Fire destroys Highland Grove home, displaces family
By Sue Tiffin
Bobbiejoe Normandeau-Hennessey arrived at her Highland Grove home knowing it was on fire, but not knowing if her newlywed husband was in it.
On Dec. 9, Bobbiejoe had been shopping for Christmas gifts in Peterborough for Ryan Hennessey, who she married in September, when she received a phone message from her neighbour asking if her house was on fire. Ryan had stayed home to drywall the house their family was renovating while Bobbiejoe and daughter Justice Normandeau had gone shopping, when the fire began.
“A few hours had passed and I received a text message from a neighbour asking me if my house was on fire,” Bobbiejoe told the Echo. “I then immediately started freaking out because my husband and animals were at home. I then called my neighbour and was informed to get home as fast as I could because my house was on fire.”
She said she raced home, arriving to find her house “engulfed in flames, and there were so many fire trucks and firemen.”
Bobbiejoe became hysterical, running frantically toward the house questioning where her husband was and said she couldn’t calm down until around 3 a.m. the next morning.
Ryan had been sitting on the couch in the family home when Bobbiejoe said he noticed smoke and helped the family’s dogs and birds escape - one pet bird died due to smoke inhalation. Because Ryan doesn’t have a cellphone he hadn’t been able to contact Bobbiejoe in the chaos, but was safe with the fire department when she arrived. A teenaged son, Braedon, was also safe at his dad’s house.
Photo via GoFundMe
Stations 1, 2, 3 and 4 all responded to the fire, which is determined to have started at approximately 6:45 p.m., according to Highlands East acting fire chief Chris Baughman.
“The home is likely a total loss, and a young family of four has been displaced,” he told the Echo.
“We lost everything,” said Bobbiejoe. “We lived in that home since 2015, so everything we owned is gone.”
Bobbiejoe said when she met Ryan, it was “pretty much love at first sight.”
The couple, looking for “a fresh start, new beginnings,” began searching the internet for homes, looking in the area of Meany.
“We came across a house in the hamlet of Highland Grove,” said Bobbiejoe, who had been living in Eldorado for just more than a decade. “We both had never heard of the place so we decided, what the heck, let’s go see it. The size was perfect for our family, the location was great, as we both did not want to be in a city. We are both 100 per cent country people.”
Photo via GoFundMe
It was while they were viewing the home that they first met friendly people in the neighbourhood.
“We had neighbours come over and tell us different things about the home, historical things about the home. How there used to be a train that would run through the little hamlet, how it was the fourth house ever built,” said Bobbiejoe. “We both looked at each other and said, this is our new home.”
A neighbour who shared a family name with the name of the street, Cooney, told Bobbiejoe and Ryan there was much history to the home, which Bobbiejoe thinks was built sometime in the 1880s.
“We sure found that out as we started doing renovations to the home, we’ve found so many cool old things,” she said.
Behind the walls, besides a poster advertising the Wilberforce Grand Ball on Oct. 25, ’07, during renovations the family had found a poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a teenager, old pop bottle caps, beer bottle caps, and cigarette wrappers of brands they’d never heard of before.
Photo courtesy of Bobbiejoe Normandeau-Hennessey
Now, it’s all gone, and the Normandeau-Hennessey family is homeless. They moved into a hotel room after the fire, and since then, after a GoFundMe page launched, the family has been able to stay at a Harcourt home generously gifted to them until near the end of this month, at which point they hope to move in with Ryan’s parents in Madoc until they might hear from their insurance company. Braedon will stay with his dad so he doesn’t have to change schools during the transition.
Bobbiejoe praised Bancroft's high school, where the teens are students, for helping with gift cards for food, as well as others for donations of clothing and help toward the family’s recovery. At this time, they do not know what insurance might cover.
“Rebuild is not an option, due to we will not get enough back for the house to do so,” said Bobbiejoe.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Bobbiejoe, Ryan and their two teenaged children at https://www.gofundme.com/f/hys9ad-please-help-house-fire-victims.