A Red Deer man is in shock after a wildfire near High Level destroyed his childhood home, leaving his parents and their three youngest children destitute.
Joshua Parenteau was in Edmonton on the weekend commiserating with his evacuated family, whose home on the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement, about 70 kilometres south of High Level, was among a dozen consumed by flames Friday.
“Everyone was very quiet. They were still shell-shocked about it,” says the former pipefitter who moved to Red Deer with his wife and kids in 2016 to run a landscaping business.
Parenteau became emotional when recalling how his parents had overcome many obstacles to make a better life for their children, adding they didn’t deserve this latest tragedy. He wonders how they will cope with the loss of their uninsured house and belongings.
While family photos and other mementos can never be replaced, furniture and kitchen supplies will be needed, says Parenteau, who’s collecting donations of clothing, supplies or money to help get his family members back on their feet.
Parenteau was 10 years old when his mom, Darla, married his stepdad, Corwin Wanuch. She had been a widow raising two young children on her own.
A member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Darla helped Corwin cope with the effects of his difficult childhood, recalls Parenteau.
The couple had two more children together, and are also raising three of Corwin’s brother’s children after he died. These youngest kids are now between 12 and 16 years old and still living with Darla and Corwin.
Darla works in victim services for a northern Alberta RCMP detachment and Corwin is a gas plant operator with Cenovus, said Parenteau.
The couple’s house and contents were uninsured, like other homes built after 1994 on the Metis settlement. Parenteau says his parents had tried to get insurance, but it was a complicated process that was never resolved because of an ownership issue.
All newer homes on the settlement are only half owned by the families living in them, and half owned by the Metis board.
He doesn’t yet know whether the provincial or federal government will step in to help his family and others who got burned out.
Parenteau heard trailers will be set up as a temporary measure before his evacuated parents and their three children are allowed to return to northern Alberta. Until then, they will continue to stay with Parenteau’s sister in Edmonton.
He’s hoping to present his relatives with some donated items to help them get a new start. Anybody who wants to help can call 403-348-0322, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.