A young Petrolia family “in a haze” working to find a home in time for Christmas.
The Blevins are staying with friends in Sarnia after their Eureka Street home was extensively damaged by fire. And an effort is already underway to help them have a merrier Christmas.
Just before the town’s Christmas parade was to begin, fire trucks raced from the marshalling area to 296 Eureka Street. Fire Chief Lawrence Swift says the Blevins family was downtown doing errands and had stopped to watch the Santa Claus parade unaware that thick black smoke was coming from the home.
Swift says when the department arrives there were “some flames coming out of the back door…there was heavy smoke throughout the house indicating the fire was well entrenched in the house.
“It’s believed the fire started in the basement area in an extension cord for a hanging light,” he says. A mattress under the light then caught fire.
Brian Blevins and his wife Andrea bought the home in 2010 and he says it has been “a nightmare” ever since.
The couple first found there was extensive mould in the basement and significant problems with the building. For two years the Blevins and their four young children, Elyse, 7, Jonah, 5, Grace, 3, and eventually Bethany, 1, lived in a two-bedroom apartment while they worked get the home to a living standard. “The inside was all redone, new electrical, new plumbing, we reframed everything…we put a lot of time and a lot of money into it.”
Blevins says they wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of their church family at Temple Baptist in Sarnia.
The couple had only moved into the house in the spring as they continued to put their time into making it a home with a large backyard for their family. “There is a lot of land there…that’s what we bought it for.”
The day before the fire which caused about $80,000 and claimed the life of 7 year-old Elyse’s pet hamster, the family had another narrow escape. As their pastor was leaving he noticed a gas smell and could feel gas coming from the meter. Union Gas was called in but only after the family left for their safety.
Then Saturday, as Blevins and the family stood at the corner of Eureka and Petrolia Line watching the parade, his phone would not stop ringing. It was the OPP trying to reach him to say his house was on fire.
After the fire was out, Blevins went into the home, retrieving a few items including his wife’s jewelry box.
Life has been “a haze” in the last few days trying to deal with the insurance company and finding a place to get settled for Christmas, he says. The family is staying with friends in Sarnia.
“Right now, everything is so up in the air. We’ve been blest with great friends who have opened up their home to us,” he says. “We need to find a home and get settled for Christmas.”
Blevins hopes that will help the children through a difficult time. “When we are going to bed at night they’re upset about losing everything. I tell them ‘don’t worry about it. You worry about Santa coming.’”
There have been a number of calls of concern to Petrolia Town hall so Petrolia Councilor Joel Field says those who wish to donate to the family can drop off clothing or toys to Petrolia Town Hall or the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
Cash and cheques will also be accepted to be placed in trust once an account can be set up..
Blevins says the community has already been more than generous. While he was dealing with police and insurance agents, his family stayed at the Petrolia Tim Horton’s with staff giving them food and eventually a gift card to help them through the initial day.
“There have been a lot of people coming up who want to help.”
Blevins isn’t sure what will happen or if they will be able to rebuild their home although they’ve grown to love Petrolia.
“It’s like someone is giving me a sign that this just wasn’t meant to be.”