A southern Alberta woman and her two sons are now homeless and trying to put the pieces of their life back together after a massive blaze tore through her rural rental home on Thursday.
The home, east of Calgary in Rocky View County, went up in flames at around 8:30 p.m. as Saz Cuthbertson and her son worked on a project for her granite business in the garage.
“We were organizing tools and getting everything set up and all of a sudden we heard a ‘whoosh’ and there was a flame shooting from the wood-burning stove,” Cuthbertson said.
“[The garage] filled with pitch-black smoke and we couldn’t open the garage door. We rushed into the house and I was screaming ‘fire, fire, fire.’”
Cuthbertson said her mother grabbed her two sons and got them out of the house.
In the midst of the chaos, Cuthbertson realized all three of her dogs – a female and her two puppies – were inside the house along with a cat.
“I tried to go down the stairs when my partner pulled me back, and when I was exiting the house, I grabbed my kid’s car seat, because that’s all I could think of was my son’s car seat.”
“I saw the two dogs in the bedroom. I grabbed both of them with the car seat — I don’t know how I did it — And I ran outside with both of them,” she continued.
“And after that, we just came outside and basically watched it burn. It was about 15 minutes for the fire department to show up from Langdon.”
Cuthbertson said they weren’t able to save the puppies’ mother, whose body was recovered from the charred remains of the house the next day.
Other animals living on the rural property survived the blaze unharmed, including a cat, donkeys, chicken and hundreds of fish (which Cuthbertson breeds.)
Langdon firefighter and Public Information Officer Pat Fitzgerald said the fire had engulfed the home by the time they arrived.
“You could see the flames from the highway coming down here as we approached,” Fitzgerald said.
As the sun came up on Friday morning, it was clear the fire had gutted the home.
“The basement actually did have the still salvageable stuff,” Fitzgerald said. “We found five or six large fish tanks down there. At eight o’clock this morning the fish were still swimming around in there.”
“There are still some pictures on the walls down there, we see some clothing items, things like that downstairs that are smoke damaged but still salvageable in the basement there, which is remarkable when you take a look at the destruction of the rest of the property.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation but the stove seems to have been where the blaze originated, according to Fitzgerald.
Due to the extensive damage, Cuthbertson and her family have been put up in a hotel for a few days thanks to the Red Cross.
“This house is a complete write-off. There’s nothing left,” Cuthbertson said, explaining even her granite tools were gone.
The young mother moved into the house exactly one year ago while pregnant and homeless.
“The people who own it are so sweet and nice.”
It’s not the first time Cuthbertson has struggled with tragedy; her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2018.
“I’ve come back from other things, this is definitely the worst but I’ll figure it out,” she said.
“Farmers, small communities take care of each other. We’ve been a part of Wheatland County for a long time and most of our business was in Langdon. Everybody knows us there.”
“It just never stops. I don’t know what to do but I always figure it out.”
– With files from Tracy Nagai
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