When Nikki Gabriel fell asleep early in the morning on August 31, she didn’t realize how risky of a move it was.
Nikki had been up since 5:00 a.m. that morning, and after bringing her fiancée Jeff to work and seeing her four-year-old twin daughters off to daycare she decided to take a nap at about 9 a.m.
But after about an hour, Nikki was woken by her son Jack.
“I went and laid down and my son woke me up about around 10 and was screaming,” she said. “I ran down the hallway and thought maybe he set the toaster on fire or that it was something small, but I turned the corner and saw flames crawling up my sliding glass door and burning my blinds – he woke me up just in time.”
Nikki’s house, located on Qualq Rd. on Seabird Island, had caught fire that morning and with not even enough time to grab a pair of shoes, Nikki and Jack ran out of the house.
“It’s amazing how his brain was logical at the time,” Nikki said. “I’m pretty sure that I was panicking worse than he was.”
With everyone else in the house gone for the day, Nikki was lucky that Jack was home and noticed the fire with enough time to get out. Having made plans to spend the night at his grandparent’s house, the 10-year-old wasn’t even supposed to be there.
“He was going to spend the night at my parents and he just said that he had a feeling that he should stay home, so he stayed home,” Nikki explained. “He’s pretty intuitive that way; he’s always been that way.”
It’s suspected that fire was started due to electrical problems, but the exact cause has not been determined yet and is still under investigation.
“I have no idea what else it could have been,” Nikki said. “I had my cellphone plugged into the wall right by the bed and that was the corner it started in. Just the way that the fire burned, it went through the walls and it went through the cords – it burned everything.”
“We did the walk through and it was pretty devastating to go in and actually look at the pile of ashes in my bedroom,” Nikki continued. “I was just really thankful that my daughters were in daycare that morning.”
Now, just over two weeks after the fire, Nikki and her family are trying to pick up where they left off, but it’s not that easy. With nearly everything destroyed in the fire, including the house, replacing everything and moving on is much easier said than done.
After spending the first few days in a hotel in Chilliwack, Nikki decided to move her family back to Seabird Island to be closer to family and so that Jack could go to school. But even with the distraction of school and being close to friends, forgetting the fire hasn’t been easy.
“[Jack] was in shock for the first day, and when we got to the hotel he burst into tears,” Nikki explained. “He said ‘what if I didn’t stay home, what if I had gone to my friends?’ and he hugged me for a good 20 minutes.”
Even Nikki’s four-year-old daughters Jordynne and Jillian, who weren’t at home when the fire started, are feeling its effects.
“They’re just grasping with the concept that they don’t have their favourite blanket or stuffy – they lost everything,” Nikki said.
It’ll be at least six months until Nikki’s home is rebuilt, but starting from scratch isn’t easy, so the Gabriel family has turned to the community for help.
“The support is phenomenal and so many people have donated,” Nikki said. “It’s amazing how supportive the communities of Seabird especially, and Agassiz, have been. You find out who your true friends really are.”
Donations have already provided the family with enough clothing, but they’re still accepting furniture or monetary donations. An account has been opened for the family at Prospera Credit Union and donations can be made to account number 3498797, or by contacting Nikki at 604-997-7550.