Cassy Peckford stood in her yard in Peterview, lost in an inferno of emotions.
Like the flames destroying her home, she was consumed by a feeling of helplessness.
There was a sense of panic and wondering what to do, futile under such circumstances, she acknowledged.
“There was really nothing I could do, besides just watch everything I own go up in smoke,” Peckford told The Central Voice on Monday, April 1, two weeks to the day later.
For Peckford, the fire was a devastating reminder of how quickly life can change.
Monday, March 18 was a day like many others, Peckford said. She was playing with her two children, Samuel and Shelby.
It was warm inside the house, but that wasn’t altogether unusual. The home, which belonged to the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC), was never cold, even during the winter months, Peckford said, so they paid no mind, opening a window.
Peckford’s partner, Grant Keefe, left to go outside. Not long after, she went to retrieve her cellphone. Looking out the back door, she was shocked to see the bridge on fire.
“If I didn’t have a front door, I would have never got out,” she said.
Peckford swiftly grabbed her two kids and bolted through that front escape route, mother’s intuition kicking in, she explained. Outside, Keefe came running to join them, taking Samuel from her arms.
“As soon as I turned around, the roof was slowly coming right down, and I just thinks like, you know, three more minutes I would have been dead,” she said.
The fire started in the attic, the cause apparently electrical. No smoke alarms had gone off.
Left with nothing
“Overwhelming” and “unbelievable” are words Peckford settles on multiple times in describing both the fire as well as the response since, from family, friends and the community at large in central Newfoundland and beyond, even strangers.
They lost everything, from irreplaceable items of sentimental value her children had made, to family pictures, furniture, toys and important documents like birth certificates. All gone in a flash.
Aside from Keefe, who was already outside, mom, son and daughter were minimally clothed, fleeing as they did.
As she watched their belongings burn, Peckford said she wondered how, at one moment, she could have everything she needed and not even a pair of shoes for her children’s feet the next.
From the bad, however, Peckford has found the good, in an affirmation of the importance of community.
The support the family has received since the fire – including from local businesses, service clubs and organizations – has left her awestruck and forever grateful, she said.
The family is currently living in a house in Botwood until the NLHC finishes renovating a home in Peterview.
“I said right from the start, since this happened, if it wasn’t for the community, I’d probably be standing over there still… wondering where do I go from here,” she said.
“It gives me a whole new outlook on how giving and helpful people are in a small community.”