Victoria firefighters attend the scene of a November fire at 829 Hillside Avenue.

Families rebuilding after townhouse fire

Families are slowly beginning to rebuild their lives nearly a month after a fire ripped through a townhouse complex on Hillside Avenue.

Families are slowly beginning to rebuild their lives nearly a month after a fire ripped through a townhouse complex on Hillside Avenue.

According to Kelly Greenwell, executive director of the Quadra Village Community Centre, which is currently providing support to the six families who were displaced by a fire at the Evergreen Terrace Townhouses last month, almost all the families are living in housing and are starting to rebuild their lives.

“They’re making headway. It’s been easier for families to chip away at things by identifying some essential needs and taking the next step of ‘we have those needs met, what else do we need’? Because it’s everything from toys to a flipper for your frying pan to pots and pans that need to be replaced,” Greenwell said.

“To build your life back up in terms of all your material possession is a huge undertaking just on its own. When you mix in the trauma of a fire, having to run or walk away from your household in the middle of the night, it just magnifies how difficult it is.

“It’s taken a while, it’s made life really busy for (the families).”

Around 3 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, firefighters responded to a blaze at a housing complex located at 829 Hillside Ave., and arrived to find residents had already fled from the flames. Crews were able to put out the fire, however, officials said three suites were heavily damaged and four will require extensive repairs.

The investigation into the fire is now complete, however, the cause is undetermined as investigators were unable to do a physical examination due to the structural integrity of the building.

Greenwell was woken up early that morning by his phone that lit up with text messages from people telling him about the fire. Shortly after, Greenwell and a number of other local organizations sprung into action to help the roughly 35 victims of the fire, setting up an emergency fund and making sure the victims had a place to stay.

Three of the families have since been housed on site at the Evergreen Terrace complex, and three have been provided housing elsewhere through B.C. Housing.

In the weeks following the fire, the community rallied behind the families, donating more than $10,000 in financial donations, money which will go towards replacing things on a case-by-case basis. In addition, a few thousands dollars of in-kind materials such as clothing, kitchen appliances, bunk beds, gift cards and couches have been donated. At times, there were so many donations, the community centre had a hard time keeping up.

There have been points of frustration along the way for the families trying to piece their lives back together, and some children have had trouble sleeping at night due to trauma from the fire, but Greenwell said most families are getting back into the daily routines of driving their children to school and heading to appointments.

“There’s been a lot of gratitude for the help that’s been offered up,” said Greenwell, who checks in with the families at least once a week. “It’s exhausting to rebuild like this . . . you really see how much people care.”

The Mustard Seed has also been collecting clothing, furniture and financial donations for the families on behalf of the community centre.

“The community just stepped up, as we do when there’s a significant call to action — we act,” said Allan Lingwood, director of development with the food bank.

Donations are still being accepted as part of the Quadra Village Emergency Fund for victims of the fire. To donate visit quadravillagecc.com, call 250-388-7696, or email frontdesk@quadravillagecc.com.