A single mother and her kids have been left homeless after a North Vancouver house fire that police are calling suspicious.
Clarissa Antone was away camping with her daughters and grandchildren when the fire broke out in her home at the corner of Hunter Street and Chief Jimmy Harry Drive, near the Mount Seymour Parkway exit on Hwy 1 Thursday evening.
Three family members who were at home at the time escaped, but two had to be treated at Lions Gate Hospital for smoke inhalation.
The house was completely destroyed.
“I am doing a little bit better than yesterday,” Antone said Friday. “I’ve lost everything (but) my family is safe. . . . My brother made it out just in time. As soon as he got out, the top floor collapsed,” said Antone.
There is no obvious cause of the fire, but on Friday the North Vancouver RCMP announced they were treating the blaze as suspicious. They have not said why. Antone said she also suspects arson.
“We have suspicions somebody caught it on fire,” she said. “He had sent me a text message saying he was going to destroy my house, so we believe it’s him, and now it’s under investigation.”
Among the many things lost in the blaze was a petition calling for the Squamish Nation chief and council to resign amid rising political tensions with activists in the Squamish membership.
“I’m the one who had all the originals, and they’re burnt now,” she said.
Luckily, a copy of the petition had already been filed with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Antone added.
Antone said there is some chance she was targeted because of her activism.
“I’m wondering. I don’t know. It could be,” she said.
In the meantime, Antone’s cousin, Chemkwat Paul-Lewis is helping the family start over by taking donations at her home at Apt. 101, 347 West 4th St., North Vancouver.
“(My mom) and my little brother are going to need everything. They have no clothing, no bedding — they don’t even know where they are going to be sleeping when we come home,” said Antone’s eldest daughter Latasha.
The band’s social workers are working to find a place for the family to go when they arrive home Sunday, Antone said.
“I have a lot of friends I can stay with for a couple of days,” she said.
Her biggest concern is that she will have to move somewhere else, and her six-year-old son will have to change schools, she said.
Firefighters were called to the home around 8:30 p.m. Thursday when several 9-1-1 calls came in reporting a house fire.
“Our first crews arrived there, and they found heavy flame and smoke on both floors,” said District of North Vancouver assistant chief Mike Cairns. “The house is a total loss. Our fire attack was just from the outside and we concentrated on protecting the houses beside as well.”
It took four hours to put down the blaze. Nearby homes had to be evacuated and the neighbourhood was blanketed in smoke during the fire. All residents were allowed to return shortly after.