'Really amazing': Community rallies to support Shuswap woman after fire

WATCH: A Shuswap woman says she is humbled by the amount of support she's received from the community since her home burnt in unusual circumstances earlier this month. The blaze near Salmon Arm is believed to have been started by a man whose family says he was just trying to keep warm.

A Shuswap woman says she is humbled by the amount of support she’s received from the community since her home was seriously burnt under unusual circumstances earlier this month.

The fire, near Salmon Arm, remains under investigation by police, and the family of the man who is believed to have sparked the flames says he was just trying to keep warm.

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Bonnie Thomas said it was her son who first noticed the fire at around 3 a.m. on Jan. 8.

“My son was still awake watching TV and he’d heard a sound outside so he went to check on it and the flames were already going up the side of the home,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ son woke her up. She grabbed a coat and rushed out of the house.

While mother and son were safe, the flames and smoke did serious damage.

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Thomas said both her home and vehicle are a write-off.

Since then, the community has rallied around Thomas and her son, connecting them with a new place to live, raising thousands to replace their furniture and offering help to rebuild the home.

Thomas, a member of the Neskonlith band, said the “tremendous support” makes her feel like she is living in a traditional community.

“Traditionally in our community, our communities were strong. When it came to community members that were unfortunate such as this, in a traditional community, everybody came together to help,” said Thomas.

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Thomas feels the support shows the impact her mother, well-known Neskonlith leader Mary Thomas, had on the community.

“Her life’s work was what she called building bridges between people and the culture,” said Thomas.

“I really feel like the teachings of my mother have really spread across the community of Salmon Arm.

Meanwhile, the man who is believed to have lit the fire remains in hospital and may not survive.

Following the discovery of the blaze, police said they found him unconscious and lying in the snow.

The 23-year-old’s family says he fell through the cracks of the mental health and judicial system and was trying to keep warm when he started the fire.

“At this point in time I don’t know what more I can do aside from providing prayers to their family and I hope he does make it,” Thomas said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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