On Christmas Day, instead of opening presents and spending time with loved ones, Bill Patterson and his family watched as their house went up in flames.
On Dec. 25 around 9 a.m., Patterson and his wife, Sali Roberts were using their wood burning stove to keep their Malahat house warm after a snowfall when they heard a noise on the roof and went to investigate. To Patterson’s horror, he saw smoke coming from the chimney.
The family had enough time to grab their two dogs and two cats, and a few possessions before they were able to escape. For six painstaking hours, Patterson watched helplessly as firefighters attempted to extinguish the blaze that consumed his home.
Because of the construction and shape of the house, crews eventually had to tear off the roof with an excavator before they could put out the fire. “You feel pretty numb. You hope they can put it out and at the beginning it looked like such a small fire and then it just kept spreading and you slowly start to realize it’s not going well. You don’t really know what to think,” said the 62-year-old, who had been living in the home since 1986. “We’re still wrapping our heads around it. It will take a while for it to sink in, but we all got out alive and really that’s the biggest concern.”
The cause is still under investigation. Since the fire, the family has been staying at a motel. That’s when Nicole Gibson, a family friend, sprang into action. She set up an online fundraising campaign on Boxing Day to raise much-needed funds for the Patterson’s. In a little more than a week, the campaign has raised $7,600 of its $10,000 goal, which will be used to help the family with day-to-day necessities.
The family also has a small hobby farm of chickens and llamas, and while it was untouched by the fire, has no access to running water or electricity as the power to the property has been shut off for safety reasons. Donations, such as a pump for water that can function without electricity, are also welcome.
“We’ve been really touched by the kindness of people, it’s been quite heartwarming. It means a huge amount to our family…. it takes a huge amount of pressure off knowing you don’t have to worry where the funds are going to come from if you need to get something now,” Patterson said.
He added after the fire he was able to salvage little things such as a cutting board, batteries, and oddly enough, the Christmas tree and a few ornaments.
“It’s really good knowing there’s that kind of kindness and support out there. It really gives us faith in human kind.”
Up next, Patterson hopes to spruce up an old RV trailer that the family can live in temporarily on the site. Then they’ll start to rebuild – a process they anticipate will take a few years to complete.
For more information on the campaign visit gofundme.com/help-the-patterson-roberts-family.