Community raises funds for Hay River family whose home caught fire Christmas Eve

There's been an outpouring of support for a family in Hay River, N.W.T., after their home caught fire on Christmas Eve at about 2:30 p.m.

No one was home at the time.

While a fundraising campaign started by a relative of the family aimed to raise $5,000 to help them get back on their feet, it had more than $10,000 in donations as of Friday afternoon. 

"We as a family will forever be grateful for each and everyone of you this Christmas," Nicole Miller, who lived in the home, wrote on her Facebook page on Dec. 25.

"Thank you for all the support and love from here in Hay River to my home in Ontario ... We as a family love you all," she wrote, thanking firefighters, nurses and friends.

The fire was discovered by Miller after she returned home from a last minute holiday shopping trip on the afternoon of Dec. 24. When she opened the front door, black smoke came billowing out, according to the GoFundMe page her brother began on Christmas day. 

The page says Miller rushed into the home to rescue the family's dog Rocky. He was found breathless curled up on the floor and was carried out of the home. Rocky died sometime afterward.

Nicole Miller/Facebook

"The loss of my precious Rocky sits hard in my stomach and heart," Miller's Facebook post reads. "He was our family. He was our life."

Ross Potter, Hay River's director of protective services, said the fire started in the kitchen of the home, which sustained "significant damage," and was believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. There was also significant smoke damage throughout the house. 

Potter said a coworker of the homeowner tried to extinguish the fire with a portable fire extinguisher, "which definitely helped in the fire suppression" but firefighters finished putting out the fire.