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Trailer fire leaves Mill Bay's Nielson family homeless, penniless

Christmas angels saved three Nielson family members left homeless by last Tuesday's mobile-home fire in Mill Bay.

Now coping with injuries, and no home insurance, brothers Bill and Randy Nielson and their mother Gladys need cash, plus furniture and clothing donations, to rebuild their shattered lives.

"They need everything to start small, humble homes in two apartments," said Randy's daughter, Brandy.

She started a BMO cash-donation account, and opened mini-storage doors for needed furniture and clothes, while her relatives are staying with other family members in the capital.

"Our family's been through a lot of things, and it takes awhile for things to sink in," said Randy, 61, who, along with brother Bill, suffered smoke inhalation.

"You just accept it; you carry on and start over," a raspy-voiced Randy said as Brandy translated.

He aims to resettle in Cowichan.

His mom Gladys, and brother Bill, want to find digs in Victoria after the early-morning Dec. 11 blaze — of unknown cause — in Cedar Creek Trailer Park awakened every homeowner's nightmare.

"By the grace of God, mother Nielson (Gladys) was in the front of the trailer, away from the fire, when she smelled smoke and shouted the alarm," Brandy explained.

"Fire's terrifying — you go into shock," Randy said of smoke-filled confusion.

Bill made it to the kitchen to Gladys, Brandy said, and quickly grabbed some warm clothing> Randy — smelling smoke about the same time —  confirmed his mother was OK out front, before jumping out his bedroom window, suffering several broken ribs in the process.

Bill called 911, then the boys then used Randy's wheelchair, left handily outside, to roll Gladys across the road.

"They woke good friend and neighbour, Danny Jones, from a peaceful sleep, and he kept them warm, and with tea, while the trailer burned," Brandy relates.

Smoke inhalation has postponed Randy's Dec. 13 throat surgery until January.

The Nielsons thanked Mill Bay firefighters' fast response, and the Provincial Emergency Program that provided three nights of post-inferno lodging. But without home insurance, the family also faces bills to remove the mess at Cedar Creek.

Some clearing equipment has been donated, and the family has called Mill Bay Director Mike Walker about regional board help on debris tipping-fees.

Randy chalked the lack of insurance to a communication gap between his mom and brother and offered folks a moral to his family's near-tragic tale.

"Try and have insurance, and when disaster strikes, take care of each other first because they're all still alive; everyone's thankful for that."

The BMO donation account, at any branch, is under the Nielson Family Support Group, account 8983-030, transit 0783.

Furniture and clothing can be dropped at Mill Bay's Stronghold Eco Storage, 2892 Horton Rd., or Victoria's U-Haul, 644 Queens Ave.

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