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Clearwater family grateful for support after devastating fire

Joan Taron lost her home to fire April 13
The Taron family home on Musgrave Road in Clearwater, B.C. in 2017. (Photo submitted by: Rebecca Taron McKay)

Exactly one week since losing her family’s rural Clearwater home, Joan Taron described the devastating April 6 fire that reduced the house to ashes.

“I had started a wood fire that evening, we’d been outside doing spring clean-up during the day, looking up I saw an orange glow and went out to see the roof on fire from the chimney,” she said. “I yelled for my son Harrison to call the fire department. Luckily one of our neighbours across the street is a volunteer firefighter. We are so thankful the firefighters got there so fast from both Clearwater and Blackpool. It was so dry in the surrounding forest the whole neighbourhood could have burned; it could’ve started a forest fire.”

Taron is currently staying at Wells Gray Inn with her son Harrison who happened to be on a two-week-off cycle from his job in Fort McMurray and staying at home with her when the fire happened. Her daughter Rebecca and son-in-law immediately caught a flight from the Lower Mainland to come support their mother and brother.

“My parents married on the front lawn of the property in 1982 and raised us four kids there,” said Rebecca. “We were going through old photos last year before my wedding in 2023, and I found a photo on my phone that I saved (took a photo of a photo) of their wedding day. Luckily, I did that as all our family photos were burned with the house.”

Rebecca shared how local support has been so very thoughtful since the fire, with the local Clearwater Thrift Shoppe offering to “open their doors” to the family.

“Mom is looking for temporary accommodations in Clearwater so she can be better set up versus staying in a hotel or having to leave her hometown for another city. If people had specific things in mind that they wanted to donate to my mom to get her set-up again (once she gets settled into temporary accommodations), I am sure that would be greatly appreciated as well. It’s going to be a long and expensive road ahead.”

Taron said her home burned down very fast and was so grateful the surrounding forest and neighbourhood wasn’t involved, having lived in the home for so many years in such a great neighbourhood.

Joan’s husband Harry passed away from cancer in 2017 having worked for the school district for 26 years prior to retiring. When the couple moved to Clearwater in 1979, they purchased the Petro Canada Bulk Plant there and after 11 years of managing the bulk plant, Harry began work at the school district where he proudly worked in the maintenance department.

The Taron’s four children, oldest daughter Susanne and husband Michael Leyh and three children, live in Cologne, Germany; son Ben and wife Melanie Taron and two children live in Calgary; son Harrison is based in Fort McMurray; and youngest daughter Rebecca and husband Steve McKay of New Westminster have all been in touch with their mother following the fire offering support in person or via phone. Joan’s voice lifts with unmistakable pride when she speaks about her children and grandchildren, saying, “The most important thing is we are safe. I have my family. I’m still feeling a bit confused, but I’m grateful for everyone’s offers of help.”

The home had great sentimental meaning to the whole family according to Joan, having raised all of the children there.

She plans on rebuilding as soon as possible but knows this will take some time.

“It may take months to complete the demolition. Thank God I have insurance. If I could give any advice following this experience, I’d tell people to be sure they have good insurance and to have a go-bag ready by the door. Everything is gone. We have such good neighbours here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. This is our hometown. I would have been totally lost without the volunteer firefighters and other people reaching out to us right away. I’d like to let people know to be prepared and have something ready to go in case something like this happens to them. We were doing FireSmart around our place that very day. Just try to be prepared.”

Blackpool Fire Rescue chief Mike Savage told The Times, “When we attended the fire in support of the Clearwater Fire Department team, just with the intensity of the fire that night and the ember-cast, had that been wildfire season, the potential for a wildfire start would have been substantial.”

The Taron family together, a now treasured photo save via a cell phone. It is one of many physical photos lost in the recent fire that destroyed their family home in Clearwater on April 6. (From L - R): Mother,Joan Taron, Rebecca Taron McKay, Harrison Taron, Ben Taron, Susanne Taron Lyhe, and father, Harry Taron. (Photo Submitted by: Rebecca Taron McKay)
A lasting view of Raft Peak in Clearwater from the Taron family home’s deck in the fall of 2023. Joan Taron intends to build a new home following the fire that destroyed the family’s house on April 6, 2024 and treasures this lasting view from the neighbourhood she loves in her “hometown.” (Photo Submitted by: Rebecca Taron McKay)

About the Author: Hettie Buck

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