A Trout River man who lost his house to a fire last week is now the beneficiary of a townwide fundraiser to help him rebuild.
Bernie Harris said he arrived home Jan. 21 to the smell of smoke and his chimney and ceiling in flames.
"I didn't know what to think. I just figured the stove might have backfired," causing a backdraft, Harris said.
Harris said he left the building and called fire crews, but they had to wait until the ceiling dropped to get at the flames.
"Pretty much everything's gone," he said.
Harris had no insurance, but the town pulled together right away, said neighbour Amy Brake.
"He's just like a family member to us," Brake said. Various residents are pitching in: collecting donations, selling cold plates and organizing a benefit.
Harris said when the fire struck, he was just thankful it happened during the day.
'It could have been worse'
But then it dawned on him that he didn't have anywhere to live — and although he's been able to bunk with a friend, he said crushing worry left him unable to sleep the night of the fire.
"I was tossing and turning all night," he said.
"Makes you grateful that you have a lot of friends around."
The help won't replace precious items like photos of his parents, but Harris says it's a small price to pay for having escaped unharmed.
"Materials can be replaced," he said. "It could have been worse."