Fire leaves Chatham family without a place to call home

Brown Family children (Photo via GoFundMe)

A family of five is trying to pick up the pieces after a devastating fire in Chatham that left them with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

On February 16, Lacey Brown’s day started as a typical Sunday morning at her residence on Timmins Crescent.  She was at home with her two young daughters, 13-year-old son and her son’s friend when she heard a commotion coming from the basement shortly before 10 a.m.

“I went downstairs to check and I noticed that my whole basement was engulfed in flames,” she said. “I sent the boys outside, I went upstairs to get my daughters and the phone. My older daughter went in to get the baby, I told them to get outside then I called 911.”

According to Brown, the fire was started when her son’s friend took a lighter out of his pocket and started flicking it, accidentally igniting a blanket. The Chatham-Kent fire department has not released an official cause.

Brown, who lived in the fourplex unit for six years, said the whole incident happened quickly as she and her family raced outside to safety. Although no people were injured, Brown did lose members of her family.

“My cats didn’t make it out,” said Brown. “So there was a little bit of loss with lives. Everyone in the fourplex made it out. Unfortunately, my two fur babies did not.”

Brown said her kids have been fairly resilient since the fire occurred. However, she said her 13-year-old son is having the most difficult time grappling with what happened. The family is currently renting an Airbnb in Erieau as Brown figures out what to do next.

“Until I can try and find some secure housing. It’s going to be six-plus months for my unit to get renovated. I don’t know if I’m going to have to find somewhere else permanently and walk away from that unit, I don’t’ know what I’m going to do. This is a big mess,” she said.

The Chatham-Kent Fire Department estimated damage at around $75,000 and Brown said virtually all of the family’s material possessions, keepsakes and memories were destroyed during the blaze.

When it comes to starting over, Brown worries that she doesn’t know where to start, describing her current mode as being on autopilot.

“Everything’s gone,” she said. “Everything’s black or fire and water damaged, smoke damaged. All the walls are black.”

Brown’s sister Larisa McEachren has since set up a GoFundMe page for the family in hopes of helping them get back on their feet.

McEachren said she was shocked when she heard the news. She was at work when she got a text message from their mother, telling her to call her as soon as possible. That’s when she said she immediately knew something was wrong.

“I thought it was odd. I called her right away, she said that Lacey’s house was on fire… It was frightening because I didn’t know the full story until I saw her,” explained McEachren. “It’s a lot right now. Her youngest kid has a disability, so it’s tough. she just needs some help, I know she does… This family means a lot to me and they need help.”

In hopes of making life as normal as possible again for the children, the family has also set up a donation drop off centre where people can donate clothing or general household items, located inside Nest Realty located at 5 Llewellyn St. in Chatham.

Brown stressed that any contribution is appreciated. Holding back tears, she added that the residents of Chatham-Kent have already shown her and her four children tremendous kindness during the challenging time.

“The community has been amazing,” she said. “I can’t believe the outpouring of support form everybody. From strangers that don’t even know us trying to help. It really means so much. I can’t thank everybody enough.”