A Lake Country family is lucky to be alive after a kitchen fire ruined their Turtle Lodge unit Wednesday night.
But now Darryl Nessman, Amanda McNally, their three daughters and pet dog are being forced to start from scratch. And it’s not easy.
Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nessman was cooking French fries when he heard his 15-month-old daughter, Mary-Jane, crying.
He was only gone for a matter of seconds when he heard a popping sound in the kitchen. He ran back to discover the cupboards above the stove were on fire.
“He ran into the laundry room to go find the fire extinguisher,” said McNally.
“He ran back out because he couldn’t find it and the whole kitchen was on fire. So he just got the kids and the dog out.”
McNally was at work when Nessman phoned to inform her the house was ablaze.
“I drove out there and at that point, because he was in so much shock, he couldn’t tell me if the kids were out or if anything had happened—I didn’t know what I was walking into.
“I was thankful he and the kids were safe.”
The house was not so lucky. McNally said the unit will have to be entirely rebuilt. Neighbours’ homes also suffered smoke damage from the incident.
And other than a few smoke-stained pieces of clothing, the family has also lost all of their possessions.
McNally was reached by telephone Saturday morning at the hotel room her family has been staying in since Wednesday evening.
During the conversation her kids—Elise, 6, Andrea, 5, and Mary-Jane, 1—could be heard yelling, sometimes loudly, in the background.
McNally said two of her daughters were very sick on Friday, which she thinks is likely due to the situation being very difficulty to cope with.
“They’re blaming their dad: ‘You burned our house down.’ It just comes out,” said McNally.
“He feels bad enough already, so it’s pretty hard on him when they say that.”
To make matters worse, McNally and Nessman are engaged and were planning to get married this summer.
“That’s not happening now.”
Emergency Support Services’ three day food and lodging coverage ended Saturday, before Red Cross took over which gave the family until Feb. 19 to leave the hotel.
When asked if things have gotten better since the fire, McNally said: “Not at all, actually.”
“We’re looking for a place to live. Unfortunately, nobody is calling me back.
“People want to help us, but they’re kind of holding out until we have somewhere to put everything.”
One of the people trying to help is Tyler Witzke.
Witzke grew up with Nessman in Winfield and felt he had to do something when he heard about the fire.
He has started a small Facebook appeal to gather items for the family.
“I’m just getting clothes and stuff, whatever I can—they lost pretty much everything,” said Witzke. “If I was in that situation, I’d hope everyone would do the same for me.”
Another friend has given McNally some space in a garage to store a few items while the family continues to look for a home.
A few neighbours have also been very helpful, providing a bit of money and clothing.
McNally said she’s been overwhelmed by the offers of support and noted “every bit helps.”
Between sniffles on the phone, McNally said the house hunt remains the family’s top priority.
“Finding a place to live is our biggest need right now.”