'It's heartbreaking': North end families reeling after fire destroys three homes

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Three homes were destroyed in a north-Edmonton blaze but Shafeeq Weera says he’s just glad his step-daughter got out safely.

The 14-year-old was alone at home Friday when the neighbour’s house caught fire. Wind whipped up the blaze; neighbours went door-to-door to make sure everyone was out safe. It consumed three homes, four garages, damaged siding on several others and sent two to hospital before firefighters were able to get it under control.

But firefighters don’t believe any of the injuries were life-threatening.

Weera is feeling grateful his family is safe.

“They’re good, they’re alive, and they’re not hurt,” he told Postmedia in an interview Saturday.

Weera, his wife and three children just moved into the house in Edmonton’s Klarvatten neighbourhood, near 85 Street and 179 Avenue, last month.

“It looks like some stuff might still be in the basement but it’s dangerous because the house is collapsed on top of it,” said Weera, who was on a work trip in Red Deer at the time of the fire. As for his step-daughter, “she’s doing okay,” he said. “Absolutely, it was very scary.”

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Eleven fire trucks with nearly 40 firefighters were called to the area Friday as high winds quickly spread flames from what appeared to be the garage of one home to the neighbouring homes to the north and south.

Four other homes suffered exterior heat damage to their siding.

Ereddad Kharraz’s house was empty when the flames got to it. After getting a call from a neighbour, he rushed home from work to discover everything was gone.

“It’s heartbreaking. We lost a lot of things in the house,” he said.

Ereddad Kharraz lost his family’s home in a fire Friday. Photo by Ian Kucerak
Ereddad Kharraz lost his family’s home in a fire Friday. Photo by Ian Kucerak

Neighbours who first spotted the fire called 911 around 1:30 p.m. and immediately started knocking on doors to make sure everyone was out.

Courtney White, who lives a block away, said firefighters arrived quickly but on the windy afternoon it took very little time for the fire to jump from the garage to the first house.

“And it just quickly moved on to the next houses. I was scared the firefighters couldn’t even get it under control at that point,” she said.

“There were embers flying all over the place, landing in people’s backyards, starting fences on fire and decks.”

The fire was brought under control just after 2:30 p.m. As of Saturday morning, fire services spokesperson Matt Pretty said the cause was still undetermined.

District fire chief Todd Roberts said the outcome would have been different if it weren’t so windy.

“The wind was entirely the game player here,” he said on the day of the fire.

Both Kharraz and Weera’s families are staying in hotels for now while they wait to hear from their insurance. Kharraz said he wants to rebuild in the community.

“I want to stay here because my kids play together with friends,” he said, adding that his son has cried over the idea of not being able to do that anymore.

“It just breaks my heart.”

With files from Ian Kucerak

ajoannou@postmedia.com

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Photo by Ian Kucerak
Photo by Ian Kucerak
Photo by Ian Kucerak
Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

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