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Family homeless after morning fire

Katelyn Gagnon clings to the only Christmas gift that was salvaged from her home after an early morning fire Wednesday. - Carol Aun photo
Katelyn Gagnon clings to the only Christmas gift that was salvaged from her home after an early morning fire Wednesday.
— image credit: Carol Aun photo

Katelyn Gagnon was dreaming of hosting a large Christmas dinner for family and friends at her Stave Falls home when she was awakened Wednesday morning by shouts from her common-law husband, Ryan.

The house was on fire.

He grabbed the couple’s two-year-old son, Hunter, and Katelyn reached for blankets, cellphones and bolted towards the exit.

Flames were rolling into the house from the roof as the trio ran to the front door, but fire blocked their path. Katelyn could feel melting tar drip onto her skin as they jumped out a nearby window one by one.

Within minutes, the house was engulfed in flames, and shock settled in.

It was 4 a.m. and cold. Snow that had fallen earlier in the day was still clinging to the ground on their Bell Street property.

Beyond distraught, Katelyn called 911 and yelled at the dispatcher. A normal two-minute walk to the end of her driveway took 20 minutes.

There was propane and a lot of ammunition stored in the garage, and they wanted to get far away if anything detonated.

It was the initial explosion that had roused Ryan, who discovered the fire when he got out of bed to investigate.

The blast woke their neighbours as well, and they offered warm clothing and blankets to Katelyn and her family.

“I’m still shaking,” said Katelyn, more than six hours after fleeing her home. “I feel like Christmas has been taken from me; my house has been taken from me.”

Because of the trees around the property, Mission firefighters encountered challenges to get a water supply, and crews had to use hand lines, said Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

Afterwards, firefighters went back inside the house to salvage what they could for they family. They brought out baskets of clothes, and a wrapped Christmas present.

The family won’t be allowed on the property until investigators finish their work.

It appears the fire started at the south end of the property, where the garage is located, said Capt. Mike Schmidt, fire prevention officer.

“It’s pretty heart-wrenching,” said Katelyn.

Renting the home for more than three years, the family will be put up in a hotel for three days by emergency services, and Katelyn doesn’t know where they’ll go after that.

She’s not sure how she’ll explain the loss to Hunter and her six-year-old son, who was sleeping at a friend’s house when the fire occurred.

They are thankful nobody was injured, but don’t have content insurance to cover their losses and will be relying on their friends and family for support to get them through the holiday season.

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