Community members in Nanaimo have rallied around a family now left without a home following a devastating fire earlier this week.
Nanaimo Fire Rescue responded to reports of a burning house in the 100 block of Doric Avenue in Harewood at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.
Anna Quennelle, resident of the property and mother to six children – three of her own and three fostered – said it was her 18-year-old son who alerted the family.
“He discovered the fire – we were all upstairs in the house, we were getting the kids ready for bed,” she said. “And he was in the basement, and he came yelling up to get everybody out. And he helped get his siblings out … We didn’t have shoes on or anything. We just ran out.”
Everything was ablaze in seconds, she said. Fortunately, the entire family escaped uninjured, including the dogs, cats and chickens.
Quennelle’s son, who helped get the family out, does have asthma and suffered smoke inhalation but has been treated and is doing well.
“It was just mind-blowing how fast it went … We’ve lost everything, but that’s OK because if we would’ve been sleeping, we wouldn’t have made it … The stuff doesn’t matter – it’s the fact that everybody got out…” she said. “If I could say anything, it would be just a plea for people to get their fire exit plan concreted because we had a couple minutes where our kids were unaccounted for.”
Currently, Quennelle and her family of eight are staying in a hotel provided by the city’s emergency social services. They have been provided with food, funding, and an “overwhelming outpouring” of support from community members, organizations and even strangers. She even noted that local real estate agent Dan Morris has been critical in finding them a place to stay after the hotel.
A passerby, Crystal Hallock, had seen a billow of smoke while driving in the neighbourhood on Tuesday evening. Curiosity getting the best of her, Hallock headed toward the smoke and arrived at the Doric Avenue property just as Nanaimo Fire Rescue arrived.
“The family was sitting on the road and the babies were crying. I asked them if I could get them anything,” she said.
Hallock, who was talking on the phone with her best friend at the time, asked her friend to bring blankets, shoes and sweaters. She and her friend stayed until Quennelle and her family were taken to hospital.
Before Quennelle left, Hallock offered to help gather further necessities online, and in a social media post the following day, asked community members for any items they could spare that the family might need. Since Wednesday evening, May 18, more than 30 people have reached out, providing clothes, toys, books, food and even furniture. For anyone else able to donate, Hallock has given permission to be texted at 250-740-5147 or contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An online fundraiser has also been set up at http://gofund.me/8d9c14dc, with the goal of $10,000 to help Quennelle’s family get back on their feet.