An Alcove family has been left homeless after an intense afternoon fire destroyed their house and killed two cats Nov. 16.
Chloé Bélanger said she is lucky to be alive after desperately trying to save her three cats during the blaze that destroyed her family home on Chemin de la Ferme-Malone. The fire started just before 3 p.m. Nov. 16, as she arrived home from having her winter tires installed. Bélanger said she first heard the smoke alarm and noticed smoke billowing out of the house.
“I ran to the house and saw smoke coming out of the outside wall of the third-floor bathroom. I immediately went into the house, there was a thick cloud of smoke, and I could catch one of my three cats, Obie,” said Bélanger, who is six months pregnant. After pulling her cat to safety, she entered the burning house a second time to save more pets, but couldn’t rescue them amid the chaos.
“I went up to the third floor and saw the bathroom on fire filled with smoke,” recounted Bélanger. “I went down to the second floor to look for my cats, but I still couldn't see them. I started to see the fire falling from the ceiling…. Then I went down to the first floor at ground level and found my little Kenobi cat hiding behind a piece of furniture, but it was too heavy, and I wasn't able to get to her.”
Standing outside, comforted by neighbours, Bélanger had no choice but to watch her home burn to the ground. She had left a patio door open, hoping her other two cats, Chamon and Kenobi, would make it to safety, but they never did.
“I was in so much pain,” Bélanger said. “I knew my cats were going to die and I had no control. My neighbours pulled me away from my house just before it started to implode.”
Bélanger said she has had nightmares since the blaze and can’t work up the courage to visit the razed property. A once picturesque farmhouse has been reduced to rubble.
A pile of charred remains is all that is left of a bustling home that boasted large outdoor decks, greenspace and toys from the couple’s three, soon-to-be four children.
Nobody was injured in the blaze, and Bélanger and her husband, Nicolas Patulli, said they are thankful their family is still safe. Patulli and his three children were not home when the fire started. Their malamute dog, Laska, was not harmed.
Firefighters were on scene “within minutes,” according to the La Pêche Fire Department, but they said the flames were too intense to quell the blaze. It took firefighters an hour to get the fire under control, as they had to call in a municipal backhoe to clear away debris.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Patulli and Bélanger are currently staying in Gatineau with family and said they are still processing the ordeal and how to move forward. They said they have no idea if they will rebuild, as Bélanger is dealing with trauma and has no desire to return to the property, which they only purchased in February of last year and moved in this past summer.
The two thanked firefighters for their quick response as well as their neighbours, namely Gaston and Karelle Maisonneuve, who held Bélanger back from returning to the burning building. She said if her two neighbours hadn’t shown up, “I’m sure I would have returned to the house and I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
“I was not afraid because I just wanted to save my animals,” she said. “I have a huge pain in me, I feel powerless, and it kills me. Now I am afraid. I'm afraid to go through a fire again. I don't sleep; I have nightmares. I reassure myself that my children and their father are alive.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family in need, which has nearly reached its goal of $5,000. To donate, visit the link here: https://bit.ly/3XkNRrc.