Community steps up for families affected by Penticton townhouse blaze

The Penticton community has shown its generosity as residents continue to reel from the fire that gutted four townhouse units last week.

Penticton firefighters work on the four unit townhouse complex as thick smoke billows out of the residences at a fire on Oct. 13. One person is a facing a charge of arson.

The Penticton community has shown its generosity once again as residents continue to reel from the fire that gutted four townhouse units last week.

Local blogger Jessica Cangiano and her husband Tony were residents at the Cascade Gardens complex where four townhouse units were lost in the blaze. Jessica shared her story on chronicallyvintage.com including the loss of her cat.

“The blaze quickly began to engulf everything in its path. My husband, Tony, and I were able to rescue our beloved dog, Annie, however, our darling cat Stella — a naturally extremely shy and skittish kitty hid instantly and could not be found,” Cangiano wrote. “I searched in the pitch black, chokingly acrid black smoke as thick as oatmeal for her until I could not breath, but she could (not) be found and I had to leave the house or risk losing my own life.”

Read more: Psych evaluation ordered for woman accused of setting fire

Jessica and Tony declined to be interviewed by the Western News, but did share their thanks to the community in an email.

“At the moment we are too heartbroken by our loss to be interviewed. The only comment we wish to make is that we are very thankful for the outpouring of support we received from family, online friends and the local community. It has helped us to cope with the loss of everything we worked hard for. Including it would appear, Stella, our beloved cat of eight years, “ Tony said.

Mare McHale, local blogger and entrepreneur, lives near the townhouse complex. She was on the scene on Oct. 13 when firefighters were working to extinguish the flames.

“It was really scary, I’ve never seen anything like it,” McHale said. “You just feel for the families. One person left without even her purse or her car keys. You never think it will happen to you, right? And then, when it does … I don’t know I just couldn’t just ignore it. I had to help.”

McHale, a former radio host at a local station, started using her contacts in the community to start rounding up support for the families and residents who were displaced. She wanted to establish a place for those looking to help to donate items.

“It was surprising. Going to bed on Thursday night, we knew one unit would be affected, but to wake up in the morning and they were all gone and they had also evacuated the fourplex beside it. I don’t know it was just … the kids didn’t have a house or breakfast,” McHale said.

McHale and other neighbours in the area gathered together on Oct. 14 to discuss which businesses to approach for support.

Penticton IGA, Terry’s restaurant and Boston Pizza were immediately on board.

Gift cards are preferred by the families according to Miriam Leslie, Captain at the Salvation Army, and gift cards for locations like Walmart and Superstore will help as well.

The Salvation Army also is iscussing financial donations with the local Red Cross.

“For the Red Cross and ourselves it’s difficult to process financial donations,” Leslie said. “What we’ve been receiving is gift cards and giving them directly to the victims.”

Leslie said people have been offering furniture, but many of the residents are still looking for new homes.

“The victims because they are burned out, that’s not something they need right now, as lovely as it is,” Leslie said. “People are so thoughtful and concerned and that’s been wonderful.”

One of the Cascade Gardens residents, a single mother, has reached out in the form of a GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/casgadegardensfire (editors note: the page has the incorrect spelling).

Those interested can call the Salvation Army (the South Main Street location) at 250-492-4788.