New home start near for Nanoose fire victims

NANAIMO – Construction about to start on new house for Nanoose fire victims who lost their home in a fatal fire in January.

A Nanoose family is closer to having its own home again after a devastating blaze claimed the lives of two boys and the family’s home in January.

Brothers Jordan and Devon Drake, aged seven and nine, died in the accidental fire on the Nanoose First Nation (Snaw’Naw’As) reserve Jan. 25.

After the fire, Ken Brownsell, who compiles contractors’ orders at Slegg Lumber, started calling contractors and suppliers of various building trades for donations of supplies and labour to help build the family a new house.

After several months of preparations and gathering donations, construction could get underway by the end of June, Brownsell said Wednesday.

So far, suppliers and contractors have committed about $220,000 in construction materials and labour and a lot was chosen near a new medical centre under construction at the reserve.

Work can start after it is determined whether access road upgrades are needed and B.C. Hydro supplies power to the lot.

“They’ve got to get power to the lot, but it’s getting close,” Browsell said. “I would think that we’ll be digging a hole within the next three weeks.”

At least eight major companies, including suppliers contractors and sub-trades, are contributing to the project and the donations combined with insurance money should be more than enough to build the house.

“If we’ve got donations left over we could do a playground or do something else – if we’ve got anything left over,” he said.

Seaview Elementary School’s parent advisory council has worked since January to have two playgrounds built – one on the school grounds and a second on Nanoose First Nation land – as memorials.

Efforts are currently focused on raising money for the playground at Seaview, which needs its aging wooden play structures replaced.

So far, the PAC has raised more than $16,400.

Plans call for the Nanoose First Nation to take part in the playground’s opening ceremonies, but cultural considerations are playing a role in when work proceeds.

“We can’t do anything until after the anniversary of [the fire] anyway because we want the family to be involved and in their culture they don’t celebrate until a year after the death,” said Cherie Alyward, Seaview PAC chairwoman. “They’ve asked if we can just put it on hold for now.”

Snaw’Naw’As culture also prevents the use of the boys’ names or their images as part of the playground naming and memorial.

“We’ve had talks with them and we’ve learned a lot from them,” Alyward said. “We’ve had to change the name of it too. Instead of using the boys names, we’ve changed it to a saying that they’ve used.”

The play area will be called Angels at Work, So Angels Can Play Memorial Playground.

Installation date is currently set for March 1 and parents of children attending the school will help with construction.

Estimated costs for the playgrounds is $50,000 at Seaview and $30,000 for the playground on the reserve.

To find out more about the playgrounds or fundraising efforts, please call Alyward at 250-390-4801 or e-mail

To learn more about the home construction project or to offer a donation, please call Brownsell at Slegg Lumber at 250-758-8329.

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