Community rallies behind victims of house fire
By Phil Ambroziak
“I didn’t think Meadow Lake could be so giving.”
That’s a lesson Shelly Hammell learned the hard way when a fire broke out Feb. 19 at the house she was renting on the Matchee-Neeb Road east of the city.
“I received a call from the RCMP around 7 p.m. telling me my house was on fire,” Hammell said. “As far as I know, someone passing by saw the smoke and called it in. I was in town at the time, so I raced home. When I pulled in, I didn’t see any flames. The majority of the fire was out.”
While Meadow Lake fire chief Neil Marsh could not provide a definitive cause for the fire by press time, Hammell said she believes it could have started because of an electric heater that was left plugged in. Marsh did confirm firefighters were called to the scene around 6 p.m. and did not return to the fire hall until 10 p.m.
Hammell, who lives with her eight-year-old daughter Savannah and 16-year-old daughter Cheyenne, is employed as the assistant manager at the Meadow Lake Co-op convenience store. She moved to the area in September from Rocky Mountain House, AB and was residing at the house since January.
“We probably lost about 98 per cent of our belongings to smoke damage,” Hammell said. “We also lost one of our cats – he died in the fire.”
In response to Hammell’s loss, organizations and individuals throughout the community immediately stepped forward to help her get back on her feet. Among them was her very own employer. The Meadow Lake Co-op put the family up in a hotel the night of the fire, purchased new beds for them and continues to implement fundraising initiatives.
“We have 150 employees and this really shows how any one of them would be treated in a time of crisis,” explained Meadow Lake Co-op general manager Terry Tremblay. “In this case, obviously we’re here to help Shelly, but it also lets them all know how important they are to us and how without them we wouldn’t be able to keep moving forward.”
On Saturday (March 2), the Co-op will host a steak night fundraiser.
“The Legion has donated the use of their hall and Co-op is supplying the food,” Tremblay said. “All proceeds will go to Shelly and the girls.”
Meanwhile, other businesses continue to offer donations.
“Fields was amazing,” Hammell said. “They donated many essentials for us. I keep telling everybody how (thinking about the fire) makes me physically sick, but I am also humbled by this whole experience. I’m normally not the type of person who asks for help.”
Since the fire, Hammell has found a new house to rent in Meadow Lake.
“I could have run home with my tail between my legs, but I moved out here for a new start and we’ll just have to take the good with the bad,” she concluded.