Jeff | Jan 13, 2016

Concerned over the well-being of tenants as well

Two families of five were left with nowhere to live and lost all their belongings when a grease fire got out of hand and quickly swept through a 150-year-old home in Flinton on December 21.

A quick community effort ensured that the families had places to stay, clothes to wear, and presents under a Christmas tree just three days after the fire levelled the home.

Since then one of the families is living in Napanee and the other is in Northbrook. They have already received clothing and many other necessities but there may be a need for furniture in the future.

Janis Douglas, who lives across the road from the house, and whose son Brady went into the burning house to save one of the cats, is helping to collect donations for the families at her home at 3651 Flinton Road. Pastor Thomas Eng of Pineview Free Methodist in Cloyne is also taking donations for the families.

The building’s owners, George and Carolyn Powles, live on a farm just outside of Flinton.

“When I got the call from Janis saying the house was on fire, I thought she was joking,” said George this week of how he first heard about the fire. “She said no, it was no joke, and I jumped in the car but by the time I got there it was already pretty much gone.”

The Powles are not sure what they will do, as they are still waiting for the final insurance settlement on the building. They are considering the option of re-building but right now they are still getting over the loss of a building that they purchased 10 years ago and lived in for five years before turning it into a rental property. They moved to an 80 acre farm with a smaller house near town.

“I loved living in that house,” said Carolyn, “it had so much history to it. It was one of the first houses in Flinton, as far as I know. I can't believe it's gone.”

The original house was about 1,200 square feet and was built around 1874. It was owned by generations of the Casey family and was still known as the Casey house. It may have been used as a bank or even a municipal building in the early years of the 20th Century, and when the Casey family owned it they sold Avon and operated a sort of coffee shop as well. In the late 1960s an addition was built, which turned it into a 2,500 sq. ft. building.

“We have done a lot of work to the building since we bought it, and quite a bit more when we decided to turn it into rental property,” said George Powles.

It took a couple of tries to find good renters for the building, and this led to it going up for sale last year. However, the two families who moved in last fall were the kinds of tenants that George and Carolyn wanted.

“They were excellent; two young families that could take advantage of the house. It was good for them and it was good for us to have the rental property generating an income. We were about to take it off the market and looked forward to the next few years. It's hard to believe all that history is gone,” said Carolyn.

The couple are considering rebuilding on the same site but are waiting until the insurance claim on the house is settled before making any decisions.

“Right now we are still concerned with the well being of the two families. They did not have renters’ insurance and were wiped out by this. But the community has been great and we want to make sure that the Leewens [one of the families], who really want to stay in this community, are able to find a place and get it furnished,” she said.

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