Mohammad Al Zamel, left, his father Tarek and siblings Alaa, Dwea and Walaa stand behind fire line tape at their home on Strickland Street on Monday. They and their mother Raneen and brother Hamed were displaced after an electrical fire Friday night made their home uninhabitable. The family, which didn’t have renters’ insurance, is now trying to replace furniture and other belongings. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Syrian family in Nanaimo rebuilding following house fire

Family displaced by fire on Strickland Street had been planning to move later this summer

A Nanaimo family from Syria needs help to replace furnishings and other belongings after a fire in their home on the weekend.

The Al Zamel family was celebrating a child’s birthday Friday when a malfunction started a fire in an electrical power bar. The fire heavily damaged the basement of the house they were living in on Strickland Street and caused smoke damage throughout the upstairs of the home where the family of seven has lived for three years.

“Friday night we were just sitting in the living room, me and my sister Walaa, and the alarm went and smoke started to come up,” said Mohammad, the Al Zamel eldest son. “I went to the kitchen and there was nothing. I went to the outside, fire was coming from the window.”

RELATED: Eight displaced after fire in Nanaimo’s south end

Mohammad alerted the homeowner who called the fire department.

The Al Zamels will be staying with a friend for about one month until they move to another house, a move that was planned for late August.

“We had a year of sponsorship and now they’re just very good friends,” said Nancy Robinson, a former member of a private sponsorship group that helped bring the Al Zamels to Canada. “They’re just absolutely the most wonderful family you could ever imagine and it’s just so, so sad … They were moving in a month and this happened.”

Neighbours have stopped by to offer donations and AZ Sponsorship Group – a new group formed to help bring more of the Al Zamels’ family members to Canada – has also set up an account to receive donations to help the family replace furniture and other smoke-damaged belongings.

Mohammad said the family, which did not have renters’ insurance, needs beds and other furnishings to start over. A neighbour stopped by while the family was at their former home Monday.

“The community’s very lovely. They support us when this happened,” Mohammad said.

Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo emergency program manager, said the family was supported through that program, which provided them with lodging for 72 hours and basic sanitary items, but she said it’s really important for renters to carry insurance coverage for their personal belongings.

“We’re seeing more people getting it now and we haven’t had as many instances where people have to go for support … that’s a huge message for people,” Lindsay said. “Get the renters’ insurance because if you don’t have it, it’s gone … Even just to replace the contents. I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, I don’t have anything that worth anything,’ but you still have to replace it. It’s still expensive to replace. It still costs you money to get new clothes or your furniture.”

Anyone who would like to help the Al Zamel family replace their belongings can make cash donations c/o AZ Sponsorship Group at Coastal Community Credit Union.
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