by Edith Cody-Rice
The Millstone interviewed Jaclyn Smithson, one of four tenants affected by the spectacular and tragic house fire that destroyed two residences and damaged a third at the corner of the Bay Hill Road and Malcolm Street on the evening of May 20, 2020. Jaclyn and her roommate Chelsea Lloyd lost all of their possessions in the conflagration. Both are now staying with Jaclyn’s parents. Jaclyn is a third-generation Almonte resident. Chelsea is from Timmins and moved to Almonte in July 2017. Both work at the Au Naturel Spa in the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata.
Jaclyn gave the Millstone the following account of her experience of the fire:
I was sitting on my front porch with a friend who was visiting when I heard a noise I didn’t recognize. I walked around to look between the two houses to see what it was and that is when I saw the flames coming from the back of my house. The sound I was hearing was the fire crackling.I immediately screamed that the house was on fire and to call 911. I ran into the other half of the duplex and shouted for the other girls to get out of the house. My friend got on the phone with 911 while I ran back inside my house to get my cat Macy. By the time I got back out with her there was no turning back, the entire house was now in flames. My friend ran into the neighbour’s house to get him out of the house as his house was beginning to catch fire. At this point everyone had made it out and the fire department had arrived. Chelsea was not home at the time but arrived shortly after she received the phone call that the house was on fire. Everything after that moment began to blur and I was taken away shortly after by the medics to the hospital. I only returned the next morning to see everything I had, had been destroyed.
The neighbouring tenants are also staying with their parents and the gentleman who occupies the corner house has been taken in by friends.
Jaclyn says she and her roommate lost everything but the clothes on their backs and their vehicles. Car keys, purses, all identification was gone. She lost family heirlooms, childhood memories and everything from golf clubs to skis to laptops and cameras. But she is grateful that the entire community has seemed to reach out to help in one way or another.
Carebridge, many local businesses, friends and neighbours, the list of those who have chipped in to help is endless. A friend in British Columbia started a gofundme page which has raised $10,000 to help Jaclyn and Chelsea. Even with the circumstances of the world right now Jaclyn says she and her roommate felt protected. The gofundme site is available here.
The ongoing police investigation has determined that the fire was intentionally or accidentally set by a third party, not a resident of the property.