Central Albertans are coming together to support a family left homeless after a fire badly damaged their residence.
Brian and Esther Hutzkal, along with their three sons, aged seven, 10 and 11, had all their belongings ruined in a fire at their Bentley-area home Wednesday.
“I left to go pick up my sister from work. Then we went into Red Deer to have lunch … and when we came back, we heard the smoke alarm in the house,” said Esther.
She then called 911.
The fire started in a dryer, and as it spread, it melted nearby water lines. The water kept the fire from consuming the house, but it smouldered, and heat and smoke caused extensive damage.
Friends and relatives started a GoFundMe campaign for the family. Donations are also being accepted at the Bentley Credit Union.
Esther said the support they’ve received has been overwhelming.
“It’s been unbelievable,” she said. “The community has really pulled together and supported us in this devastating event. I couldn’t have asked for a better support system than I have.
“I don’t know how I would ever be able to repay anybody for what they’ve done.”
Brian said the family didn’t know what to expect after friends and relatives said they wanted to start a crowdsourcing campaign.
“We were still in shock (from the fire) but we said, ‘Go for it,’” he said. “We’re definitely grateful for anyone who has donated and who will in the future – it’s been amazing. It’s more than we ever could have expected.”
He said the children have been “all right” despite the difficult situation.
“It’s a bit of a change for them, not being able to go home,” Brian said. “We’re trying to keep everything as normal as we can at this point. They kind of understand everything, but I don’t think they fully grasp what’s happened.”
The family will stay with friends near Lacombe through Christmas.
Esther’s birthday was Friday and their youngest son Kane’s birthday is Wednesday. Kane will have a party at Bentley Elementary School, which all three boys attend.
Donations are also being accepted at Savannah McDonald’s home at 48 McGill St. in Red Deer, and at Raina Milner’s home at 11 Crestview Blvd. in Sylvan Lake.
Those who want to donate Christmas presents for the children can’t go wrong with Star Wars toys or Lego. For details on clothing sizes, visit the GoFundMe page.