Alicia Hoemsen surveys her loss on Monday, looking for her animals, hoping some escaped in the dark when she did. Pet rescuers from the area and from as far away as Wawota and Winnipeg have been involved in the search and rescue operation for the animals. PHOTO/ANNE DAVISON
Hoemsen heartbroken over losses
Fire tore through an Elkhorn residence just before mid-night Saturday, Nov. 20. Homeowner Alicia Hoemsen escaped with her life and a dog. She managed to call 911. In the wake of this enormous loss, friends and the community are determined to help Hoemsen. Kelly Copp and others from Winnipeg opened an online fundraiser to help her get through this and move forward.
Escaping barefoot, from the burning residence, Hoemsen managed to call 911. Fire crews from Elkhorn and Virden could not save the home as it was fully engulfed when they arrived. However, the fire was extinguished and a nearby building sheltering a couple of dogs was not damaged in the fire.
Hoemsen was immediately hospitalized and released Monday morning. She lost the roof over her head, personal possessions and essentials such as clothing, but Hoemsen’s deepest felt loss was that of her dogs and cats. She was giving a home to several pets that perished in the fire.
Saturday evening Hoemsen had gone to bed, the lights were out and nothing was running. She hadn’t even used the cooking range of late. But she awoke to smoke and flames in the ceiling above her and had moments to escape.
An animal rescuer for well over a decade, Hoemsen’s animal charity, Strays That Can’t Pay, had been closed a couple of years ago as she had her own health issues.
Some of her most remarkable work over the years was among First Nation communities, as she rescued unwanted animals and helped people with their pets. She enabled, along with Virden Animal Hospital, a spay and neuter program that became important, ensuring that pets are exactly that – family pets, not neglected animals that become a feral nuisance.
Now she needs help and many from the surrounding communities, friends from animal rescues and key people from Winnipeg are doing just that.
Hoemsen’s house was due for repairs. A fundraiser had been started months ago for the needed work. When she discovered that her house insurance was not covering some damage, in early November, she cancelled the insurance and the monthly payments. Her home and possessions were not insured at the time of the fire.
Meanwhile, some renovations had begun with the help of a previous GoFundMe campaign and generous donors. Permits were received and reputable local contractors had been employed for some of those renovations including the electrical work, says Copp.
Now, the unused dollars from that initial renovation account have been rolled into the house fire tragedy GoFundMe account: https://www.gofundme.com/f/alicia-hoemsen-house-fire-tragedy
Copp wants to see Hoemsen’s Elkhorn residence replaced and says, “There are plans to re-home her here. But we do need help in that regard.” She looks around at the destruction in the yard and adds that clearing up the mess is the first step. “Hopefully, somebody could find it in their hearts to do that,” she adds, noting that heavy equipment will be required.