It was over a month ago, on Oct. 3, when Sara Stirling got a call at work from her neighbour, saying that smoke was coming from her Highlands home.
“I had no idea what that meant, but I grabbed my purse, keys, and phone and ran out the door to get home quick,” the mother of four said.
She arrived just after 2 p.m. to find her home overwhelmed with flames. She stood and watched for two hours as crews from Highlands Fire Department, Willis Point Volunteer Fire Department, Colwood Fire Rescue, and Langford Fire Rescue tried to douse the blaze.
Her husband, Graeme, and their four kids soon arrived to find their home and all their belongings destroyed. Then, they were told the last thing they wanted to hear.
Their three dogs – Dino, a Shih Tzu Bichon cross; Angel, a Pomeranian Chihuahua cross; and Bailey, a Rottweiler – all died in the fire.
“It was two storeys of a house burnt down to eight inches of ashes,” said Highlands Fire Chief Dean Ford. “When we arrived, the house was fully engulfed. It’s nearly impossible to figure out the cause with that much damage. We can’t possibly come to a conclusive answer with those factors.”
Stirling said they are okay with not knowing what started the fire. Now, they’re trying to return to normalcy. “Our family is focused on healing, moving on, and rebuilding.”
They have since signed a one-year lease on a View Royal home after hopping from hotels to AirBnbs. They plan to rebuild on the site of their old home and hope to be back by late 2020.
They’ve also found a new furry friend, Ernie, who is a three-month-old Pomeranian Chihuahua cross. They adopted him at 14 weeks old.
“He’s healing for all of us,” Stirling said. “He’s a calm little puppy that has spots like Bailey, and the personality traits of Angel and Dino combined. I picked him because of his beautiful eyes. When we’re hurting the most, we can turn to our pets for comfort.”
Stirling said she doesn’t have words to describe how she and Graeme feel about the help the community has given them. From the words of support to the donations on GoFundMe, the couple said the generosity from friends and strangers has brought them “back to feeling human again.”
As of Nov. 14, the GoFundMe page alone has raised more than $11,000.
The family is looking for lookalikes of certain toys that hold sentimental value to their kids – three daughters ages eight, nine, and 15, and a six-year-old son.
The list is as follows: TY Beanies of Dora and Boots, a Jellycat Fuddlewuddle Kitty, a small blue unicorn stuffy with a ribbon, an old Playmobil set #4487 ‘The Gardener’, and a wooden firetruck set sold through BC Children’s Hospital. She’s willing to buy them, if necessary.
You can reach the family at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated Sara and Graeme’s last name. We apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused.