A Nova Scotia man who lost his home of 46 years in a fire this week is feeling support from friends and strangers far and wide as he begins to rebuild.
Chris Anderson, 74, was asleep in his Bayport, N.S., house Tuesday morning, when a haze began to move into his room.
“He just thought it was just because of the temperature change. But then as he was laying there, it started to irritate his throat when he was breathing in and he quickly realized that it was smoke,” his son Ben Anderson said.
“So he quickly got out of bed and went to the top of the stairs, looked down and the entire main floor was engulfed in a thick white smoke. So he knew it was a bad situation. So he quickly got downstairs, went down the hallway and as he passed the basement, he saw a huge orange flames.”
Ben said his father told him he barely made it out of the house, and actually singed his beard.
At that point, Ben said his father ran to a neighbour’s house for help. Chris, who has been a longtime volunteer firefighter, even helped crews battle the blaze.
It took 10 firetrucks from six nearby towns and nearly 12 hours to put out the fire. By then, the house was gone.
“To be fighting to save his home and then get to the point where as a firefighter, he knew that there was no hope, and to watch it burned to the ground after 46 years, this is going to be horrific,” Ben said.
When Ben and his sister first heard about their father’s harrowing escape, they were shocked.
Then they were saddened to find out he had no insurance.
Ben turned to social media and started a fundraiser for his father.
In just two days, nearly $38,000 has been donated by more than 413 people.
Not only has Chris been an active member of the local volunteer firefighting department, he was a math teacher for years, is an avid runner who has been in the Boston Marathon more than 30 times, and is part of the local theatre community.
People from all those areas of his life have stepped up to offer their help in the form of donations and offers to hold benefit concerts.
Chris has also been overwhelmed by the kindness of people stopping by with food and clothes, as he stays with family.
“I’m just overwhelmed, I guess. It’s verifying what a wonderful community we live in. Everyone is so supportive and caring about everyone else,” Chris told Global News.
The cause of the fire is believed to be the furnace, according to Ben.
Ben, who lives in New Hampshire now, rushed to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test on Thursday, in order to be able to cross the border back into Canada. On Friday, he will start the long drive home to help his father sort out his childhood home.
“I’ve got a brand new phone for him. I have a laptop for him that I’m going to deliver as well,” he said.
“I’m going to help them sort of sort through the debris and to see what we might be able to salvage and find. He’s there with his brother now and some friends working, so I’m looking forward to being part of that effort and just to see if anything can be can be salvaged.”
But Ben said the experience of the past few days has shown him that it’s not the belongings — or even a house full of memories — that is important.
“You know, the thing that really comes out of this … is the importance of hugging the people you love and appreciating every minute, every minute you have.”