© Jocelyn Turner - Amherst Daily News
Tammy Bacon peaks through her blackened back door window early Saturday afternoon to see if she can get an idea of the damage her home sustained in Friday night’s fire.
AMHERST – One Amherst family isn’t going to get the Christmas they expected.
Friday night, a fire broke out at 8 Christie St., leaving one family homeless for the holidays.
“We found an active fire in the house underneath the stairs,” Cpt. John Matthews with the Amherst Fire Department. “The residence of the home, a woman and her three children, discovered the fire, called the alarm and successfully evacuated.”
Matthews said the mother and her children also alerted the neighbours in the residence, a duplex, who were also safely evacuated.
Tammy Bacon, the mother of the three children who lost their home, returned to her residence early Saturday afternoon to see what might be salvageable after Friday night’s fire. Bacon said it was her children who told her they smelled smoke.
“It was around 8:45 p.m.,” she said. “I went (downstairs) to check it and when I did, the smoke was coming out. I got the kids to run outside, no shoes on. They went to the neighbours, and then I came up to the steps, which were kind of on fire, and out the back door.”
Bacon said when she arrived downstairs, she opened the door to the laundry room and saw flames shooting up from the floor and her middle son behind it. She said he had to jump over the flames, burning one of his toes.
“I screamed at the kids, 'get out',” she said. “I always told them if there was ever a fire, don’t wait for me. Just run out the backdoor either to the big tree or to a neighbour’s and wait for help.”
Bacon said she was very proud of her children. She went to check on them after they were situated with friends and she said, although they were still scared, they were proud of themselves for listening to their mom’s instructions.
Although the family is safe, Bacon said she lost all the Christmas presents she had yet to wrap, which were just a few inches away from where the fire started.
“I lost their beds, I lost everything,” she said. “But I have them so that’s the main thing.”
Bacon said her children were upset, worried that they were not going to get anything from Santa this year but she said she promised them they would.
“They were crying and I just said ‘don’t worry, Santa hasn't come yet, you don’t have to worry: Santa will be here’,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’m sure the community will come together and help.”
The cause of the fire, Matthews said, was the inappropriate use of matches by a child under the stairs. Bacon believes it may have been a lighter.
“It highlights a particular safety message at this time of year and all year round,” said Matthews. “Clearly, at the holiday season, we have to be careful of decorations, candles, matches, extension cords and all those extra hazards that are introduced at the holiday season.”
Even with the fire being brought under control fairly quickly by the fire department, the home sustained fire damage to the central area of the house. The remainder of the duplex sustained heavy smoke and water damage.
The Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army were on scene to provide the family with clothes, personal care kits, blankets and some toys to help comfort the children. Cpt. Chad Ingram of the Salvation Army said he and the volunteers are working to help give the family a Christmas.