By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 28, 2023.
Fire investigators were on the scene Wednesday morning at the site of a westside fire that did an estimated $2 million in damages to three homes the day before.
The Tuesday blaze on Iroquois Crescent spread from one home to houses on either side of it. The first fire crews arriving on scene found one house fully engulfed in flames and due to high winds, the blaze quickly spread. Crews remained on scene late into the evening on Tuesday to monitor for hotspots.
On Wednesday, a few people stopped to look and take photos of the damage, a far smaller crowd than on Tuesday afternoon and evening when dozens of people watched from the adjacent park as firefighters battled to extinguish the flames.
Residents of all three homes – one a group home for teenagers – were safe with no reported injuries to them or firefighters.
The group home that was severely damaged in the fire was part of McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association South Region.
Executive director Tracie Mutschler spoke to the Herald on Wednesday about the needs of the youths who were living there.
She said the group home residents ages ranged between 12 and 17 years old with a mix of genders – male and female and some who may identify otherwise.
Mutschler said they are in the inventory process of determining needs, asking the youth what their needs are but they are welcoming toiletry items and gift cards so they can replace some personal belongings.
“As teenagers, they will be super appreciative of anything they get but we also want to create a little bit of normalcy for them, and if we’re able to support them to go shopping and buy a few things for clothing that would be amazing,” said Mutschler.
Â She said as a non-profit organization they are able to provide donation receipts for financial donations and gift cards.
Mutschler said people can make donations online or in person at the McMan office located at 435 5 Street South – on the corner of 5th Street and 5 Avenue South in downtown.
The office will be open today and tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but closed from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.
Since the group home that was lost in the fire was the only one of its kind run by McMan to provide safe shelter and other supports for youth who require an out-of-home placement, Mutschler said the youth were placed in safe short-term placements for now while everything gets sorted out.
Mutschler said one way people can also help is by donating things that would help the youths take their minds off their tragedy for a bit.
“Games like decks of cards or board games, craft supplies, or anything that would be used for recreation as well like swim passes, bowling passes, or anything that would help us keep them busy and engaged would be wonderful and greatly appreciated,” said Mutschler.
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