Firefighters blast water at a blaze that took place Wednesday night at a home on 15th Ave. SE.

Family grateful for fire response

Hillcrest: Significant damage to home, four people get out safely.

  • May. 19, 2015 4:00 p.m.

Fire investigators discovered where a fire started but aren’t sure what ignited the blaze at a home in the 1900 block of 15th Street SE on May 13.

“The point of origin was in the garage at the rear wall,” said assistant fire chief Jim Nickles on Friday, pointing out an individual had been smoking earlier in the evening but had used an ashtray. “Smoking cannot be eliminated as a potential cause but there are other sources such as electrical that cannot be ruled out.”

Nickles says there was a large fuel load at the point of origin, including a couch and items for recycling.

Much more important than the cause of the fire to Melissa Korhonen, mother of seven-year-old Ryann and nine-year-old Alexis, is that their father Jaret Smith got them safely out of the house.

It was the girls’ week to be with their father and Korhonen had turned off her phone for the night. She knew nothing about the fire that started around 10:30 p.m. until seven the next morning when she read a text from Smith’s son.

“I call it the happy, ugly cry,” she says of how terrified she was until she found out the girls were safe. “It was an amazing sense of relief but, at the same time, it’s when your worst nightmare was moments away from being a reality.”

Korhonen says both she and Smith are amazed at how fast the firefighters were on scene.

The Salmon Arm Fire Department responded  with some 30 firefighters from Hall 2 and 3 and were on scene until 1 a.m.

Nickles said Friday the insurance company has yet to make a decision as to whether to repair or rebuild the home that sustained heavy damage to the garage and one bedroom and suffered smoke damage throughout.

Still coping with a swirl of emotions in the aftermath of the fire, Korhonen says she is grateful to the fire department and Smith’s neighbour Shauna Decker, who took the girls to her place while firefighters fought the blaze. Decker’s daughters, Ryan and Sydney, gave the girls some of their beloved stuffies to help comfort them and, the next day, Decker bought Ryann and Alexis clothes and a new wubble bubble doll each.

“Not even 12 hours later, the things they were most sad about they had back,” says a tearful Korhonen. “It’s humbling how selfless people can be.”

She says there was a lot of hugging going on when she took the girls while Smith was busy addressing insurance issues.

She describes Smith as a “very involved, loving father” and says it’s important her daughters are with him at this time.

“They lost their dog and their grandma within six months,” she says. “So much  loss in their hearts already; to lose the time with their dad would be devastating.”

Korhonen is proud of how her girls laced up their shoes the next morning and took part in a cross-country race at the SASCU Little Mountain Sports Field.

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