British Columbia

Fire destroys Vancouver home, but not family after community steps up

The Edwards-Cyrus family lost their East Vancouver home in a fire. CBC's Jennifer Chen tells how the community rallied to raise more than $18,000.

A Vancouver family got a huge hand from the community after their home was destroyed in a fire

Fay Edwards sits with her sons Zaheim, 6, and Isaiah, 4, in their new home. (Jennifer Chen)

The Edwards-Cyrus family lost their East Vancouver home in a fire. CBC's Jennifer Chen tells how the community rallied to raise more than $18,000.

Two small children come running down the hallway as I come in through the front door. Isaiah, 4, and Zahiem, 6, are curious and full of laughter. Their mother, Fay Edwards, shoos them back into the kitchen as she invites me in.

A Christmas tree stands in the middle of the kitchen and the living room features a comfortable couch and a large-screen television. The Edwards-Cyrus family just moved in on Monday and all the furniture, the toys, the beds and even a computer has all been donated. 

"A week ago I didn't know how I was going to restart my life and the community stepped up and helped...a lot," she said.

'We pretty much left with nothing'

She remembers the day of the fire very clearly.

"I was washing the dishes ... I started smelling smoke."

Edwards said she discovered the fire was coming from the closet and she tried to put it out with water. When she realized it was too late to stop it, she got out safely with her son, but there was no time to grab any of their possessions.

"Isaiah was in bare feet," she said. "I had no jacket, just leggings. We pretty much left with nothing, just the clothes we had on."

The family had just moved from Montreal and was starting out again in a new city. Isaiah and Edwards went to the hospital, where they met up with Zahiem and Edwards's fiancé, Jason Cyrus. Zahiem then asked her where they were going to live. 

"I just tried to hold my tears and just still smile and tell him things will work out."

She said the City of Vancouver, Cyrus's employer, and the Red Cross put them up in a hotel, until they found a new place to stay. It took a week. 

Police, students, parents pitch in

In the meantime, two officers at the Vancouver Police Department had launched a crowd-funding campaign for the family. The money started pouring in and to date the campaign has raised more than $18,000.

When Zahiem's school found out about the family's loss, several teachers and parents decided to try and help.

The students at Hastings Community School, where Zahiem attends class, donated some of their Lego pieces to give to Zahiem. When he showed me around his room that he shared with Isaiah, he pulled two big boxes of Lego from a large toy chest, along with a box of cars, books, and stuffed animals, that had been donated. 

Sylvie Lavoie is Zahiem's teacher.

"Those children, you wouldn't believe what they brought. It was so touching," she said.

Lavoie said she was overwhelmed with the compassion from both parents and children. In one class, two kindergarten students at the school had a joint birthday party and decided to ask for donations for the Edwards-Cyrus family, in lieu of gifts.  

Emma Somers visits Fay Edwards in the Cyrus-Edwards new home. (Jennifer Chen)
She also started a donation box in her classroom, and managed to raise $1,600, which helped the family secure their new home. There were also yogathons and bake sales to raise money for the family.  

Emma Somers' son, Gus, is friends with Zahiem and when she heard the news, she posted it on Facebook and asked friends for donations.

She said the response was immediate.

"Within hours people were coming over with bags of new clothes, gift cards. People I didn't even know." 

She helped to organize cash donations as well as furniture, clothes and toys that people donated to the family. 

Edwards said she feels with so much support, she now has no worries. 

"All the tears I've cried, tears of joy, tears of sadness … I don't think I have tears for another couple of months. " 

To find out more or to donate, you can go to www.gofundme.com/edwardscyrusfund.

Listen to the audio link: Community helps family after fire.

About the Author

Jennifer Chen worked as a radio producer at CBC Vancouver for 14 years. She is relocating to Ottawa and recovering from her road trip.

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