BLACKFALDS — Dustin Brooker said he felt devastated while watching firefighters battle a blaze that completely destroyed his Panorama Estates home in Blackfalds on Wednesday morning.
“My whole life . . . I just have to start over,” he said while standing across the street from the charred remains of the Pinewood Close home he’s lived in for eight years.
“It’s indescribable, the feeling to know that you have to start your whole life over again.”
Brooker was at work when he got a call from his fiancé, who said the house was on fire. She had gone out back to have a cigarette on the deck when she noticed flames, he said.
His fiancé, her friend who was in the house at the time and the couple’s five dogs all got out safely. His nine-year-old son was at school at the time of the fire.
Blackfalds Fire Chief Robert Cote said the fire department received a call for a fully involved structure fire around 10:15 a.m.
The fire spread rapidly due to winds that gusted between 40 and 50 km/h, he said.
“The wind just fuels the fire. Once it reaches the inside of the house, it just whips around inside. Even the flames were impeding onto the neighbouring home.”
The house beside Brooker’s suffered extensive exterior damage.
About 20 firefighters, including two units from Lacombe, were able to get the blaze under control, but high winds did hamper with their efforts, Cote added.
“With this wind, it didn’t help us with this situation.”
The four other homes on the tiny cul-de-sac as well as those across the street and back alley were evacuated as a safety precaution, Cote said.
A cause has not yet been determined but Cote believes it started around the deck.
“Until we fully investigate it, we can’t eliminate the barbecue, the hot tub or smoking,” he said.
Jennifer Howitt, Blackfalds Neighbourhood Place co-ordinator, went to the scene as soon as she heard a family home was on fire.
“We phoned the Red Cross for them. So they’re going to provide them with clothing and food,” she said. “And we’re trying to find a place for the five dogs.”
Nearby resident Serena Rohrer took the dogs to her house on Panorama Drive and was giving them water and food, according to her mother Sheila Tiedjens.
Rohrer was driving down Panorama Drive when she saw a roof of fire and stopped to see if anyone was home, Tiedjens said.
“The people were passing her the dogs and she was running them out to her truck and then going back to get another one,” she said.
Brooker does have insurance and said his family will stay with his mom in town for now.