Homeowners pick up pieces

Al Mansfield and his wife Dorothy watched their Penticton home burn from the top of their driveway Wednesday night.

The dramatic blaze began at their neighbour's house in the early evening, before heavy winds pushed the flames onto their house within minutes. 

Mansfield said he initially tried to hose the flames, but he and his wife quickly realized it was a losing battle.

They were able to leave with just the clothes on their back.

"I got up (Thursday) morning and I had a shower and I didn't have anything to brush my hair with, so I used a toothbrush," Mansfield chuckled. "We're busy getting all the basic needs right now."

This is the second time in six years Mansfield has had to deal with a devastating fire. 

The White Spot on Main Street he's owned for 18 years went up in flames in June of 2011.

"It was really devastating. What people don't realize is when a business burns down and you have 40 staff ... they find other jobs in a year and a half of not working. And it's really hard to hire and train all the new staff, but we managed," Mansfield said. 

"It's different in a house."

The Mansfields bought the home on Lakeside Road, next to the Skaha Marina, four years ago. They were in the middle of a $200,000 renovation when Wednesday's fire hit.

But Mansfield said the family is going through other hardship, in addition to the fire.

"My wife, unfortunately her kidneys just gave out about three weeks ago. So she's been on dialysis at the hospital for three days a week ... this is just one more stress she didn't need."

The family's live-in nanny, Cheryl Molina, who is from the Philippines, also lost almost everything in the fire. 

"She lost a whole bunch of money, over $1,000. A computer, her camera and a bunch of stuff. So she's really distraught as well."

While Mansfield is still picking up the pieces from the traumatic experience, he's made fundraising plans to help Molina rebuild. 

A fundraiser is already set up at his White Spot location in Penticton for Saturday, Oct. 21st, where 20 per cent of all gross sales that day will be donated to Molina.

A cash-donation barrel will be set up at White Spot as well by Friday, which will go directly to Molina.

He said he's received overwhelming support for him and his wife in the wake of personal tragedy.

"There's a fellow, Rick, from Ricklyn Renos, I was freezing cold last night and he just gave me his coat, and offered us a place to stay last night," said an emotional Mansfield.

He added that he received about 15 calls by midday Thursday, from people offering support.

"There's a lot of good people in Penticton. A lot of kind, caring, unselfish people," he continued, holding back a sudden lash of tears. "And that just helps you overcome the obstacles."

He applauded the work he witnessed by firefighters, as essentially the entire Penticton Fire Department attended Wednesday night's fire scene.

"At least we're all safe, and that's the main thing. And we just have to start over again ... that's the way life turns sometimes."

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