Fire alarms screamed in the middle of the night on Friday ushering the LaRose family out of their Twin Lakes home.
“I looked outside our bedroom door and could see flames coming from our kitchen. It was so scary,” said Sara LaRose, whose family of five lost everything in the fire at their rental home. “I was standing up before I think I was actually awake and realizing what was happening. The adrenaline just starts going and I was pulling everyone up to get them out of the house.”
(read more: Local family safe, but home gutted in fire)
The family, which includes husband Curtis LaRose, part owner of Minute Muffler in Penticton, and three children, are starting from scratch with almost all their possessions lost and no content insurance.
Sara said smoke had filled their house earlier in the evening when they lit their first fire of the season. While they checked several times and thought they had got control of it with a garden house, in the middle of the night smoke came rushing back, this time with fire spreading into their house. Sara said she called 911 as neighbours and their landlords rushed to try and douse the flames.
“I called 911 only to have them tell me that Twin Lakes is out of range for a fire department to come and that nobody was coming,” she said. “That is one of the scariest parts. Had there been just a little bit of wind and the ground a bit drier, the fire could have lit the whole neighbourhood up.”
Twin Lakes is located in an unprotected fire zone. In 2012 another family was left homeless when the trailer they lived in was completely destroyed. Fire insurance for this type of an area can be three to four times the cost depending, on the property.
(read more: Fire near Penticton leaves family homeless)
Dale Kronebusch, emergency services supervisor at Regional District Okanagan Similkameen said residents in Twin Lakes have attempted twice to form a fire department but to no avail.
Under current regulations a fire hall can only service an area of eight kilometres out from the station (a total of 16 kms radius). Kronebusch said several stations in the region including Keremeos are grandfathered and cover larger distances but not as far Twin Lakes.
“Every time there is a fire and there is a devastating loss like this one you think geeze that’s a kick in the teeth to that community…. but it’s not fair for neighbouring communities to tax for those assets and then they go off to communities that don’t pay for them. There’s also liability involved. Also, you have to think how effective is a response going to be when they’re coming from that far away.”
Since 2008 there has been at least two attempts to start a fire department in the Twin Lakes area both have failed. Property has even been secured along the highway for a fire hall but for whatever reason the department hasn’t formed.
Kronebusch explained only two people are needed to start the process of starting a fire department in a community.
The community quickly responded to the LaRose’s needs, pushing a GoFundMe account for the family over its set goal in one day. Businesses have also stepped up to assist including Barefoot Beach Resort which is now the temporary residence for the family while they figure out their next steps.
“Curtis has been involved in a lot of fundraisers with Minute Muffler to help various people and organizations in this community. So when this tragedy hit their family, the whole community is banding together to give their support back to him which is a great thing to see,” said Barefoot Beach Resort president Max Picton.
Picton also set up a Facebook page (Support for the LaRose family) and asking those who want to donate to visit it to see what has already been offered.
Sara said they are appreciative of the help, and are mostly in need of toiletries and clothes for the moment as they don’t have a place to store donated furniture and household items just yet. She said the family is adjusting to their reality.
“It is weird to be on the other side of a fundraiser. We have in the past and still do annual fundraisers for friends and people affected in different ways in the past. Usually we are the ones organizing these things so it is crazy to be on the other end,” she said.
Sara got emotional on the phone thinking about all the support they have received so far. Other local businesses have also chipped in including Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Andre’s Electronics and the Real Canadian Superstore is looking at holding a fundraiser soon.
“It is so amazing. People are bringing us meals, toiletries and other items. Now we have to focus on finding a more permanent place to live,” said Sara.