People in the Elkhorn area are coming together to help a longtime animal rescuer after her home burned down over the weekend.
Early Sunday morning, emergency personnel attended to a fire at Alicia Hoemsen’s house on Cavendish Street in Elkhorn.
The home was fully engulfed in flames and being attended to by firefighters when officers arrived around 1:45 a.m. Sunday, according to RCMP.
Hoemsen founded Strays That Can’t Pay, a Virden-based animal rescue that helps spay and neuter animals and rescue injured and sick animals.
Though she stepped down from the organization two years ago, she has continued to help animals where she can.
Alex Menard, one of the organizers of an online fundraiser set up to help Hoemsen recover from the fire, told the Sun by phone from Winnipeg on Monday that Hoemsen was released from hospital that morning after being treated for frostbite.
"Anyone who’s familiar with Alicia knows how generous she is," Menard said. "She’s done a lot of work with rescues in Manitoba. Many would consider her the founder of a lot of the rescue network that exists ... she’s the type of person who will go without if there’s an animal in need."
According to her, Hoemsen woke up to the ceiling engulfed in flames and ran out of her home barefoot into the snow with one of her dogs.
Photos attached to the GoFundMe campaign show very little of the house still standing, with more material reduced to ash.
While the loss of Hoemsen’s house and possessions has been devastating, it’s even worse considering that some of her own pets and foster animals died, were injured or ran away in the wake of the incident.
A+ Animal Rescue based out of Wawota, Sask., which has worked with Hoemsen in the past, is helping arrange foster homes, medical treatment and to search for the animals that have gone missing.
One photo shared on the rescue’s Facebook page shows a cat who survived the fire with scorch marks and burns on her face, though she was apparently on the mend when the post was made.
In a Facebook message, a representative for the organization told the Sun that if someone in the Elkhorn area thinks they’ve spotted one of Hoemsen’s animals, they should reach out to her and she will arrange for someone to go looking.
However, both Menard and the organization requested that otherwise people should give Hoemsen and her family space for the time being as they process the tragedy.
A group of Hoemsen’s friends had recently been working on renovating parts of her home leading up to the fire.
A GoFundMe campaign raising funds to help with the renovation was posted approximately eight months ago. It has now been closed in favour of a new campaign in the wake of the fire, with money that had yet to be withdrawn from the original campaign being transferred over.
As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the new fundraiser had raised $17,890 of its $25,000 goal.
"We don’t have a confirmed source yet or cause [for the fire]," Menard said. "What we do know is that it started on the side of the house that we had not yet started renovating and spread through the ceiling."
Later Sunday, first responders had to continue fighting the fire after parts of the blaze flared back up.
With the money raised through the fundraiser, Menard said one option might be to purchase a mobile home that can be placed on Hoemsen’s property.
The RCMP and Office of the Fire Commissioner are investigating the cause of the fire.
The fundraiser can be found at gofundme.com/f/alicia-hoemsen-house-fire-tragedy.
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