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Community rallies around Stoney Nakoda family after fire destroys home

“I’m trying to figure out what to do now and what my next step is with the girls,” Simeon said. “They need a place to call home. That’s my main focus.”
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STONEY NAKODA – A fundraiser has been launched to help a single father of two girls recover from a fire that consumed the family's home.

Christopher Simeon and his two teenage daughters were left homeless after a blaze destroyed their house Monday (Feb. 8) afternoon.

The home belonged to his late mother, Simeon said, and he has been restoring the building. The home had been sitting empty for about a year before Simeon got to work.

He was at his aunt’s when he received the call the house was on fire.

“By the time I got there, it was already gone,” Simeon said.

It was heartbreaking standing in temperatures plummeting below -40 C watching the blaze consume his home.

The fire is believed to have begun in the living room, he said, and completely consumed Simeon and his daughter’s belongings.

“Everything is burned, everything is gone,” Simeon said. “I have nowhere to go with the girls – I have nowhere to call home.”

The single father is currently on income support, he said, but is concerned about what the family’s future will look like with their home now gone.

GoFundMe has been launched for the Simeon family to help in their recovery from the fire. He said he is grateful for the fundraiser because it will help his family restart their lives.

The community has rallied around him, Simeon said, and he appreciates that people are taking time to help the family in their time of need.

It has been challenging to receive help as a single father, he added, because it is hard to find the resources he needs to support his daughters. It makes the support offered by community members in the wake of the fire all the more meaningful. 

“I’m not the only single father that is out here that is struggling,” Simeon said. “It’s tough and sometimes I don’t know where to reach out.”

He added it was challenging finding a safe space to stay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of local emergency declared in Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

The Canadian Red Cross provided hotel rooms to the family for three nights. Simeon checked in to the hotel on Wednesday and was able to stay with his aunt in Stoney Nakoda First Nation until he finds a new home for his family. 

“At first, I thought I had nowhere to go and I didn’t know what to do,” Simeon said. “They stepped up and welcomed us to their home.”

His aunt's house is at full capacity, he said, because including Simeon and his daughters there 16 people in the home. The tight space makes it essential to find a new home soon.

Simeon remains focused on finding a new place for him and his daughters to call home. He is hoping to remain in Stoney Nakoda First Nation, but there is a limited amount of housing readily available.

“Right now, I’m just looking for places right now to rent right away,” Simeon said. “It’s tough, but we have a roof over our head right now.”

His mother passed on a fighting spirit, Simeon said, and he and his daughters are determined to carry that practice forward as they recover from the fire.

“I’m trying to figure out what to do now and what my next step is with the girls,” Simeon said. “They need a place to call home. That’s my main focus.”

Director of Nakoda Emergency Management Mike Crawford said the Exshaw and Nakoda fire departments responded to the house fire, bringing in four vehicles to contain the blaze.

The crews worked great together and were quickly on the ground responding to the blaze.

“It was just great to have Exshaw back us up,” Crawford said.

It was a difficult fire to fight, as crews were working in weather that fell below -40 C. 

“It’s not fun at all. You slow down. You’re hoses freeze. The trucks froze,” Crawford said. “Out in a rural setting, it's not like the big city where they can bring a command vehicle in and warm up.”

The house was destroyed in the blaze and the cause of ignition remains under investigation.

The Stoney Nakoda First Nation is under a local state of emergency and this has complicated the ability to share houses, as many families are currently in isolation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Crawford said the Simeon family would be able to stay in another household.

“In unforeseen circumstances, even with COVID, if you’re going to be left out in the cold, hopefully, someone will take you in,” Crawford said. “There’s a human compassion side.”

 
 


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Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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