Community supports fire victims

·3 min read

Several locals are still reeling from the fire last week that engulfed their homes at Strathmore Highway Camping, but they are doing better because of help from the community.

Fire crews from Wheatland County and Strathmore responded to the fire around 4:30 p.m. on March 22. The fire started as an electrical fire in one of the campers, said Michael Bourgon, regional fire chief for Wheatland County. The crews disconnected the power and responded to the then Class A fire, meaning it was a typical fire involving combustibles. They then worked to protect neighbouring properties and lands from exposure to the fire.

“The efforts of the firefighters were flawless,” he said.

The store and gas station structure, along with three holiday trailers, were destroyed. But no person was injured at the scene. The fire shows why it is important to use licensed electricians, follow all code, and get the proper permits when performing electrical work, said Bourgon.

The fire started in the trailer of Elvis Servina and Rosa Fuentes, where they have lived for about five years. Once it started, the pair had to escape quickly and did not have time to take any of their belongings. “We have to start from scratch,” said Fuentes.

Tragically, their two dogs died in the fire.

“I thought they were right behind me,” she said. “I wake up every morning thinking they will be there.”

At first, John Tobias, who had lived on the Strathmore Highway Camping site for about a year, thought his home would be safe.

“I saw the flames come up from the front end of (his) trailer, but I didn’t think it would touch mine,” he said.

But the wind soon spread the fire to Tobias’s trailer, and it was quickly engulfed in flames. Fortunately, Tobias was able to escape, along with his cat. He is now staying with his parents in Strathmore.

Skippy Edie watched as his months-old trailer went up in flames. “I was sitting in the park, when it all started,” he said. “I’ve never felt a fire that hot.”

Showing how intense the heat was, an aluminum ladder Edie had on the ground melted. Edie also lost his utility trailer containing all his tools.

Many people in Strathmore and beyond have stepped up to help those affected by the fire. Value Drug Mart has donation bits set up, and there are several other fundraising and donation efforts by several individuals in town, including Peter Birkenshaw, Stacie Morck, and the Facebook group Strathmore Family of the Month Facebook page, led by Carla Levitt.

“The whole town has stopped to help us,” said Servina.

Since the fire, Fuentes and Servina have been staying at a property in Strathmore. They are now looking for a new place to rent.

After the fire, Edie was staying with a friend. But an anonymous donor has already provided him with a new trailer at the campground.

Mike’s Bar and Grill is holding a roast beef dinner to raise funds for Edie on April 10. Tickets are $20, with $10 from each ticket going to help Edie.

“I’ve never been treated this way in all my days,” he said. “People have all really come together to help and I feel like I could never repay them.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times