May 21st, 2024

Family loses everything in fire

By Herald on November 16, 2020.

The tenants of a westside home escaped an early Monday morning fire with no injuries reported, but the blaze left the structure with extensive damage. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Lethbridge Herald
A family of four was left homeless following a house fire early Monday morning in the 3000 block of Blackfoot Road West which caused an estimated $400,000 damage. The City says that fire investigators have completed their investigation late Tuesday afternoon and the fire has been found to be accidental.
A call came in to 911 about 4:30 a.m. Monday, with 22 firefighters responding. When crews arrived, one home was on fire with flames coming out of the roof. Fire crews were able to quickly get the fire under control.
All occupants were out of the home and firefighters were able to rescue a dog that was still inside. One person was reported to have been checked at hospital and released with minor injuries.
The home was being rented to a mother and three daughters, said home owner Cole Gesthwenet, whose wife Rebecca Groenenboom purchased the house 10 years ago.
“We have great tenants here and they called us about 4 or 4:30 in the morning and thankfully they got out and they’re safe, so really that’s all that matters,” said Gesthwenet. “Houses can be rebuilt, but we’re happy that they’re out and safe.”
Gesthwenet said his wife bought the house when she was 20 and they lived in it and they had their daughter there.
“It had a lot of memories for (Rebecca). It’s a tough day for her and our tenants.”
The sister of the tenant said the family lost everything and did not have renter insurance as it expired in September. A GoFundMe page has been established by the sister and people can donate at
Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services platoon chief Dave Heatherington said the response from the department was very quick as the westside station was just a few blocks away.
“The house had fire that was 20 to 30 feet above the roof line and the fire was fully involved with the roof structure,” said Heatherington. “The family were able to be evacuated from the home by the neighbours.
“The fire crews were able to rescue one more dog from the fire, unfortunately, though there was two cats and one dog still unseen.” As of Tuesday, at least one of the missing pets had been reported found safe.
Heatherington added fire investigators are still doing the investigation portion and the cause has not yet determined.
Next door neighbour Liam Connel noticed the fire from his dining room window and called 911.
“The back porch was just a blaze. It’s hard to really put together, it’s hard to recognize what that is when it’s right there. You never get that close to that. I woke up my roommates right away and then I called the police and we got out of the house. The neighbours were getting out of the house just as we were and by the time we got out to the street the whole roof was just a blaze.”
Connel is concerned about the family and how they will recover.
“It’s hard to watch a family go through that,” said Connel. “I can’t imagine how confusing and just how horrible it would be to watch that happen to your house. A lot of people in this neighbourhood rent and they’re one of them and it’s tough to have your life ripped apart.”
To help the family get back on its feet, Connel has also set up a GoFundMe page.
“I have my birthday coming up and Facebook has been bugging me to pick a charity to start a campaign for a birthday fundraiser type of thing. I was picking one out for the first time and there are charities that mean a lot to me, but I can’t think of anything closer to the heart than a neighbour.
“That’s what I picked this morning and I started a GoFundMe and I’d like to be able to give them something. Obviously nothing can fix this, nothing can fix the fact that their house went on fire while they were sleeping and there’s nothing they did wrong. I’m hoping I can do something for them.”
People can contribute to the GoFundMe page at
— With files from Ian Martens

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Good job firemen saving the family dog and the two neighbouring houses. I also hope the two missing cats survived.

My heart goes out to the family!