BRENT’S COVE, NL — Nearly 10 years after losing his home to a fire, Steve Haas says he could still always remember “that smell.”
It was a distinct odor culminating from melting siding and burning wood, more symbolic of lost personal possessions and how close a family was to losing each other.
Unfortunately, Haas experienced that same smell when the home he rebuilt on the same Brent’s Cove property went up in flames last week.
“It was devastating, let me tell you,” Haas said. “That smell never really left me the first time, the smell of clapboard and the mix of the rest of it.”
Haas attempted to sort through the wreckage almost a week after the Jan. 30 fire that destroyed the home he shared with his two daughters.
He couldn’t do it.
“I had to leave,” he said. “I got so stomach sick and so anxious.”
The evening of the fire, Haas was outside his Main Street home snow clearing. His two daughters — Olivia, 18, and Lilly, 12 — were away for the night. His two German shepherds were outside with him.
The main window in his home exploded “like a shotgun,” he said. He ran to the other side of the house and tried to enter through the patio door but was met with a “cloud of black smoke.”
“It hit me in the face and I couldn’t even get my foot in the door, it pretty well drove me back on my butt,” Haas recalled.
Then came the panic of contacting the fire department in La Scie and trying to salvage personal possessions. He did manage to get his snowmobile out of the garage, he said, but basically everything else was destroyed in the blaze.
Thankful nobody was inside and there was no threat of loss of life, but Haas said the loss of prized and irreplaceable possessions is difficult — especially the second time.
Following the previous fire on March 9, 2008, the family spent time collecting things such as photos to replace what they lost.
Once again, they have nothing.
Olivia is graduating this year, her father said, and everything she had in preparation for that milestone event was destroyed.
“I just have nothing, and it is so hard to even think about,” he said.
Haas did not have insurance at the time of the first fire. It was a tough life lesson, but one he says he learned. He did have insurance this time.
He plans to rebuild, but says there is no way he will do so in the same place. According to Haas, it is the fifth fire in the general area over the years. Two of those homes belonged to his father and the other was a neighbor.
“I am thinking the garden has some kind of curse on it or some Indian burial ground,” he said with a laugh. “I am definitely not interested in building back there. I just don’t have the heart to put something there again and move back into it. I don’t think I could do it.”
Several homes in the immediate area were a concern during the windy night; however, Haas said the firefighting crew from the neighboring town of La Scie battled the fire and prevented any further destruction.
Earlier story: Fire claims home on Baie Verte Peninsula
“It could have been really devastating,” he said. “Thank God for the fire department. I would have had that on my plate as well. Not only would I have lost my own, but I would have had to deal with the fact my neighbors lost their homes.”
The Red Cross responded to help the family with clothing and food. Soon after the community started to rally behind the family during their time of need. A fundraiser was quickly put together, and Haas believes more than $3,300 was raised to help them buy winter clothing and other essentials.
“The outpouring (of support and generosity) was just awesome, and it always is in these small communities,” he said. “I went through this before, and it was the same then.
“It is just unbelievable. Everybody seems to pull together in these small communities, and it has been unreal. It has been a big help to me, taking so much of the strain off.”