Esquimalt family loses everything in fire

Saturday, Feb. 27 started out like any other day for the Alaas-Ideis family, however, it turned into one of the most devastating days.

Bassam Alaas

Saturday, Feb. 27 started out like any other day for the Alaas-Ideis family, however, it quickly turned into one of the most devastating days of their lives.

Roughly two weeks ago, a fire ripped through Magnolia Manor, a four-storey apartment building in the 800-block of Craigflower Road around 9 p.m., displacing more than four dozen tenants, including the Alaas-Ideis family.

Bassam Alaas had just returned home from a trip to the grocery store with his wife Bara Ideis, two sons and 18-month-old daughter, before the fire started.

The couple was unpacking their groceries in the two-bedroom apartment when the fire alarm sounded. Smoke quickly began to billow throughout their apartment and within 20 seconds, Alaas opened his closet doors to find the inside engulfed in flames, the father described.

The family rushed out, leaving all their belongings behind.

“I had no time to grab anything, I was just thinking about my family,” Alaas said. “I said ‘move, move outside’. We lost clothing, money, mobiles. We didn’t think about anything. Just making sure our children were safe.”

The family moved to Victoria 18 months ago from Jordan to escape the war. The couple were veterinarians and ran their own clinic, but sold the business to move to Canada and provide a better life for their three children. However, they are in Canada on a visitor visa and without refugee status or a work permit, are unable to work or receive financial assistance from the federal or provincial governments.

Ray Saurette, assistant fire chief with the Esquimalt Fire Department, said the fire started in the closet of the Alaas-Ideis family’s master bedroom. The investigation into what caused the fire was inconclusive.

Now, the family is looking to get back on their feet. It has been especially hard on their oldest son Omar, 8, who witnessed the fire.

“He saw the fire and he has bad (dreams) thinking about the fire, especially at night. Sometimes he had a fever, he thinks too much about the fire,” said Ideis, adding the children think they will be returning to the same unit. “They dream to return to the old apartment. When we hear our children, we can’t stop our tears.”

The family has been living in a hotel since the fire and will be moving into a one-bedroom, one den basement suite in Esquimalt this week until they can find more appropriate accommodation.

Since then, the community has rallied behind the family.

Donations have been flowing in to the Esquimalt Church of the Nazarene, which has been collecting money, furniture, clothing and toys for the family.

Two online fundraising campaigns have also raised more than $7,300.

“I felt for them — coming from a foreign country and losing everything,” said church pastor Barry Goodwin. “It was just the right thing to offer. The people on the Island here are very generous.”

Last Friday, the Esquimalt Fire Department also presented the family with a $1,500 cheque.

To make donations contact the Esquimalt Church of the Nazarene (886 Craigflower Rd.) at esq.nazarene@telus.net or call 250-382-0812.