GoFundMe launched for family devastated by Richmond Hill fire

A friend of a woman and her two kids who lost everything after a massive fire ravaged a Richmond Hill housing complex in July — displacing over a dozen families — has launched a GoFundMe to help her find a new home.

Natalie Beharry said her friend Simone Bennett, 38, and her eight and nine-year-old sons are trying to pick up the pieces after a fire tore through the 75 Weldrick Rd. E. complex — just east of Yonge St. — on July 26 and destroyed nearly 20 units as it burned for more than 12 hours.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she lost her job (at a factory assembly line) in March and was unable to sustain her car and home insurance payments, a story told by many in this unexpected and longstanding pandemic,” Beharry said in the GoFundMe post.

“She lost everything in the home and including her vehicle that was in the underground parking, which became flooded with the amount of water needed to put out the blaze. Simone is a single mother and has worked very hard to take her boys away from an undesirable neighbourhood in Toronto.”

Speaking with theToronto Sun on Thursday, Beharry said Bennett was given some support by the Red Cross for several days after the fire and has since moved to a shelter in Newmarket, but it sounds like she may have to vacate by the end of next month.

“Like anybody else, you’re going to have good and bad days,” she said. “She was waiting for her birth certificate to come in so she can apply to housing. Everything was burnt in the fire. Literally, they only have the clothes off their backs.”

Simone Bennett and her eight and nine-year-old boys lost everything in a Richmond Hill fire that ravaged the housing complex they lived in in July. Her friend has launched a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of helping her get back on her feet again. Photo by SUPPLIED /NATALIE BEHARRY

As of Thursday afternoon, over $11,000 has been raised — more than 61% of the $18,000 goal.

Emergency crews arrived at the housing complex just before 2 p.m. that day. Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Burbidge told media 55 firefighters were on scene, battling the blaze and when fire crews arrived, they saw heavy flames and lots of smoke billowing from the townhomes.

The Office of the Fire Marshal could not be reached Thursday to provide an update on whether they’ve determined the cause and origin of the fire.

A spokesperson from the City of Richmond Hill could not immediately be reached for comment.

Water damage after the fire. Photo by SUPPLIED /NATALIE BEHARRY

Beharry said the fire department told residents the units would need to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up, which will take about two years. While the property’s landlord said they would accept the family back in once it’s completed, they need to get back on their feet in the meantime.

“I am asking for any help possible so that we can help them find a home, cover her first and last month’s rent, obtain some home furnishings and the basic essentials including clothing for her kids, in order to move through this rough and what could have been tragic situation,” Beharry wrote in the GoFundMe post.

“Hopefully, with whatever is left over, it would be ideal for Simone to obtain a used vehicle in order to get back to work, and to efficiently transport her kids to and from school. Anyone who knows Simone knows that she is a vibrant, loving and giving mother, and I believe she deserves all the help possible.”

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