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Family in grave need after Blewett house fire

A family is left destitute after fire destroyed their home on Bedford Road Thursday afternoon.
A fire destroyed a small cabin on Bedford road Thursday afternoon. With the residents away

A family is left destitute after fire destroyed their home on Bedford Road Thursday afternoon.

The small cabin was fully in flames when 911 was called a few minutes before 4 p.m.

A mere 15 minutes prior, a neighbour walking by couldn’t see the small cabin was in danger. Nicole LeBlanc Charlwood said there was just a hint of smoke in the air — something not uncommon in Blewett.

Terry Swan, regional fire chief, said the lone occupant of the house was safely outside when firefighters reached the scene. The Blewett and Beasley fire departments attended with Nelson assisting with their tanker truck. Within two hours, the fire was under control.

It appears the fire started in the front porch, said Swan.

“The occupant of the house said that just prior to him realizing there was a fire going on, he had cleaned out his wood stove and had put the ashes in a cardboard box on an enclosed wooden porch,” he said.

Michelle Benson who was at the BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver with her special needs son, age 10, was renting the cabin. Her boyfriend was housesitting when the fire broke out and Benson has returned to assess the damages.

Despite losing several sentimental items including those connecting her to her deceased mother, Benson did have some things with her in Vancouver — her guitar, her mom’s perfume bottle and several framed photos of her mother.

“There have definitely been tears shed the last few days. We lost some very significant, sentimental items. Ultimately, it is all just stuff, we are all safe and that is what matters,” said Benson on Facebook.

On social assistance, without insurance on her contents, the family is in grave need, said Charlwood who is coordinating a relief effort.

“She needs help. She is still in shock and she has to go back to be with her son. That’s the priority,” she said.

While Benson tends to her sick child, Charlwood hopes that a home can be found for the family before Max is released from the hospital mid-March. They are looking for a long-term rental near Nelson.

“It will give her a place to bring her son back to,” said Charlwood. “Let’s see what we can do for her.”

Benson has collected several items from the destroyed home to show her son when he returns to the community.

“I am hoping the tangible process of at least seeing some of his things, even though they are not salvageable, will give him some sort of closure and support him as we move through this,” said Benson.

The recent fire on Bedford Road is the latest in a rash of house fires to hit the area.

Bill and Tammy Lusted lost their home to fire on January 22. Also Blewett residents, their house was on Cazakoff Road. On February 5, Paul and Natasha Edney had their home extensively damaged by fire. They lived on the North Shore.

Charlwood said the community is at a loss to explain the recent tragedies, but that emergency responders have been tremendous.

“We’ve all been talking about the response of the volunteer fire departments,” she said. “They’re calm. They all handle us very well. We’re just so lucky to have these volunteers.”

Fire chief Swan is concerned about the increase in fires, a trend that started last year with a 60 per cent rise.

“My hope was that it was an anomaly. That trend is continuing for this year,” he said. “If that continues, we’re not doing our job as a fire service, we need to start educating people a little better than we have to date. It’s still early in the year, but certainly the numbers are continuing at the pace they were last year and it’s not acceptable to me as the regional fire chief that it continues.”

While fire causes have varied, general lack of knowledge is part of the problem, said Swan. Wood stoves need to be properly serviced and maintained with chimneys regularly cleaned. And having working smoke detectors is still something people need education on.

For those wishing to help Benson, information can be found by searching “Amazing Community of Blewett Comes Together” on Facebook. Also, Charlwood can be contacted at

“Nicole will be sending out a detailed update in the next little while. Please take time to read it and see if there is any way you are able to help,” said Benson.

“Times are tough for many of us right now. If you are not in a position to help in a tangible way... your love is enough... in fact, even more so than the tangible support. We have been stripped of all our material possessions and all we have left is love... and that is enough.”