Fire tore through a Sardis neighbourhood so fast Wednesday morning that one resident said her working smoke alarms didn’t even go off.
“When I woke up I couldn’t even smell anything,” Rachel Perigny said just hours after the blaze destroyed the house where she lived with her husband and two children.
“The smoke alarms all work. We know because burnt toast sets them off. But the way the flames came through, there wasn’t enough smoke inside to set them off.”
Perigny and her family were awakened instead by pounding on the door from a resident of the coachhouse behind the Safflower Crescent house they rented.
Perigny said her 12-year-old daughter and a friend (over for a sleepover) heard the neighbour’s pounding, saw the orange flames, grabbed the hamster and got outside. Then she grabbed her 10-year-old son, the six-year-old Labrador, and they got out safely as well.
Their family is one of six who are at least temporarily displaced after the fire that struck in the early hours of July 11, including a single mother and her son in a basement suite and the couple from the coach house who saved them.
It was at approximately 3 a.m. when the Chilliwack Fire Department was dispatched to the house. Firefighters from halls 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 arrived to heavy smoke and flames from two homes, two garages and one carriage home.
Due to the intense fire and structural damage to multiple residences, firefighters set up a defensive response, and were able to stop the fire from spreading to adjacent properties.
In addition to the five structures essentially destroyed, 11 more structures suffered minor heat damage.
There were no civilian or firefighter injuries, and while Perigny and her family escaped with their dog, bunny and hamster, it’s unclear if a cat escaped the basement suite.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Chilliwack Fire Department said the fire was under investigation. They didn’t say whether the cause was suspicious, but anyone with information was asked to call the RCMP (604-792-4611) or Crimestoppers (1-800-222-8477).
For her part, Perigny said there “seems to be some strange circumstances around it all.”
In the short term, she said he family has a place to stay but they need to find something else for around $2,000 a month to rent. A friend set up a GoFundMe to help with short-term needs at www.gofundme.com/z5vpv-emergency-funding-needed.
The page says the family will need immediate items such as clothing, food and toiletries, and in the long-term they will need funds for furniture, bedding, kitchen items and kids toys/books, as they get back on their feet.
Perigny said they lost everything and she feels “silly” for not having content insurance.
“We did have it and then when it came for renewal we just couldn’t afford it. So I don’t want to play any pity card,” she said. “I’m so grateful that the living beings are OK.”
Perigny said the neighbouring house that was also destroyed was recently purchased by a couple with two small children, but she didn’t know their names.