On September 28, Karim Ihaddouhen was driving home after a long day of work. Just like so many others who make the daily commute, it was supposed to be a regular night where he could go home and relax with his wife and their child. Instead, Ihaddouhen was suddenly confronted with a tragedy few have experienced.

"I got a call from my wife, she is screaming 'fire, fire, fire,'. When I arrived I found my wife, she took the baby and she got out of the unit and she was waiting outside. And the kitchen was burned and smokey, when I arrived I tried to go to the kitchen, I opened the door just to save as much as possible, but no way, it was out of control. All the kitchen was burning, there was smoke everywhere," he said.

When he first got the call from his wife, Ihaddouhen explained his thoughts immediately went to his family and their safety.

"I was scared because when you get a call like that, you feel like something is going to happen to your wife and baby. I parked my car up to the sidewalk and I ran, and when I saw her with the baby I said 'thank God it's ok.'"

The fire started when Ihaddouhen's wife was cooking on the stove, and suddenly the fire spread to the bottom of the pan, then the pan itself caught fire. His wife went to grab towels to put the fire out, but by then the fire was already out of control.

"She had the baby next to her, she was scared and she just grabbed the baby and she ran out."

Thankfully, Ihaddouhen and his family all escaped without injury, but now they face the incredibly difficult task of rebuilding their lives without their home and possessions. Everything in the kitchen is lost, but Ihaddouhen explained he's trying to salvage whatever he can. Some things, like his clothes on the second floor, could be salvaged once the black smoke is washed out of them.

burned house

While some things can be salvaged, there's no doubt losing your home and many possessions is incredibly difficult to overcome. However, he said the community has been really supporting them, and is grateful for how big of a role they played in trying to make the best of a bad situation.

"On that night I found a Days Inn room. Then the next day I got help from Pastor Dawn Nelson (Lord of all Lutheran Church), she called the Red Cross and they gave me two days. And then FCSS booked me for another 2 days and the Travelodge gave me another night. They are really really friendly and they are really helping me a lot."

It wasn't just the hotel stay though; the community rallied and donated to his family to help him and his family recover from this devastating loss.

"They're giving me positive power to stand up to the situation because before I posted, the Lil' Hoots owner posted on the I love Strathmore Facebook page and I got so many text messages, calls, even some people dropped some clothes on the Lil' Hoots shop, and some diapers. Some people even donated gift cards, Walmart, and Visa cards. It's really a beautiful community, they are helpful people."

Ultimately, Ihaddouhen is thankful he and his family are all healthy and have a place to stay, as they are now renting a basement in NE Calgary. He says the community support, even beyond donations, has been amazing.

"Some people, even if they aren't able to help, they're praying for you and just wishing the best for you, that's really awesome."

If you're interested in supporting Ihaddouhen's family, he said you can contact Strathmore FCSS, Pastor Dawn Nelson from Lord of All Lutheran Church, or Red Cross. 

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