Lacombe rural fire leaves man with no personal possessions

Daughter makes public appeal to help him

The daughter of a man who lived in a rural home that burned to the ground last week is making a public appeal for help.

Skye Watts said her father, Doug Watts, lost almost everything in the fire that occurred about 10 km east of Lacombe on Hwy 12 on Feb. 8.

The farmhouse was about 30 years old. It’s on land that the Watts family has owned since 1934. Doug, 58, had been renting the house from another family member for the past eight months. Neither the house nor the contents were insured, Skye said.

Her father recounted to her that he and his girlfriend Sandra Durant and her adult daughter were at home watching TV at about 6 p.m. They were using the fireplace because it was quite cold outside with the temperature in the area about -24 C at the time.

The fire may have started in the fireplace. They started noticing smoke in the house and thought the fire was just getting out of hand a bit. They decided to get water from the kitchen and put it on the fire. But then fire got into the walls and the walls started crumbling inside, Skye said.

The fire moved into the roof. “It blew across that roof like there was no tomorrow, just like wildfire, and then down the other side of the house. My dad said within about 45 minutes the whole house was gone.”

Doug managed to get an ATV and Sandra’s car out of the attached garage, which was the last part of the house to burn, Skye said. All three people and a cat got out without injury.

When the Lacombe Fire Department arrived, the home was completely engulfed in flames. Blackfalds, Bentley and Clive fire departments also responded.

Skye, 27, said her father has a trucking business and he lost all the paperwork for it in the fire.

“We’re not a family to up and ask for donations … it’s just that when it comes to something like this, what else are you supposed to do?”

Skye started an online fundraiser for her father but said the response hasn’t been as good as she hoped. “It’s an unfortunate time. We’re in a recession. Our economy is not good at all.”

Doug and Sandra are staying with a relative of Sandra’s in Red Deer for now. Sandra and her daughter did not have many belongings at the house. Skye said the most urgent need is for clothing for her father because all his personal belongings were destroyed in the fire.

Some people have asked Skye about fundraisers or benefits. “I’ve never done anything like this. … I have no idea. I don’t know where to start.”

Skye, who lives in Lacombe, can be contacted through the online fundraiser GoFundMe page: Watts family farm/house fire.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com