Manitoba

Winnipeg couple's missing cat found in rubble days after Boxing Day apartment fire

A missing cat has been found more than two days after a fire tore through a 20-unit apartment building — leaving dozens of tenants displaced and ruining almost everything.

Worker located Houles' family pet Saturday while demolishing burned-out building

Barry Houle, left, and SongGirl Houle, right, outside their temporary lodging downtown. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

A missing cat has been found more than two days after a fire tore through an apartment building in Winnipeg's West End.

The cat's owners — SongGirl and Barry Houle — were in Regina, Sask., when a fire broke out early on Boxing Day at their 20-unit apartment building in Winnipeg.

A neighbour called them around 2:30 a.m. to tell them about the fire.

Hours later, the couple returned to the city and began repeatedly visiting 578 Agnes St., which had been demolished after the fire, in hopes of finding the cat.

Each time, they brought Tux's favourite treats.

"We would leave it for him, we would shake the bag, and we would call him," said SongGirl.

During a visit on Saturday, she said they began to lose hope.

"I was already feeling like he was gone," SongGirl said.

As they were about to leave, a demolition worker called out, asking if the animal in his hands was their pet.

"My husband and I broke down crying because that was our Tux," she said. "We were so excited."

Tux the cat is back in SongGirl Houle's arms days after an apartment fire left him lost and displaced from his home. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

The Imrie Demolition employee had found the missing cat while helping to take down the burned-out building.

Barry Houle holds Tux tight shortly after reconnecting with his cat. (Submitted by SongGirl/Facebook)

The Houles took the cat back to the downtown hotel where they are staying.

"Ever since then he has been clingy with us, I guess, but we don't mind it because we love him."

They got him cleaned up and cuddled with him all night.

"We're happy that we have our baby back," she said.

She said he has no visible signs of being hurt.

Dozens homeless for the holidays

The good news renewed hope for the couple, who are left homeless and don't know where they will go after Monday.

"I have no clue what is going to happen after tomorrow or where we're going to go. We're not sure," SongGirl said.

The Boxing Day fire displaced 35 people.

SongGirl said she was especially concerned about housing for an elderly couple, as well as a mother and her young children.

A fire on Thursday forced dozens of residents out of the Vesta building on Agnes Street. (Dana Hatherly/CBC)

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Red Cross said the people from the apartment who were moved into hotels last week are now leaving.

The charitable organization is helping connect people with alternate supports, like accessing funds available through insurance or the Employment and Income Assistance Program.

The Houles have found a new home but cannot move in until Friday, SongGirl said. Their landlord helped line up a new two-bedroom home for the couple and their 19-year-old daughter, Raina.

"We're happy that we have a place to call home again, but we're still traumatized by the fact that we lost everything and have to start over from scratch," SongGirl said.

Crews pull down the Vesta apartment building at 578 Agnes St. the day after it was destroyed by fire. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

"I would never wish this upon anybody ever."

She said she will miss the community in her apartment, who are still supporting each other at the hotels. After Monday, they will all have to go their separate ways.

Manitoba politicians host donation drive

Federal and provincial elected representatives in Winnipeg have been helping the fire victims get back on their feet.

MP Leah Gazan and MLA Lisa Naylor are hosting a donation drive for the people displaced by two devastating fires that struck the city in less than 24 hours — the Agnes Street apartment fire and another on Furby Street that happened hours earlier.

NDP MP Leah Gazan says she has been moved by all the donations pouring in. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

"The donations that we've received, it's overwhelming," Gazan said.

A drop-off location was held over the weekend at 892 Sargent Ave. on Saturday and Sunday. The Winnipeg Centre constituency office will continue accepting donations on Monday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to a written statement.

A room filling up with donations for the displaced tenants including pots and pans, diapers, clothing, sheets, blankets and toys for the kids. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

Recommended items listed include:

  • All sizes of adult clothing.
  • Youth/children's clothing sizes: 3-6 infant, 6 youth, 16-18, 18-20 and youth XL/XXL.
  • Diapers for boys: sizes 2 and 7.
  • Pull-ups for boys: sizes XL.
  • Diaper Cream, baby wipes and hygiene products for babies.
  • General hygiene products.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Socks and underwear.
  • Shoes: Women's 7, Women's 6, Men's 9.5, Women's 9, Men's 12, Women's 7.5, Infant 2-3 , Boy's 5, Women's 8, Men's 11, Women's 7.5, Men's 9, Women's 6, Women's 5, Women's 7, Men's 11.
  • Bedding, towels, and household items.

With files from Laissa Pamou and Caitlyn Gowriluk

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