Lucy Rego, husband Rick Halley and children Meleana and Jennifer Halley are homeless after losing the majority of their worldly possessions in a fire.
The family has been living out of motels after losing their Martin Street mobile home Tuesday morning. What didn’t burn up in the fire was damaged by heat and smoke. The United Church Thrift Shop opened its doors to provide clothing, while Lucy says friends from her church group have provided meals and moral support.
Emergency funds were provided through the Shuswap Emergency Program to cover the essentials, food and 72-hours of accommodation, which was supposed to come to an end on Friday, but Lucy said the Pines Motel had kindly let her family stay until the weekend. They have since relocated, having taken up temporary lodgings at the Anchor Riverfront Motel.
The experience has been one of great sadness and unease for the family.
“I’ve been crying so much I think there’s no more tears left. But what can we do? At least we have life,” said Rego.
Only Rego and Melina, 15, were home at the time of the fire, and neither were injured. Their two dogs and cat also survived, though the family’s pet fish and frogs were lost.
Rego credits Romeo, one of the dogs, for having woken her up in time to react.
“My dog was acting weird and I thought it doesn’t sound like normal – he’s probably just whining because he needs to go outside,” said Rego. After getting up, Rego tried her dryer. It made a cracking sound and indicated there had been a power failure. She checked elsewhere in the house and soon realized there was something wrong with the electricity. Rego then woke up her daughter and the two got out of the house and, uncertain of what to do, decided to call the fire department.
“My daughter went back in her house to get her phone, which I didn’t find out about until today… she said she saw smoke coming from the back room,” said Rego. “The fire department thought it was wiring, and the chief investigator was there already, and that’s what he told my husband.”
Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino says the cause of the fire is suspected to have been electrical, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Ogino says that when Sicamous firefighters arrived on scene (with aid provided by Malakwa and Swansea Point), smoke was pouring out the front door but no fire could be seen. The blaze was found and contained in a rear addition of the building. But Ogino says the heat and smoke damage was pretty severe.
“Talking to our crews, I don’t know temperature-wise, but they said it was the hottest they’ve experienced… they were down on the floor and either crawling on their hands and knees or down on their stomach.”
Ogino commended the firefighters for doing a great job, and the BC Ambulance and the Eagle Valley Rescue Society for providing support.
Ogino also applauded the actions of Lucy and Meleana.
“They had a small dog and it alerted them and they paid attention to it,” said Ogino. “They saw smoke and they didn’t try to do anything, they just got out. That’s the best thing for us because then we didn’t have people in the building.”
Rego laments losing her personal belongings, things she brought from Portugal, family photos and other irreplaceable artifacts, but she says she is encouraged by her daughter, who reminds her that it’s just stuff. The bigger concern right now, however, is finding someplace to live. Down the road, Rego, who has lived in Sicamous for 25 years, expects the family will pull up stakes and move to Kelowna where her husband’s employed. But, in the short-term, she’s hoping to stay in the community, at least until things are sorted out.
“Wherever God sends us, that’s where we’re going to be,” says Rego. “If for now we can find some place in Sicamous, then we’ll probably stay until this is all sorted out and we can actually deal with this loss. I do like Sicamous and I love my church and I have a good church family – that’s the reason I didn’t want to move.”
A trust account has been set up for the Rego/Halley family at the Sicamous branch of Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union.
Anyone who might be able to help the family may contact Priscilla at 250-836-0065, or Phoebe at 250-836-2973.