COLD LAKE – On Wednesday evening, community members came together to raise money for the families impacted by a massive blaze that destroyed three homes and damaged many others in the Tri City Estates neighbourhood on Sept. 2.
A fundraiser barbecue was held at the Tri City Park, offering hotdogs and water while also collecting donations. The event was organized by the realtors of Cold Lake.
After news of the devastating fire broke, the people who helped sell the homes to the affected residents started talking immediately, said Cori Ferguson, one of the fundraiser organizers and a Cold Lake realtor.
Following the fire, the brokerages of Cold Lake connected and within a few hours created a plan to host a fundraising barbecue for the affected families.
Ferguson said there was no doubt that something had to be done to help those impacted by the fire.
“It’s a small town, everyone had a connection to the people who were affected. We know them, they were our clients at one point,” said Ferguson.
Speaking to the large turnout at the barbecue, she added, “This event really shows how our community can come together. When it comes down to it, everyone just wants a channel to help.”
A separate resident also started a bottle drive as another way to raise funds for the impacted families.
“Eventually, insurance will kick in, but these families need cash in their pockets now. They have lost everything and anything we can do to help will make a difference,” Ferguson said.
Throughout the day, people stopped by to donate, share a meal and connect with their neighbours.
“People gave what they could, whether that was $2 or $2,000. It was incredible to see.”
Ferguson added that organizers were also fortunate that local businesses stepped up to the plate to offer supplies free of charge. Hamel Meats donated hotdogs for the event, while Sobeys provided condiments and buns for the barbecue.
Also stopping by the community fundraiser were many of the Cold Lake firefighters who helped extinguish the destructive blaze.
One of the members who attended Wednesday’s barbecue was Cold Lake Fire-Rescue's Fire Chief Jeff Fallow.
Responding to the blaze
On the day of the fire, Fallow was at City Hall when he got the pager alert around 3 p.m. notifying him of the incident
Heading to the call, Fallow said, “It was already obvious it was a heavy structure fire from the thick black smoke in the sky.”
“When I arrived on scene multiple houses were already on fire,” recalled the fire chief, who quickly moved to ensure all residents from the effected homes had exited their houses and were accounted for.
“It was a pretty hot fire, so there was already some melting that was occurring on some of the homes adjacent. In the end, there were three homes that were lost and then six or eight that also had either vinyl siding damage or just fire damage.”
Shortly after, victim services arrived along with the Canadian Red Cross to help the residents who would not be returning to their homes. All the while, fire crews from Cold Lake and 4 Wing, continued to battle the blaze.
“We initially responded with Cold Lake Fire-Rescue's seven pieces of apparatus and about 25 firefighters. So, we got a pretty good knock down... and while I was on scene, the Base fire chief called me and asked if we would like some assistance. Of course, at that time the fire was still very hot and still ongoing, so I said ‘certainly’.”
When 4 Wing’s fire crews arrived, they provided back-up support and an opportunity for those who had been fighting the fire to rest.
“They were on scene for about two hours until we no longer needed them and then they were released and then our crew stayed on scene until about 8:30 p.m. looking at any kind of hotspots,” said Fallow.
A handful of firefighters also stayed on scene throughout the night in case any hotspots reignited.
Investigators have deemed the fire suspicious, and an extensive investigation remains ongoing.
In the wake of a busy fire season for Cold Lake Fire Rescue, Fallows asks residents to report any suspicious activity, or “if something doesn’t look right,” to contact the RCMP.
If suspicious activity appears to be fire related, he says residents should call 911 or the fire department to get crews “rolling towards it.”
Fallow also wants residents to be aware that when they are trying to get a closer look at an involved fire, they can become an impediment for responding fire trucks.
“We have citizens also responding to see what's going on. Trying to get through all the traffic to get to the fire... doesn't assist us getting there quickly,” the fire chief noted.