Tanya Durack stares in disbelief at the burned -out shell of what used to be her home.
With a couple garbage bags of clothes stuffed into a car, she pulled up to the residence at 627 Martin St. where a three-alarm blaze was called in just before 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“Everything I own in life was in this home. There was pictures, baby books, the kids baby teeth that I kept because I was the tooth fairy, video tapes with movies of my brothers and me when we were little; things I can’t replace,” said Durack brushing away tears. “That’s the hardest part. It is absolutely horrible.”
Durack was in the bath when her roommate, Brandon Irving, came screaming into the house telling everyone to get out. Irving said the breaker had blown a few times that night and he went outside to have a cigarette and investigate. He smelled burning wires and when Irving checked the side of the house flames were visible in the window.
Durack had come out of the bathroom, wrapped in just a towel ensuring her kids got out safely. She went back in with some of the other residents, unsuccessfully trying to battle the blaze with a fire extinguisher, before opening her bedroom door.
“The fire came at us like it was reaching at me. It was like a hand that wanted to grab me. That is how fast it came,” said Durack. “It was so scary. The smoke was burning my eyes and I couldn’t breath. I still have nightmares about it.”
Durack grabbed a hoodie and pajama pants from her son’s floor and ran outside. Standing in the backyard she called for help, as one of the occupants rescued a kitten. Two other pets, a cat and a bearded dragon lizard, died in the blaze.
Emergency social services provided short-term assistance to find lodging for the occupants of the house, which included Durack’s kids, her daughter’s boyfriend and Irving. That ended Tuesday at noon. As the kids sat on the curb outside what was once their house waiting for investigators to finish asking their mom questions, they wondered where they would go next. The family has lived on Martin Street for three months, having re-located from Smithers to Vernon and finally finding a home in Penticton.
“We are out today and I literally don’t know what we are going to do. We moved here for a fresh start. My daughter just graduated the other day. Then this,” said Durack, a single mother.
The family is desperate for a roof over their head and some food. Durack’s daughter, DeeDee Ferguson, said anyone wanting to assist them with any type of aid can contact them at 250-328-1010. Ferguson also wanted to thank Grant King’s Menswear, who have taken her prom dress to try and dry-clean and salvage it for her.
Fire chief Wayne Williams said there was considerable damage.
“The occupants were very lucky to get out, very lucky,” he said.
Williams said because the fire grew quickly into the roof so they had to call in 19 auxiliary firefighters to help contain the blaze. It took just over four hours for the fire to be extinguished.
“The crews did a great job. One of our main concerns was that the fire didn’t go beyond the house it was burning. There was some space between the homes but there was a good chance flames could have impinged upon the building next door but we had a great crew knocking down the fire with a larger hose line,” Williams said.