Chilliwack fire victim returns to scene a day after devastating blaze

Farmhouse on Keith Wilson destroyed; tenant in coach house left homeless

The day after a fire destroyed a farmhouse on Keith Wilson Road in Chilliwack, the tenant of the coachhouse over the garage was back to see the damage and what, if anything, she could salvage.

It appears the answer is, almost nothing.

“I’m trying to better my life and now it is turned upside down,” Tracy Smith told The Progress via phone as she assessed the damage Wednesday morning.

“It’s horrible.”

Smith said the large, three-year-old farmhouse was owned and occupied by a 65-year-old man, alone, who was not home at the time of the blaze.

She lives in the apartment above a shop adjacent to the house, and was home at around 3:30 p.m. when she heard a strange sound.

“All I know is I heard some noise and went to the bathroom to see whatever it was. I thought it was water or rain and I looked out my bedroom window and saw smoke.”

Then she saw flames and fled wearing only a nightgown. She was also able to save her cat.

Neighbours called 911 and reported heavy flames and black smoke billowing up from the side and rear of the home. Chilliwack firefighters from Halls 1, 3, 4 and 6 responded. Upon arrival the house in the 44000 block of Keith Wilson Road was fully involved as were two vehicles in the driveway.

The fire was also licking at the carriage home/shop, and crews set up a defensive attack attempting to contain the fire and protect the shop.

Back at the site on Wednesday, Smith said while her bedroom was somewhat burned, the rest of the suite wasn’t and she was able to save her computer from another room, something that was important as works as a bookkeeper.

“I got the computer out and I’m trying to get the computer cord and printer so I can keep working.”

Her car, however, was destroyed.

And while firefighters were able to protect much of the unit she lived in, what was saved has smoke and water damage.

Smith said she’s not sure where she will stay now, but she was supposed to be hearing from victim services soon.

“For now it’s one day at a time,” she said. “I just got my life settled. I wanted to get a dog. I was building my life and now it has gone downhill.”

A friend of Smith’s quickly set up a GoFundMe page entitled “Please help Tracy start over.”

“Now that the dust has settled, she faces the overwhelming task of starting over, she had just moved in a month ago,” according to the GoFundMe blurb.

“Anything raised will go towards rebuilding her life. Rent, clothing, food, household purchases. At this time cash donations will be the best thing as she has nowhere to live and nowhere to store anything.”

As the fire raged on Tuesday afternoon, strong winds pushed the flames eastward, and firefighters had a challenge getting water to the blaze. Trucks were tapping fire hydrants as far away as Unsworth Road.

The fire snarled traffic around area, as roads were closed and busy drive-home traffic diverted.

The fire appears to accidental at this time and is under investigation by the Chilliwack Fire Department.

• RELATED: Five escape from early morning Chilliwack house fire in January

• RELATED: Smoking materials blamed for fire at downtown Chilliwack apartment in February


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