Damage was pegged at $500,000 after a fire levelled a Wellesley home last Friday. There were no injuries, however, as no one was home at the time.
Firefighters from all three Wellesley Township stations responded to the property at the intersection of Greenwood Hill Road and Weimar Line when the call came in about 3:30 p.m.
“When we got there it was completely engulfed – the house was completely engulfed in fire,” said Paul Redman, township fire chief. “All three of our stations went to that. And about 10 minutes into the fire, the whole house collapsed, so it had been burning for a while. The occupants were out, they had been out doing some errands.”
By the time firefighters arrived at the scene the home was already beyond saving, however, with firefighters focussing their efforts on preventing the flames from spreading and putting out hot spots.
“It was just defensive for us; we didn’t go in or anything like that. It’d been going for a while before we got there. All the calls that came in were people driving past.”
The property was being rented by a family of six: two adults and four young children, all under the age of seven, who lost almost everything they had in the fire. By the following day, however, fundraising and relief efforts, led by Waterloo Region resident Andrew Foster, were already underway for the family, with donations of funds, clothing, furniture and even toys for the children being given.
“I have spoken with the family today,” said Foster in a social media post on Facebook Saturday. “They are aware of this page and amazed at the overall support from the community. The family is sincerely appreciative of your kind donations.”
The family has since found new lodgings in Crosshill, according to Foster, and began moving in this week.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, said Redman, suggesting the most likely culprit to be a heater that had cut out during a power outage, but had then switched back when the family was away.
“We don’t know. At this point now it’s undetermined. Because of the collapse, it’s not safe to go in and start investigating,” said Redman.
“Had there been some other criteria, like had there been an injury or a death, then we would have brought the OFM (Office of the Fire Marshal), and they send forensic investigators and they would pick apart,” he said. “But for this, the renters weren’t insured, the owner wasn’t insured, so there’s no insurance company looking for a report from us.
“They were out at the time. The power had been out and the wife had been doing some baking, so the appliances would’ve come back on when they weren’t home. There’s a stove in the kitchen that they’d left, and it was all knob-and-tube-wiring. So just those alone are big indicators of a possible cause for fire. So we don’t know for sure which one it was, but there’s some pretty obvious suspects of how it started, we just don’t know for sure.”
The property’s owner, Sidney Sherk, who lives across the street and was away at the time of the fire, said he was currently not planning on rebuilding the home.
“It’s a loss for me, but no lives were lost, that’s the main thing,” said Sherk. “Because we didn’t know where the people were when the fire started. He didn’t have a phone, so it took a couple hours before they showed up. We didn’t know. It was just – it wasn’t very nice … you just didn’t know if someone was in the house or not.”
A Facebook page called “Waterloo Region Helps: Wellesley” was created by Foster to provide updates on the family’s status as well as a running list of items needed. Donations of cash may also be made on the GoFundMe fundraising website, through a page started by Foster called “Waterloo Region Helps: Wellesley House Fire.”
With the first few days, the effort was more than halfway to the fundraising goal of $10,000.