Couple grateful as rebuild begins on home destroyed by wildfire last year

Sue Reid and Phil Fizzard's home was destroyed by last year's wildfire that ripped through their Hammonds Plains neighbourhood. (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)
Sue Reid and Phil Fizzard's home was destroyed by last year's wildfire that ripped through their Hammonds Plains neighbourhood. (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)

When Phil Fizzard and his partner Sue Reid returned to the ruins of their home in Hammonds Plains, N.S., after the 2023 wildfires, they were devastated.

Like other families whose homes were either uninsured for various reasons or underinsured, trying to recover from the loss has been heartbreaking.

On Thursday, the couple were back on Hummingbird Lane for a much more joyful experience as ground was broken for the rebuilding of their home in the Highland Park subdivision.

"When we came and saw this mess, all I wanted to do was crawl in that foundation and die," Fizzard said through tears.

The rebuild is being done by Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross and the United Way Halifax.

When the fast-moving fire reached their property, Reid said they had just enough time to get their pets into cages and grab some important papers before jumping into their vehicles and evacuating the area.

The couple stayed in a hotel for a while before a friend offered them a house for four months.

Reid said with help from the United Way and the Red Cross, they were able to find an apartment that allowed pets.

Fizzard said they are both accustomed to trying to help other people and it was hard to come to terms with being the ones requiring help.

"We're here today because of all the support we've been getting from all these wonderful organizations and partners and everybody here, just for us. It's thrilling," Reid said.

Donna Williamson is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia
Donna Williamson is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia

Donna Williamson is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Donna Williamson, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Nova Scotia, said funding from the Canadian Red Cross and their own fundraising efforts enabled them to start the rebuild.

She said the organization is still seeking corporate and individual donations to complete the home.

Williamson estimates the rebuild should be finished within six months.

There are eight other families in Shelburne County and the Hammonds Plains area who were affected by the wildfires and did not have insurance or were underinsured, Williamson said.

She said the other families are not yet ready to discuss the long-term planning required to meet Habitat for Humanity's qualification criteria.

Habitat for Humanity requires that partner families volunteer 500 hours and pay an affordable mortgage based on their income. No down payment is needed.

Williamson said they will work with the other families once they are ready to meet the organization's requirements.

Reid said she would urge anyone in their situation to go to the United Way, the Canadian Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity to get the help they need.

"You don't know until you're in this situation," she said. "You hear of these organizations and you never know. And once we were connected with them, they're amazing."

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