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Daycare plans to rise rapidly from ashes

New space for kids will open Monday, director promises

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/5/2010 (2599 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Sunday night, when the empty building went up in flames, toys melted, crafts burned to cinders and 66 wee outfits, kept there for a change of clean clothes, were consumed.

But within hours of the fire that claimed the Elmwood Day Nursery's old home, director Lucille Leclerc vowed that her daycare will rise again. And by this coming Monday, no less.

Fire gutted daycare at 75 Brazier St. Sunday.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Fire gutted daycare at 75 Brazier St. Sunday.

"I have a really good feeling about it, just by what's being said," Leclerc said Wednesday morning. "It's so hard, because we can't do anything right now."

That's because, in the days since the daycare's City of Winnipeg-owned building at 75 Brazier St. was struck by suspected arson, Leclerc, her 22 staffers and the parents of the 66 children who attended the daycare have done everything they can to get Elmwood Day Nursery back up and running.

Now, they play the waiting game.

First, daycare workers had to find a potential new space. Then they had to get health inspectors, child-care groups and the fire inspector out to give it a green light.

And if all that goes through, Leclerc still has to get an occupancy permit for the daycare's tentative new space and round up toys, crafts and furniture to replace what was lost; even paper cups and sheets for beds are needed.

Insurance will cover some costs, but the benefits won't kick in before Monday, and so other daycares and area businesses have been stepping forward to donate supplies for the reopening.

"We have absolutely nothing," Leclerc said. "I don't even know if my computer's going to work, because of fire damage. We're starting from scratch."

Don't ask Leclerc what's been pushing her forward these last few long days. "I can't sleep at night, so I don't have to worry about getting up," she chuckled. "It's just been a nightmare.

"All these parents are scrambling, trying to find alternate care. They've been really good with that... just as long as we can open on Monday."

What makes it harder is that this was perhaps all so avoidable. Leclerc said there is evidence that someone broke into the old building and lit a fire in one of the daycare's rooms. The resulting blaze caused $1-million in damage and burned a hole through the roof. The city's arson strike force is investigating.

Try explaining that to a child. "(My daughter) was upset that she couldn't go to daycare to see her teachers and her friends," said Lisa Laidlow, whose three-year-old Ella attends the daycare.

"She didn't understand why she can't go inside (the daycare). I had to say, 'Some bad people did some bad stuff, and your daycare is hurt and they have to fix it.' She was like, 'Why?' And what do you say to that?"

Awkward explanations of arson aside, Laidlow considers herself one of the lucky parents: Her in-laws can watch Ella during working hours. But for other parents, the fire has thrown their lives into disarray since Leclerc called at 3 a.m. Monday to tell them the daycare had gone up in flames.

For that, Laidlow hopes that the people that caused the blaze, if it was indeed arson, come to understand what havoc they've wreaked.

"I think they should be ashamed of themselves," she said.

"They're playing with people's lives and livelihoods. The government needs to clamp down on these firebugs."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Melissa Martin.

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