The Aquinian

STU Community reaches out to help family after house fire

Fire fighters cleaning up the scene after the fire at the Titus house. (Megan Cooke/AQ)

When St. Thomas University sociology professor Gayle MacDonald heard about the fire that damaged a STU family’s house on Sept. 1, she decided to take action and started to collect money.

Since then, the campus community has been very generous, MacDonald said.

“The community responds very well to these kinds of things,” MacDonald said. “The people are very caring. It’s a very open community.”

On Sunday morning at 11:20 a.m. the Fredericton Fire Department answered a call to a house fire. The owner of the home is STU English professor Andrew Titus and his family.

Nobody was home when the flames broke from the basement windows and started up the back wall. The cause of the fire was a mechanical malfunction of the dryer in the laundry room.

No one was injured, except for the family’s dog, Poet, who was killed.

“The family has been deeply affected by this fire,” said MacDonald who has been teaching at STU for 21 years and got to know Titus well over the years.

Titus has young children and is working part-time at St. Thomas University. The first week of school is stressful MacDonald said, but adding this incident must have been even more difficult.

Long time colleague and former fellow student Matte Robinson said it’s amazing Titus is back on campus and teaching classes again.

“I’ve never known anybody who has so much energy and works so hard turning the potentially negative into positive,” Robinson said. “Even though his family is going through some difficult stuff, he never forgets how other people feel and he’s always helping other people out while dealing with his own problems.”

When Robinson asked Titus what he could do to help Titus answered, “You got a garden? You have any fresh vegetables? Bring me a tomato sometime.”

Robinson said he lost track on how many fundraisers are going on. Next to the one MacDonald initiated, the English Department, the Track and Field team and others are collecting money and furniture for the family.

“I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s just wonderful that it’s a diversity of the community who’s doing [all the fundraising]. It’s a good way to do it.”

MacDonald said although Titus knows about the fundraiser she wants to keep the amount a surprise.

“Right now, the amount is substantial for a couple days,” MacDonald said.

She said the family’s insurance will cover furniture, but they will need money to cover everyday costs. Since the business of Titus’ wife was located in the home, the fire also destroyed it.

“Setting up a business after a fire can be very trying,” MacDonald said. “Not only does a household need to be set up, children need caring for, school routines need to be maintained and [Titus] needs to teach, of course.”

In order to reimburse the loss, insurance companies need every single lost item listed, she explained. Making this kind of list takes an “incredible amount of time.”

“Losing a home is difficult for anyone, but especially a family that grows and changes. Many memories are eaten by fire,” MacDonald said. “[But] they are a very close family, and [Titus] is a very positive person. They are grateful that none of the humans in their family were hurt and are equally grateful for offers to help.”

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