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Sudburian rebuilding life after Benita Blvd. fire

By: Arron Pickard - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jun 07, 2013 - 11:17 AM |

Denise Jackson isn't laying blame for blaze that caused $1.5M in damage

Denise Jackson isn't laying any blame for a fire that caused, in her estimate, about $500,000 in damage to her Benita Boulevard home on May 28.

The fire started next door, and fire officials are focusing on a barbecue in their investigation into what ignited the blaze. The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal said that investigation continues, and that no cause has been determined yet.


But, Jackson said no matter how it started, she knows it was an accident, and even though she didn't know her neighbours well, she hopes they aren't being too hard on themselves.

“I feel sorry for everyone involved, because it's a huge loss for everyone,” she said. “(My neighbour) wouldn't risk his life trying to light a barbecue if he knew there was something wrong with it – he could have died.”

Luckily, no one was home when the fire tore through her house.

“I was out for dinner with co-workers when one of my friends received a text message from her daughter telling her there were four houses on fire on Benita,” Jackson said.

“Within 10 seconds, I received two more text messages from friends telling me to call them immediately – they had already heard that it was my house.
“I panicked. When I got there, all I could do is stand there and watch.”

She immediately called her sons to check on their whereabouts. Thankfully, she said, both were at work.

That first night, Jackson had a lot of people offering her a place to stay. The Red Cross also attended the scene and offered hotel rooms for three nights, and provided care packages and vouchers for shopping. Jackson said she decided to stay with friends.


The following days were very exhausting, and she had to wear the same clothes she had been wearing the night of the fire because there wasn't any real opportunity to go out and buy new clothes.

It was two days later that they were able to move into the TownPlace Suites, a long-term stay hotel, as arranged by the insurance adjuster. That's when the Canadian Red Cross provided Jackson with $500 to purchase clothes and whatever else was needed.

It's been more than a week since the fire, and it's been difficult organizing her life after losing so much. Right now, she is putting together a content list of what was lost in the fire, but she said she can't remember every piece of clothing or every piece of electronic equipment that was in the house.

After all, she said she bought it all not thinking it would be lost in a fire.

“It's a long process, and it's really still too soon after the fire. I'm still in shock, and we're very tired.”

Jackson had been living in the home since October 2010. One of her two sons lived there with her, and her second son was in the process of moving in. A lot of his stuff was in the garage when the fire broke out.

While Jackson said she is devastated by the loss, the fire also dredged up horrific memories from 1982, when her brother and his girlfriend died in a house fire in Virginia Town.

“My brother, who was 20 at the time, saved my sister, but he was burned in the process,” she said.

“When the house caught fire, he woke up his girlfriend and then went downstairs to get my sister. He screamed at her to jump out the window, but he wasn't able to make it back out himself. That's something we've had to live with all these years.”

Jackson has spent most of her life as nurse, and has worked in critical care.

“I've seen lots of things along the way, and you always feel sorry for people, but until you live it, you never really understand what they are going through – it's devastating.”

She said she would like to thank the Red Cross, because they were amazing, “but in particular, Kelly from Sault Ste. Marie, who was the first person to show up. She was only visiting relatives in town, but came right over when she heard about the fire. She was very comforting, she said all the right things, and she was very supportive.”

She also has nothing but good things to say about Sudbury's firefighters.

“Two firefighters kept asking her if there was anything she wanted them to look for in the house. They found my passport for me, and they went into the basement to try and retrieve some photos. (Fire Chief Danny Stack) even gave me his sweater the night of the fire, because I was cold.”

Her home was torn down Thursday, and Jackson has every intention of rebuilding.

Arron Pickard

Arron Pickard

Staff Writer


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