Sabrina Spencer lost her childhood home on Tuck Avenue to a fire last month. Her family lived in the eight-bedroom house built by her father since 1976 .
On Mar. 16, a fire broke out in the basement and 11 family members who were at home that day were evacuated safely. Spencer stood along with her family members outside and watched 42-years of memories go up in smoke as firefighters rushed to contain the fire.
“I did not know how much more could we take… March was a very hard month for us all,” said Spencer.
Earlier that week Spencer’s family received news of her sister’s death in Vancouver. The week before that, her brother-in-law passed away due to COVID-19.
Though the fire was contained to one room, the smoke damage was extensive, now requiring a year-long restoration work. Their large family split into separate units and moved into hotels. Within a month, Spencer, along with her mother and children switched three hotels.
But despite all the tragedies that March brought in, she was grateful to be living in Terrace.
“Had these horrible things not happened, we would never have known the good. Saying thank you to the community, doesn’t seem enough” said Spencer.
Starting with her neighbours, who gave them shoes when they ran out of their house when the fire started to the multitudes of community members and local businesses who donated clothes and money to the family to restart, Spencer is overwhelmed by the support.
“We are still getting help,” she said about community members who continue to fundraise for them and drop off things at her work place, Save-On Foods.
“Last week a complete stranger standing in the queue paid off my groceries bill.”
Although the family has mostly kept a low-profile, Spencer said that seeing community members help them at their most vulnerable time made her extremely grateful for living in a place like Terrace.
“We received so much help from the community even when the province and our own band turned us away,” said Spencer.
Immediately after the fire Spencer contacted her band manager from Gitxaala First Nation to find out if they could provide any support but she said that were “flat out turned away.”
“For whatever reasons, we were denied help from the province too,” she said and added, “You always hear stories about the flaws in the system, but you realize how bad it is only when it happens to you.”