MIRROR — Volunteer firefighters were opening their homes even while they fought the flames that destroyed the Thiesmann family home just three days before Christmas.
Yes, it was a catastrophe and the timing was horrid, especially with outside temperatures at -27C — but it couldn’t have happened in a better community, Gregor Thiesmann told Mirror firefighters on Tuesday.
“I’ve never felt that kind of generosity in my life,” said Thiesmann. While he has been a butcher with Messinger Meats for six years, it has been only two years since he and his wife, Delailah, moved from Lacombe to the home they had bought in Mirror, just 30 metres from the shop.
The rest of the family was still in bed on the morning of Dec. 22 when Thiesmann got up and made a cup of coffee before heading out to start his 5:30 a.m. shift.
Minutes later, he was back at home to join his family, who had escaped a blaze that started in the kitchen and gutted house.
Volunteers with the Mirror fire department, operated by Lacombe County, invited the couple and their five children into the fire hall on Tuesday to make some presentations, including a cheque for $26,680 and an autographed Jersey from NHL sniper Ryan Smyth, a former Edmonton Oiler now playing with the Los Angeles Kings.
Smyth’s parents, Dixie and Jim, were on hand to present the jersey. Dixie Smyth explained that she has always has a personal connection with Mirror because that’s where her mother, Myna Davidson, was born and raised.
When she heard about the fire and that one of the boys is a hockey player, she and Jim got Ryan to sign a jersey for him.
Jayden Thiesmann, 11, said he plans to wear it at practice.
The firefighters then presented 14-year-old Damond Thiesmann, eldest in the family, with a certificate recognizing his actions in getting everyone dressed and out of the house and in stopping his mother from going back in.
“We hope that in four or five years he’ll come here and put on a red shirt like ours,” said firefighter Dean Angell, who chaired the ceremonies.
Cash donations are still coming in and the firefighters have collected truck loads of goods to help the family get back on its feet, said Angell.
Besides the goods that were dropped off at the fire hall, one of the fire trucks used to collect donations was filled up two and a half times, he said.
The “unbelievable” support of neighbours and strangers had been a tremendous help at a time when the family was facing severe difficulties, Thiesmann told the gathering.
He credited the smoke alarms with waking up Delailah, who was then able to roust the children from their beds.
Although the cause of the fire has now been pinned to a faulty coffee maker, the insurance company has not yet decided how much of the damage it will cover, Thiesmann told reporters afterward.
He and Delailah have found a place in Alix to live, so they are now paying rent on one household and they continue to pay the mortgage on the remains of their home in Mirror.
Commenting on Thiesmann’s expressions of gratitude, deputy fire chief Wayne Rider said Mirror is small and isolated, so people are inclined to take care of each other.