A family in southeastern Manitoba is slowly recovering from a terrible house fire where all their belongings were lost, and they are grateful for the community's response and willingness to help.
It was a regular day for the Neufeld family from La Broquerie, Manitoba. 12-year-old Emily and her two younger brothers were waiting for their parents to come home from work. It wasn't until Emily decided to go downstairs to begin her chores that she noticed an unusual smell coming from the bathroom.
"As I was going down the stairs, I smelled something like burning. So, I went down and I saw the entire bathroom was engaged in fire and I ran upstairs, grabbed my siblings and got out and called 911," says Emily. "I was like, panicked, and I was like, 'what am I going to do?' And then I was like, I just have to get my siblings out. That's my number one responsibility."
Emily also called her mom, Natalie, to tell her the house was on fire. She says when she received the phone call she was frozen in shock.
Neufeld was at work but she dropped everything and rushed home, calling one of her neighbours to check to see if her kids got out and if her neighbour in the other unit in the duplex got out safely.
"I was just shaking and I just wanted to get there as fast as I can so that I could hug them and tell them everything is going to be okay," says the mother.
After the fire was dealt with, the restoration team reported the blaze was caused by a plug-in wax warmer in the downstairs bathroom that caught onto a nearby towel.
The duplex is still standing, however, the inside and all belonging are considered a complete loss, so they have been left to try and build up what they need which ranges from kitchen supplies and utensils, furniture, clothes, etc.
Neufeld was extremely disheartened when she found all her family's memorabilia was destroyed in the fire, especially her wedding dress.
"A lot of my memories, like my wedding dress, all the baby stuff of the kids. Everything was downstairs in that laundry room and all of the boxes were just completely melted and the stuff was ruined and some of it burned and there's just no coming back. Like my wedding dress, it's just something that, you know, you want to keep as a mom for your child, and hoping that she will wear it one day. But that's not an option for us anymore. It was just hanging there, half burnt, so a lot of it, memories-wise, is gone."
Despite the loss of their family memories, Neufeld is grateful her children and neighbours are safe. Their duplex neighbour is said to also be suffering from some damage to their unit but is doing well.
Emily credits her quick thinking to the Red Cross babysitting courses that she took.
She says the courses taught her things like what to do when someone is choking and when a stranger approaches you, but they also talked about what to do in case of a fire. And Emily encourages other kids to take babysitting courses as well so they know what to do in those situations because no one can know if they will end up in a dangerous situation like this.
Neufeld says that the family is staying at her mom's house near La Broquerie, but with 11 people in a four-bedroom house, it's starting to get a little crowded. They are grateful they have insurance to help them with their loss, however, it's still going to take a while before any next steps are taken.
They are looking for a new rental property, but Neufeld admits that it's difficult to find any that accept animals and even though they lost a cat in the fire, they still have a dog and another cat.
The family has received an overwhelming response from the community as well. Neufeld shares that they received a queen-size mattress from a generous man from Marchand, around 17 toothbrushes were donated (they will be well off for a while now), clothing has been dropped off and other items.
A GoFundMe page was started up by a friend of the family to help ease the struggles until the insurance comes around.
If anyone wishes to assist the family, please contact them via email: NNcleaning@hotmail.com.