“Mommy, I don’t like firefighters. They took my home away. They wrecked our home,” two-year-old Willow said in the days following the Madison Place condo fire.
Jennifer Hildebrandt explained to her daughter that the fire took their home, but the firefighters were trying to help save it.
“My two-year old initially didn’t seem to bothered by what was happening,” Mom said. “I was grateful thinking she’s too young to understand.”
The whole family – Jennifer, Tim, and Willow Hildebrandt – has been feeling the effects of the blaze that started when they were at home July 17.
Tim was preparing dinner for their daughter, while Jennifer had just arrived home from buying Willow a sun hat and sunglasses.
The alarm sounded.
Tim went to check it because there have been false alarms in past. He rushed back in and said: “It’s a big fire. We have to go now.”
In the days after, they were feeling the strain.
“We haven’t been sleeping very well,” Jennifer said. “I felt as though I am suffering from PTSD. Not getting sleep isn’t helping but the first couple days I was having midday hallucinations of the flames and could hear the crackling.”
The family is staying in Aldergrove. They were able to retrieve their vehicle on the day of the fire but had to leave with just the clothes on their backs, their phones and car keys. They are still hoping their cat, Boo, is found alive. It struggled when Tim tried to carry it to safety.
The young family, which moved into the condo in 2015 and loved having a little fenced in yard for Willow to play in and its location close to so many amenities, has been overwhelmed by the reaction of the community.
“Family, friends and complete strangers reached out and offered what they had to help, in hopes to make our days brighter and grieving lighter. And did it ever,” she said.
Willow’s favourite toy, a stuffed animal called Spots, was lost. Tim went to Castle Fun Park where he had initially won Spots and asked about buying enough tickets to replace the toy. The manager heard and gave him the stuffed animal.
She said the family knows they must rebuild a life, but the support has kept it all from being so overwhelming.
“Some days I feel stronger and some days I need Tim to remind me of my strength,” Jennifer said. “Tim’s been my rock, strong and resilient but I know it’s hard on him just as much if not more, because he took a lot of pride in the home we made together and he would do anything to make his girls happy. Willow has been playing out the fire and talking about her feelings. I’m encouraging her to let her feelings out in this positive way. I talk to my two-year-old about what happened because we should be honest with our child when something happens to their home, who was there to help, and how we will get past this. I want her to know that no matter what life throws at her, she will be okay. Home is wherever we are together.”
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