Tiffany Loyer launched the campaign days after her sister, Ashley McElmon, narrowly escaped from her burning Toulon Crescent townhouse Saturday morning along with her partner, Ken Major, and their three children, Benjamin and Colton, both four, and Kiyla, 12.
Fire crews responded to the scene at 127 Toulon Cres. shortly before 11 a.m. and found the townhouse fully engulfed. While the cause of the fire has not been made public by fire officials, Loyer says the blaze started on the main floor of the home.
Loyer says Ashley was in the second-floor bathroom when she heard screaming coming from downstairs. It was Chrissy McElmon, Tiffany and Ashley’s other sister who had been staying with the family of five.
“(Ashley) came out of the bathroom and had a face full of smoke instantaneously. Went downstairs, and by that point, the couch had been inflamed, so she started screaming for everybody to get out as the smoke detector didn’t go off,” Loyer said.
“Chrissy and the kids that were in the living room area where the fire started went out the back door of the home. Ken was upstairs still sleeping. He woke up, came down and was able to get out.”
Loyer said Ashley also managed to leave the townhouse, but realized that her daughter Kiyla was still inside. After running back inside, both managed to make it back out in time.
Firefighters arriving on scene found all six outside of the home without injury, said Colin Shewell, platoon chief with the London Fire Department.
“Crews were able to make entry for fire control. Due to the size of the fire and the smoke, we had to back out and we did a defensive attack, which is we basically attacked the fire from the outside so that there’d be no injuries to any of the firefighters,” Shewell said.
“We basically had the fire under control in about a half hour from the time that we arrived.”
The department’s fire inspector attended the scene that day, and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office was contacted to assist in the probe. Shewell said he anticipated that the on-scene investigative work was expected to wrap up Tuesday.
Damage to the townhouse was extensive, Shewell said, with a damage estimate clocking in at around $400,000, not including the unit’s contents. Some neighbouring units suffered some minor smoke damage.
“The cause is still under investigation, and it could take weeks or months before we get to find the origin or the cause of the fire.”
Since the blaze, which left them with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, the family has been staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton in the downtown core, with their stay covered until Jan. 5 by the Red Cross.
The plan, Loyer said, is to use funds raised through the GoFundMe to help cover the hotel stay until an affordable rental can be found — a task easier said than done in London’s housing market.
“As of right now, they have nowhere to go for the next foreseeable future until we can secure them a residence,” she said.
Turning to insurance isn’t a viable option either, Loyer said, as Ashley and Ken “were in between different policies.”
“Their greatest needs will be… until a rental is secured (is) the hotel costs… and groceries, food gift cards. The hotel doesn’t have a microwave, so it’s a lot of having to order food or have people drop off prepared food for them,” she said.
“They’re a hard-working family. They’re the kind of family that never asks for anything; they’re always giving to other people.”
More information can be found on the GoFundMe campaign page.
— with files from Sawyer Bogdan