It all happened so quickly, it’s a good thing it didn’t happen during the night when everyone was asleep.
At around 10 a.m. last Saturday morning, Viola Park was in the bathroom when she heard a big bang.
When she came out to see what the noise was, she saw flames all around the area next to her kitchen stove where her family plugs in the electric kettle.
She tried to get to the sink to get some water and douse the flames. The fire was growing so quickly, she couldn’t get near.
She knew she had to get out of there fast.
Her 15-year-old granddaughter, MacKenzie, was the only other person in the house. She was downstairs with their pet cat, Bella.
Park yelled out to her to come up and get out of the house. She did, but the smoke was rapidly intensifying as she made her way up the stairs.
With two of them safely out on the bridge, Viola tried to go back for the cat, which did not follow them out.
“All of our hard work over the years gone up in smoke. It went so fast and there’s nothing left. I never saved one thing.” — Viola Park
It was too dangerous to go back inside.
“The flames were coming out the kitchen window by then,” Viola recounted.
Bella did not make it out and the family soon lost everything else in their home, too.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Viola. “All of our hard work over the years gone up in smoke. It went so fast and there’s nothing left. I never saved one thing.”
Gone are irreplaceable sentimental items such as pieces of jewelry, family photos and items that once belonged to Viola’s father.
Viola and her husband, Ward, who had been out in the yard cutting wood when the fire broke out, built the home next to her mother’s house around 40 years ago. The heat from the fire was so intense, it melted the siding of her mom’s house and even broke one of the windows.
Viola’s daughter, Cindy Lee Park, and Cindy Lee’s son, Stephen, also lived in the house. They were in Avondale for a ball hockey tournament when Viola called them with the terrible news.
For no particular reason, house fires have been one of Cindy Lee’s biggest fears ever since she was younger.
“It was pretty devastating news to get, especially not being there and not knowing what you were coming back to,” said Cindy Lee.
After the fire was out, the Parks were able to retrieve a few photos that had not been too damaged by the water poured on to the scene by the fire department.
“This could have been much worse and the material things can be replaced.” — Cindy Lee
They were also able to retrieve the remains of Bella, who appeared to have died of smoke inhalation while hiding from the flames under a bed.
“At least we were able to have some closure knowing she didn’t die from the fire itself,” said Cindy Lee.
While it’s a bad situation, the Parks know it could have been far worse.
“The firefighters told us we were pretty close to losing Nan’s house, too, if they had been any longer getting there,” said Cindy Lee. “They also said, if this had happened during the night, no one probably would have survived.”
If it had been windy, the fire may have also spread to Viola’s mother’s house next door or to another neighbour’s on the opposite side.
The house was not insured. Viola said she and her husband had only recently talked about how they should get some insurance on it.
“I guess it was no good to just make a plan to do that,” she said.
The Parks, who are now staying with Viola’s mother, plan to rebuild and have already received a lot of support from the community. People have donated clothing and personal items, are planning fundraisers and some have even offered to donate logs to go towards the new construction.
The family said the help they’ve received so far has been nothing short of amazing and they are so thankful for everyone thinking of them as they go through this terrible ordeal.
“It’s hard, but you have to move forward and stay positive,” said Cindy Lee. “This could have been much worse and the material things can be replaced.”
While the Parks suspect it was the electric kettle, The Western Star asked the Corner Brook detachment of the RCMP if a cause of the fire had been determined. There was no reply as of deadline Thursday.
Some of the ways the local community will be helping the Park family recover from their losses:
- April 19: a fundraiser dance at the community hall in Cox’s Cove
- April 20: a karaoke night in Nancy and Ramsey Cuff’s shed in Cox’s Cove
- April 28: a bingo at the Summerside Lions Club in Irishtown-Summerside
- Contribute to a GoFundMe account set up for the Parks