A Calgary couple has been left without a home after a Tuesday morning fire that quickly engulfed their northwest condo unit.
At around 9:30 a.m., Patricia Weiting, 54, was cooking French fries as a mid-morning snack in her condo unit in the 3700 block of 46 Street NW when the oil caught fire. Weiting had been in another room at the time and returned to find large flames shooting up from the stove.
“It just went up so fast,” said Weiting.
“It was so hot, I couldn’t even get near it. And it was a grease fire, so it’s not even like I could get water and smother it.”
Weiting has no sense of smell after suffering an aneurysm a few years prior and therefore didn’t detect any burning scents to alert her to the danger.
In a panic, Weiting pulled the fire alarm and fled her fourth-storey unit, wearing nothing but her pajamas and house coat, and grabbing only her phone and car keys that were sitting on a table by the door.
‘to my shock, she’s in her pajamas and her housecoat…’
Fire crews quickly arrived to the scene and evacuated all residents that remained in the 44 units. According to a Calgary Fire Department news release, crews were met with thick black smoke on the fourth floor, and immense heat and zero visibility in the unit.
The fire was quickly knocked down, but the damage to the suite was extensive, with other units suffering smoke and water damage.
Weiting inhaled some smoke and suffered minor burns, but was not taken to the hospital. There were no other injuries.
Weiting’s boyfriend, Michael Erzbach, wasn’t home at the time – he was completing his second day at a new construction job and was expecting Weiting to come by the worksite to deliver his lunch and cigarettes. But when she eventually did arrive at his workplace, she was shaken and in tears.
“Patricia showed up … and to my shock, she’s in her pajamas and her housecoat and she’s just black, covered in soot,” he said.
“The housecoat that’s normally white as snow is now grey, dark black with shards of melted glass all over it, burned into the housecoat.”
Calgary couple has few resources to work with
The pair contacted the Red Cross and received a three-night hotel stay and $574 to spend at Walmart for food, clothes and other essentials. But as the end of their accommodation approaches, Weiting and Erzbach are still trying to figure out where to go.
Erzbach said they don’t meet the criteria for government support based on their combined income, and without rental insurance, the couple faces a lot of unexpected costs.
“(The rental insurance) just expired on us and we never ended up renewing it,” Erzbach said. “You don’t expect to have a house fire and it was our own negligence to be honest.”
Relying on a paycheque coming on Friday, the couple are planning to extend their hotel stay for as long as they can.
“We have spurts of uncontrollable crying and then laughter,” said Erzbach. “We’re trying to keep a positive note for the most part, but how do you keep positive when this deadline of being homeless is looming right over our heads in the next couple of days?”
Weiting’s daughter, Megan, set up a GoFundMe page to help the pair get back on their feet. Though Weiting said she still feels numb from the shock, she’s very grateful for the support her friends and family have offered.