A Penticton family left homeless on Christmas Eve due to a fire that caused smoke damage in their rental home are now wondering where they will go.
“It was the nightmare before Christmas, ironic, since that is my son’s favourite movie,” said Cyndi Munro.
After spending a few nights at the Sandman Inn, with help from social assistance, Munro is brought to tears thinking of what her next step might be since she did not carry fire insurance.
“I have a son with special needs and I am scared. How can I put him back in that home if it is not cleaned. I don’t have the money to pay a professional company to come in and clean the soot and smoke damage, and with my disability I can’t do it myself,” said Munro, adding the family all suffer from asthma. “As a mother I would be betraying my oath to motherhood if I put him back in there.”
Munro said it was a “fast fire” that they were alerted to by her daughter who was sleeping and heard a sound in the empty bedroom beside her. The daughter opened the bedroom door and screamed when she saw it was so full of smoke she couldn’t see in.
“She was screaming fire, fire and her face was black and it was all over her. My son ran down to the room and kicked in the door because he thought his brother was in there but he was actually right behind him. That is when my children made me the proudest mother in the world. They grabbed an old fire extinguisher to get it down and managed to get pots of water poured on it. The house was full of smoke and I was trying to dial 9-1-1 but I was so panicking I could barely dial the number,” said Munro. “I told the operator I thought we had it out but the fire department still had to get some of it out when they responded. All four of us had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance for smoke inhalation.”
Munro believes it was the family’s cat that knocked over a candle that possibly started the fire. She said the cat is still at the house and she fears he is now sick from the smoke and she doesn’t have the money to help him. Penticton Fire Department officials had not yet inspected the residence as of Thursday morning, therefore could not determine what the cause was. The family said it did generate a lot of thick, black smoke having started in a room that had a collection of treasured toys, games, DVDs and a laptop. Munro said her older son also had a lighter collection in the bedroom and had at one point been filling them with butane which was on a desk. She said the sound of the butane bottle catching fire and exploding into the wall is what woke her daughter who then alerted them to the fire.
“It is all melted. It wasn’t just the structure or wood bookcase, there was all these melting plastic components. It was awful,” said Munro, who has been so shaken by the events she said she hasn’t been able to keep down food or water. “It was just a nightmare I tell you.”
The family plans on meeting with their landlord on Thursday evening, when they hope to get some answers to what is next for them.
To say the last few years have been rough on Munro’s family is an understatement, with Monday’s fire in their rental home just an exclamation point. On top of dealing with her kids’ and her own medical issues, her older son was left devastated by the death of a close friend who was stabbed to death at a house party in Peachland. Munro said they spent 10 months homeless, sometimes having to split up to stay with friends and at times Munro said she slept in her car before finally finding this rental house. Then her younger son was the victim of theft in November. A silver chain given to him by his grandfather who is suffering from cancer was taken from his locker at the community centre.
“I was so upset over a silver chain, but we lost so much this time,” said Munro. “When we got this house, I thought finally some good. This moment is bittersweet. The Christmas miracle out of this fire is that we all got out alive because it may not have been that way. I keep counting my blessings but then turn around and ask why, why so much. How full is my plate before it cracks?”