A fire in Wellesley Township Saturday morning displaced a family of six and caused an estimated $460,000 in damages – $400,000 for the structure and $60,000 for contents.
A four-year-old playing with a barbecue lighter is said to be the cause. After the child set fire to a blanket at around 8:30 a.m., the situation got quickly out of control.
All three Wellesley fire stations and a tanker truck from Woolwich’s Floradale station responded. Wellesley Township fire chief Paul Redman said firefighters were out all morning and early afternoon battling the blaze after getting the call at 8:55 a.m. on July 27.
Everyone in the house got out safely before fire crews arrived. At the time, the Graham family of six and a fifth child, 13-year-old Brookelynn LeBlanc-Quesnelle, a friend of one of the Graham children who had stayed overnight at the property on Line 86.
“I basically woke up because somebody was screaming,” said LeBlanc. “And then I just grabbed the baby and ran outside.”
One of the older siblings of the Graham family notified the household of the impending danger. While everyone got out safely, Redman added that some members of the family were transferred to Listowel Memorial Hospital.
“They transported the parents and two of the four kids just to be observed for smoke inhalation at the hospital, but they were released later that afternoon,” he explained.
The Red Cross found lodging for the family at a Guelph hotel until Tuesday, while some members of the household, including the family dog, stayed at LeBlanc’s house. Graham and her husband have a 14-month-old, a four-year-old, 12-year-old, and 13-year-old. The family had moved to Wellesley Township from Kitchener around a month ago.
“It’s just something to be very grateful for that everybody came out alive – that was my biggest thing,” said Jeanna LeBlanc, Brookelynn’s mother. “It scares me even to let [Brookelynn] go anywhere right now, because I could have lost my kid too in this whole thing.”
There was no damage to the livestock on the property. Leblanc set up a GoFundMe page on Facebook aimed towards helping replace the contents of the home for the family. The fundraiser has a set goal of $1,500, and had raised a little over $200 as of Tuesday.
The Graham family rented the house. Eli Bowman owned it for nearly two decades since he took it over from his father in 2000.
Noting the situation could have been worse, Redman said there was a lesson to be learned in what happened.
“Keep lighters and ignition sources hidden away from kids and make sure people have working smoke alarms,” said Redman. “We can say there wasn’t smoke alarms. They were up anyway, but we didn’t find any working smoke alarms in this house. This definitely could have been worse than it was.”