By Jim Brown
For decades they were surrounded by history but in just a few minutes it had all turned to ashes. A nearly 200-year-old farmhouse, built 40 years before Confederation, was reduced to a smoldering firepit.
The Fyfe family lost nearly everything in the Feb 20 blaze. They may have felt alone in the immediate aftermath, but they soon learned they had an entire community standing with them during the difficult rebuilding process.
Alfred Fyfe, his wife Karen, their daughter Michelle Fyfe and her fiancé Kristen Rochford didn’t have to wait long to find shelter. A good-hearted neighbor, Leslie MacKay, invited the family to stay as long as they wished at his farmhouse.
“We’re just overwhelmed by the support and the affection we’ve received from the community,” said Karen.
“It really is humbling to know there are so many people like this in our community.”
Friends and supporters organized a benefit for the Fyfe family for Friday, March 22 (snow date March 23) at the New London Community Complex. The Fyfe family benefit, featuring items for auction, a 50/50 draw and a cash bar, will start at 7 pm, with the doors opening at 6. Monetary donations will be accepted at the Malpeque Bay Credit Union.
A GoFundMe campaign is trending and by March 6 had already exceeded the campaign’s $10,000 target, with close to $14,500 raised for the Fyfe family in just three weeks. One of the benefit’s organizers, Sandra Blackett, said more than a hundred items had been donated so far, which included overnight stays at hotels in Summerside and Charlottetown.
“We’ve got people everywhere who are helping out,” she said.
Karen Fyfe said the family farm hasn’t missed a beat since the fire, with her daughter, her husband and her daughter’s fiancé all carrying the load.
There are 35 “momma” cows on the property and several have given birth since Christmas Eve Day and the birthing season will continue into April and May, said Karen.
All considered, things could have been much worse. The fire could have spread to a nearby barn and threatened livestock, she said.
“That barn could have been gone, Alfred’s workshop could have been gone,” said Karen.
The family is still counting their blessings everyone escaped without injury. The family dog and cat are alright, as well as three pet ducks and several laying hens.
The family has insurance and will be able to build another farmhouse, but it won’t be nearly as big as the 3,000-sq foot historic building that had been on the property since the late 1820s and had been in the Fyfe family for six generations.
“It was built and lived in before Canada became a country,” said Karen, wistfully.
“It’s a huge loss…the history and the craftsmanship,” said Karen of the home where five children had been raised and she had lived since 1981.
Anyone wishing to donate items to the Fyfe family benefit can call the following numbers: Janet Cotton, 886-2528, Bethany Cousins, 439-6723, Sandra Blackett at 886-3239 and 303-3164, Stephanie Moase, 886-2599, Nancy Sanderson, 621-1958 and Angie Matheson at 626-9902.