Family’s loss prompts flood of generosity

Rudy Norman
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‘I think before the fire was even completely out the donations started coming in,’ grateful dad says

It was supposed to be a day away for the Andrews family of Brent’s Cove, followed by a movie that night at the children’s school.

The charred remains of the Andrews home in Brent’s Cove shows that nothing was salvageable. Donations and generosity from neighbours have done a great deal to help the couple get back onto their feet.

It turned into a fiery night of terror that left the family homeless, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

What followed was the biggest display of generosity Jeffery Andrews says he’s ever seen.

Jeffery, his wife Nicole, and their three children — all under the age of 10 — were in nearby La Scie on the evening of Dec. 11 doing some Christmas shopping.

“It was supposed to be just a family day away,” he said. “Go out, get some shopping done, go out for supper and then we were going to the kids’ school to watch a movie.”

It was at the school, before the show even started, that he was told his house was on fire back in Brent’s Cove.

“A friend of mine was on the phone with someone back here who lives just across the harbour from me,” he said. “They told her that my house was all on fire, and she came up and told me I needed to get home right away.”

Jeffery says the news didn’t register immediately — the shock was too great — but he gathered himself together.

“I knew my family was with me, so I knew everyone was OK,” he said. “So then, obviously, all I could think was that I had to get home to try and save my house.”

When the family arrived in Brent’s Cove, they were met with a gut-wrenching scene: the house was beyond saving.

There was nothing but charred remains left of the home they had just finished paying off. Their pet cat and dog died in the blaze.

“It was a shock, you know, because we didn’t have a thing — not a thing besides the clothes on our backs,” Jeffery said.

Distress began to sink in as they realized they’d lost everything — even the money they’d been saving for renovations.

“We had Christmas gifts brought in for the kids, and a lot of our relatives that live in Fort McMurray and other places had a lot of gifts sent home, so now that’s all gone as well,” Jeffery said.

The Andrews weren’t insured, because they had been carrying out the renovations needed to get their house up to code in order to qualify for insurance.

But people’s generosity soon kicked in.

“I think before the fire was even completely out the donations started coming in,” Jeffery said.

Clothes, food and cash have poured in from all over the country, and people keep giving.

“I can’t even put into words how amazing it’s been,” he said. “The generosity of people here on the peninsula, and all over, makes you realize how lucky you are to live where we live, with the people we have around us.”

The family is currently staying with relatives in nearby Harbour Round, but they got a phone call last week that changes their situation for the holidays.

“A guy from La Scie called and offered us his house, fully furnished, for however long it takes us to rebuild,” said Andrews.

“To me, that’s amazing — I can’t even believe that someone would be that generous to help us out like that.”

The family hopes to rebuild in the spring on a piece of land they’re looking at in Brent’s Cove.

“I don’t think we’re going to rebuild on the old piece of land,” said Jeffery, who explained it has a history of structure fires, with two other houses, a shed and a store having burned in close proximity to each other.

For now, though, the Andrews family is getting through Christmas and making the best of their situation.

“We’re together and that’s the only thing that matters right now,” Jeffery said.

“Family is the most important thing going. You can rebuild a house, and you can buy new stuff, so I’m not worrying about that right now.

“For now, we’re going to have a good Christmas, and be thankful for what we do have left.”

The Nor’wester

Geographic location: Brent, La Scie, Fort McMurray

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