'This was our new life': Winnipeg family loses everything to house fire for the 2nd time
Tracey Garand lost her home to a fire in 1996, and last weekend a fire destroyed her rented townhouse
A Winnipeg woman who lost everything to a house fire two decades ago is starting over for a second time after another fire destroyed the townhouse where she lived and all of her belongings over the weekend.
"We have absolutely nothing," said Tracey Garand.
"We just broke down right there and just watched our place go up in smoke."
The East Kildonan townhouse where Garand lived with her mother and boyfriend went up in flames Saturday.
Firefighters were already at the London Gardens Apartments, at London Street and Antrim Road, when the fire broke out. The city said fire crews had been called to investigate an electrical issue around 10:30 a.m. CT.
While crews were waiting for hydro workers to arrive, a fire broke out in one of the suites and quickly spread.
Garand, a Winnipeg Transit driver, was at work at the time and rushed home.
Her boyfriend and mother made it out safely with their dog Rocky. Their cat, Snickers, is still missing.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. About 20 others in the complex are also displaced.
Second home lost to fire
The fire destroyed Garand's suite, a place she's called home for the last 20 years.
"There's absolutely nothing left," said Garand.
"They tore it down on Sunday, and that's probably one of the hardest things I've had to watch. A place that you had your new beginning at, your life with your children, everything just being gone," she said.
Garand moved to Winnipeg with her two daughters in 1998 after fleeing an abusive relationship and losing her previous home to another fire in Alberta.
In 1996, her trailer in Rocky Mountain House went up in flames. The family lost everything in that fire as well, except a few melted pictures Garand managed to save. Those were lost in Saturday's blaze.
"This was our new life. I called it our new life," she said.
Garand didn't have insurance on the rented townhouse. She said when she moved in it wasn't something she could afford.
"I never thought of it in 20 years. It never even crossed my mind again," she said.
"I never thought anything like this would ever, ever, ever happen again to me."
'We just have those memories'
Tracey's youngest daughter, Chantale Garand, started a GoFundMe account to try and raise money to help her family get back on their feet. Everyone who lived in the apartment escaped with just the clothes they were wearing.
"Starting over from before, you know escaping that domestic violence and that abuse, and leaving that hell behind and having that new life and then watching it burn again," said Chantale.
"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my mom, she pulled us out of that fire [in 1996] she kept us safe from [abuse], she worked those jobs to make sure that we could get by, and this one hurts.".
The family said the generosity of complete strangers has been amazing, although the feeling of loss hasn't completely sunk in yet.
"We just have those memories, and to see that all just go. It's just heartbreaking," said Tracey.
"You think that you're going to wake up, and it's going to be OK."
'My mom has given so much'
Chantale hopes to raise enough money for clothes and a new place to live, but also hopes to replace one of her mom's most favourite possessions that was lost in the fire — a Winnipeg Jets Dustin Byfuglien heritage jersey.
Chantale said her mom splurged on the jersey last spring, something the single mother couldn't do until recently.
"My mom has given so much," said Chantale.
Tracey and her boyfriend were given tickets to the Valentine's Day Jets game for Christmas, and Chantale hopes to make the evening special for them.
"One of my goals is to just make sure she has that jersey again, and she gets to have a normal night, because there's nothing normal about this."