A fire gutted a house on 63 Street in Stettler on Saturday night, with an estimated $500,000 in property damage.
The Stettler Regional Fire Department was called to the home of Peter Neale, the new associate superintendent of the Clearview School Division, at about 9:30 p.m. The Neales had just moved into the house at the end of the summer.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Fire Chief Mark Dennis. Three fire trucks were at the scene, and firefighters remained at the home until near 2 a.m. Sunday.
The house where the fire originated clearly has visible damage to the front and to the roof.
The fire spread to the side of the house next door, but the fire department managed to save that structure. The neighbouring family was able to remain in the home after that fire was put out.
“Battling a fully-involved fire and extreme cold weather, the fire department was able to save both adjacent homes,” said Cpl. Cam Russell of the Stettler RCMP.
John Bailey, the superintendent of schools with Clearview, believes the Neales’ house is a “total loss,” he said Monday.
“Obviously, we want to give him and his family some time to sort things out.”
Neighbours were able to save some belongings from the Neales’ garage before the fire department showed up.
The Stettler Kinettes are working with neighbours and others in the community to help the Neale family. Kinette president Jacqui Mvula said Tuesday that volunteers are planning a benefit for the family. It’s scheduled for Monday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Agriplex. The admission charge is $10 per person (including children) and the event includes a silent auction, a kids’ corner, appetizers and a cash bar, and entertainment from Domino and Cryptosis.
“I think that, especially in small communities, they always pull together when one person or family is in need,” said Mvula, who added she’s impressed with the community’s generosity.
“We’re just amazed,” said Helen Neale. “We’re kind of overwhelmed.”
The Kinettes have also set up a Facebook page listing everything the Neale family needs and community members are invited to donate. They have also organized an item dropoff today at the family’s rental house at 4101 60 St. Items can be dropped off in the garage from 9 a.m. to noon and from 4 to 7 p.m.
Mvula added that any donations that the Neale family doesn’t need would be donated back to the community.