It was just after 1 a.m. on Aug. 10 when Jacquie Bibaud, a resident of the Paradis Valley Subdivision near Hope Lake, recalled being awoken by a fast-approaching thunderstorm.
Like many people, she counted the seconds between lightening and thunder, to determine how close the storm is. But that day, something seemed different – Bibaud would count 8 seconds and then 3, 7 and then 5 until a terrifying thought occurred to her.
“It was down to just lightning and I thought, “two storms have come together,” and then there was just one horrendous … I can’t even explain it, it was deafening,” she recalled.
Bibaud said her heart leapt at the terrifying sound. What she didn’t know at the time was that a bolt of lighting had struck a tree not far from her house, and fire was quickly spreading to a canvas tent set up over her car.
“It still didn’t occur to me that there was a fire. I could smell smoke but that’s not unusual around here, people have wood stoves, they sometimes light them at night, or camp fires,” she said.
“So it never really sunk it, what it was. I got up to get a glass of water and I could see light through the canvas.”
Her first thought was that the wiring in her car had been affected by the storm, and that her car’s interior lights had somehow been turned on.
“I went and got my glasses and saw the flames,” she recalled.
Bibaud thought fast and told herself, while frantically trying to put on clothes, that she needed to get out of the house before it too caught fire.
She tried dialing a nearby neighbour to warn them, but her phone doesn’t work when it’s raining and her cell phone wasn’t working at all.
Eventually, she got through to a 911 dispatcher, but given all that was going on at the time, was unable to give them her address.
“I called 911 and couldn’t remember where I lived,” she said laughing
“I just ran around to the neighbours, actually I grabbed my cat first.”
Bibaud set out on foot but could not see the road she needed to take in order to reach her neighbour’s house. Only during occasional flashes of lightening was she able to see the way. Upon reaching the house, she began knocking and didn’t stop until someone opened the door.
“My garage is on fire,” she said.
Inside, a neighbour phoned 911 and gave the location of the fire and together they waited for the fire truck to arrive.
Finally, it did, and Bibaud headed back to her house, to find two of her other neighbours, Richard and Darlene Cornelis, hosing down the flames with their water truck. Other neighbours were on scene as well, doing what they could to extinguish the flames and prevent further damage.
The car is completey destroyed, as are a washer and dryer, lawnmower and roto-tiller that were also being stored under the canvas tent. Also gone are a number of Ag Society trophies Bibaud had in the car, and a growth board, used to mark how much her children and grandchildren grew each year.
By 2:30 a.m., the fire was completely extinguished.
Not surprisingly, Bibaud said she wasn’t able to go back to sleep after the incident.
She said she is grateful for all of her quick-thinking neighbours, who came out to help put out the fire. “It was fantastic the way the neighbours banded together, I just can’t thank them enough.”