When Crystal Robinson walked up to a house she regularly cleans, the whole family was sitting on the driveway.
The first thing she saw was their expressions. Robinson was so struck that she didn’t notice anything unusual about the house.
“I didn’t notice at first glance,” she said. “From the front, you can’t really tell.”
For two years Robinson cleaned the Willmots’ home on Clarke Drive. And in just a matter of hours, a fire destroyed the house last Wednesday (July 16). It was heart wrenching to see, Robinson said.
“This is one of the nicest families out there,” Robinson said. “Their daughter would play the guitar for me while I cleaned.”
The fire started underneath the wooden deck of the house, before spreading into the attic and making its way to the neighbouring house. Squamish Fire Rescue Chief Russ Inouye was driving along the highway at approximately 5 p.m. when he spotted smoke billowing up from Hospital Hill. He arrived at the scene as firefighters were being paged.
The strong wind and hot summer temperatures fuelled the fire, causing it to spread to the adjacent house before fire trucks arrived, he said. Luckily, nobody was in either of the houses and all pets were safe from the fire.
The timing of the blaze couldn’t have been worse, Inouye said. It occurred during the hottest time of the day. Volunteer firefighters were making their way home, while career firefighters were finishing up for the day. Eight pieces of fire equipment — trucks and other devices — and approximately 27 firefighters responded to the scene. Two firefighters suffered from heat stroke while battling the fire.
The fire spread into the attics of both buildings. That made it difficult for firefighters to access, Inouye noted. It took two hours for crews to get the initial fire under control and an hour to rein in the blaze on the adjacent house.
“It is very sad,” Inouye said.
It’s his understanding that both homeowners have insurance. A renter living in the second house had tenant insurance, he added. Officers are investigating the cause of the fire. It will likely take a couple of weeks before the department has results, Inouye said.
The community has pooled together to support both families, Robinson said. Two crowdfunding campaigns have been set up on the Indiegogo site. Once at the website search for the Mark and Brandy Willmot — Fire Relief Fund or the Helena and Charlie Young Fire Relief Fund. Nesters Market has cards so shoppers can donate their points to the family that lost their house in the fire.
Robinson wanted to do her part. She posted a request on Squamish Buy and Sell to find a new guitar for the girl who would play while she cleaned. Squamish resident Ben Reach donated a sleek instrument.
“I think the most important thing about this is the community has really come together,” Robinson said. “They are such nice people and Squamish residents want to support them.”