EXCLUSIVE: Incredible stories of family heirlooms surviving the Woodman Avenue explosion
LONDON, ONT. -- A family who thought they lost everything in the Woodman Avenue explosion has improbably had a small number of sentimental items returned to them.
Karen Fisher and her daughter Emma Fisher Steed were home on the night of Aug. 14, 2019 when a car slammed into their gas meter.
Minutes later, several first responders were injured when the Fishers’ home at 450 Woodman Ave. exploded.
Three other homes were damaged beyond repair by the blast and subsequent fire.
Karen and Emma’s most precious belongings were gone.
“Things like family photos, baby books, and ashes of loved ones, those things can’t be replaced,” laments Karen. “But all we truly have is what’s in our hearts, and that nobody can take away.”
Presumed lost were some of her daughter Emma’s drawings.
But a year later, she holds one of her drawings that was blown free of the fire and painstakingly gathered by neighbours.
“It’s a picture of a girl leaning down to an animal, and (written below is) ‘It’s okay.’ It’s really nice that it popped up after the explosion because it was a reminder (that) everything would be okay in the end,” explains Emma.
The old drawings have new meaning for the Grade 9 student - singed corners proving even delicate things can be resilient.
“Even though it was just drawings and pictures that didn’t have any meaning, now they do because it’s the past but it’s also a part of me.”
Several careful searches of the property in the days and weeks after the explosion turned up more family heirlooms.
Fire Prevention Investigator Chris Rennie was searching the scene after the fire was extinguished.
“Amongst all that debris, when sifting through, I found a set of earrings,” recalls Rennie.
He personally returned the earings to Karen who was wearing them when she was interviewed by CTV News.
“That’s probably my biggest positive takeaway. Out of all that debris we found an earring box with sentimental value.”
An equally improbable discovery came when Karen visited her property with a co-worker. While discussing the loss of home movies of Emma’s first Christmas mornings.
The small plastic videotape somehow survived the heat.
“Ten feet from where we were standing this cassette was discovered. I had gone through that site with a fine-tooth comb. So to find this was a remarkable thing,” adds Karen.
Some things that couldn’t be found, still made their way back to Emma.
Her Girl Guides leader, along with several local guide troops, went into action.
Emma gushes, “They sent me a bunch of different badges to be replaced, and a bunch of shirts from girl guides, so it was very kind and sweet of them.”
And while many irreplaceable things were lost by the Fishers, Karen takes solace in what was saved that night when they ran from their home.
“When you lose those things, that’s devastating, but when you recognize we could have died, I walked away with gratitude.”