A family of six in St. Vital escaped a fire on New Year’s Day with only the clothes on their back and the shoes on their feet — and the dad’s shoes didn’t even match.
"We barely made it out," said Raylene Hall from a south Winnipeg hotel room Thursday night. "But we made it out as the black smoke and the flames rose up."
Hall said she believes the fire started when one of her son’s friends intended to light a candle in the basement but accidentally lit a mattress on fire.
The blaze, which broke out mid-afternoon in the home at St. Mary’s Road and Havelock Avenue, destroyed not only the house, but everything the family owned including the Christmas presents they had opened just days before.
They had no insurance in the rental property.
"We lost everything," she said, rhyming off a laundry list of items, including electronics, athletic equipment and furniture.
And while the losses are well into the thousands of dollars, Hall said she realizes it could have been much worse.
"I told my son Jeremy that material things are material things and a life is way more important than material things. As long as we have each other and we're all okay, that’s what matters," she said.
An area resident is hoping the community can rally to help get Hall, her husband and their four children, Jeremy, 12, Isaiah, 4, Alicia, 3 and Precious, 1, back on their feet.
Winnipeg police Const. Eric Hofley said yesterday the fire is still under investigation.
Sherry Meilleur, and her husband Wayne, live near the house and offered to help the family after meeting them and seeing they had lost everything.
"My parents' house burned to the ground 15 years ago so I know what they are going through," she said.
Meilleur said they are hoping generous Winnipeggers will respond with donations of clothing, bedding, furniture — and replacement Christmas presents.
"Thank goodness they all got out, but now they need help," she said.
"They just got out with the clothing on their back. The dad had two different shoes on."
Meilleur said the family’s plight is especially urgent because they didn’t have insurance and they are on income assistance.
Meilleur said if you have anything to donate you can contact her by email at email@example.com
She said the father wears size 13 shoes and extra large clothing, mom wears size eight shoes, size 15 pants and large for shirts, Jeremy wears size 10 shoes, and men’s large sized clothes, Isaiah takes 6X clothing and size one shoes, Alicia wears 6X clothing and size four shoes, and Precious — who is walking — wears size two clothing and uses kids’ size 12 shoes.
"Their 12-year-old son is a basketball player at school and he lost all his clothes and shoes as well as his school back pack," Meilleur said.
"He needs basketball clothes and shoes."