After living in your home for 30 years, having built it with your own two hands, it’s hard to imagine anything more devastating than watching it burn to the ground. For Brisco residents Vern and Candice Snively this awful scenario became their reality last weekend, as the two were forced to try to douse their flaming log home alone — firefighters not able to attend since the couple’s home lies outside of any municipal or regional fire district.
“It was a log structure there when they moved in. =There were no windows, there were no floors, there were no staircases. They built everything,” said Vern and Candice’s daughter Sara Snively.
On Sunday, April 9th while snow was falling on their Brisco home the Snivelys decided to build a fire in their fireplace to warm up the house. When Candice heard crackling of a fire in the chimney pipe the pair knew something was wrong as it got too hot.
“It had been snowing that morning so the top of the shingles had been wet so it took awhile for it to take off it was kind of burning underneath the shingles before it got out. It was just so hot that the water wouldn’t put it out,” said Ms. Snively.
When the couple realized that their chimney was on fire they immediately jumped into action to fight the fire, at first not thinking to call for help.
“My dad was up on the roof with a garden hose pouring water around the area, my mom was up on the roof with a garden hose. Then my mom went inside the house with the garden hose to attack it from the inside while my dad was outside.
“After about 45 minutes they realized they needed help — 45 minutes to an hour —so then my mom called the Brisco store and they called all the neighbours. That’s when they all started showing up,” said Ms. Snively.
Within 10 minutes of calling the store, neighbours were on the scene to help the family fight the fire but at that point, it was too late and all they could do was try and save items from sheds near the home.
“I was one of the people that was on site early in the process but was too late to do anything but look at Vern and Candace powerless. They couldn’t do anything other than witnessing that their house went down. It broke my heart,” said Brisco resident Tess Bekkering.
Sara Snively was at work when she received the phone call that her parents’ home was on fire.
“I was at work and I got a phone call from my dad and he was sitting in the police cruiser and he told me the house was burning down,” said Ms. Snively.
Immediately leaving work to get to the home she received a second phone call that both her parents — her dad age 76, and mom age 59 — were being taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, due to their prolonged exposure while fighting the fire.
Without being in any Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) fire district, no firefighters are allowed to respond to the fire, but in a situation where no one knew what to do Columbia Valley fire chief Jim Miller was called for advice.
When the resident from Spur Valley who called Mr. Miller got on scene he told Mr. Miller everything he saw.
“His questions to me were ‘what do we do out here’, I said ‘well, number one we need to get a hold of forestry just in case it gets into the forest, so they’re notified if nothing else. Secondly, we have to get a hold of RCMP because it’s their jurisdiction when it comes to fire investigations. Thirdly we need to get a hold of hydro right away because there’s power lines burning,’” said Mr. Miller.
As being on the scene of the fire was frustrating for the community members who went to help, Mr. Miller did most of the calling to get agencies on their way to help. “I’d love to go out there and do something for them, I’d love to have gone out there with a fire truck but I can’t do that. If you’re not in the fire protection area, I can’t do that,” said Mr. Miller.
Vern and Candice lost everything in the fire and have been left without any clothing, shoes, toiletries and no home to go to. The couple had been unable to get house insurance, because they were outside of a fire district, so the family will be paying out of pocket to replace everything. Mr. Miller made sure Emergency Social Services of the province were out there to assist, but the service only provides assistance in the first 72 hours, putting them up in a motel, getting them clothing and food for three days after.
“The one thing is you lose your house, but the saddest thing is you lose your home,” said Ms. Bekkering.
Ms. Bekkering along with Warner Einer have started fundraising efforts for the family with a gofundme page raising over $8,000 on the first day.
“What is so difficult is they’re still in shock so there’s little we can get from them right now, and it really all depends on where they would want to go. So we move at their pace and for now, it’s really financial donations that would help them in their life necessities,” said Ms. Bekkering
Future plans are underway for a larger fundraiser for the family in early May but the date is to be announced. Until then the fundraising team is asking anyone wanting to donate to the Snively family to visit their gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/vern-and-candice-brisco-house-fire. Alternatively, a savings account has been set up for the couple at Kootenay Savings Credit Union, accepting cash and cheque donations.