When Luke Savard came home from the gym around 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, he was shocked to see fire trucks and people crowded outside his home on Charlotte Street.
His roommate explained there was some smoke in the basement and it would be cleared up within the hour.
The first-year St. Thomas University student left the scene to spend time with a friend.
When he returned to go to bed around 2 a.m., he found his house engulfed in flames.
“Everything was on fire, the whole building. We were kind of in shock because we didn’t think it would be that big of a deal,” the 20-year-old said.
“If I had have [known], I would have tried to at least go in and get some stuff. I had no idea it was going to be a big thing.”
Savard was among four STU students who lost their home in the fire at 594 Charlotte St. He and his three roommates – two who also go to STU – had lived at the apartment since the end of August.
The fire department said it was caused by a grease fire in the basement apartment. There were four other apartments in the house.
Firefighters spent about six hours fighting the fire and deemed it unsafe the next afternoon.
Savard visited the scene around 8 a.m. the next day and when he went back around noon, it was demolished.
The clothes in his apartment were covered in soot and ashes. He was only able to save what he carried with him that night – his gym bag, a pair of sweatpants, his winter coat and an old pair of sneakers.
His laptop made it out of the house too, but it has water damage and Savard is still waiting to find out if it works.
But Savard is most concerned about losing all of his books and school notes in the fire.
“As far as school goes, I am not doing the greatest but that stuff will work itself out.”
The STU community has stepped up to help the four students affected by the fire and the support has made it easier for Savard to cope with losing his home.
“It’s weird. A lot of people think that I’m in real rough shape but I’m not emotionally damaged as some may be. People have been supporting me and stuff like that, people have been very generous.”
Dean of students Larry Batt said he first heard of the fire from sociology professor Syvia Hale only hours after it happened.
“She wasn’t worried about marks, she was worried about them getting support,” Batt said.
Before Monday, Batt was able to put out a call for help and has met with each student individually.
The university has offered each student affected by the fire a $750 bursary, a free residence room until Christmas and a meal plan. STU alumni has given them each a $200 Visa gift card.
One student told Batt she lost her STU hoodie in the fire. After hearing that, Batt decided to give each student a brand new STU hoodie.
Meanwhile, registrar Karen Preston contacted professors to let them know the students may need extensions on their essays and exams.
Savard was surprised to receive so much help from STU community.
“I was really happy. I knew they would help me out a little bit but I wasn’t expecting all this.
“We calculated it and it was $1,300 so far that they’ve given to me. I wasn’t expecting that at all, I was very grateful.”
Batt said the university will monitor each student’s situation and offer more help if needed.
Savard is living with friends right now and plans to move into a new place within the next two weeks.
When he signs the lease to his new home, he said he’ll definitely be buying tenant insurance.
“I never thought it could happen to me.
“It’s only $200 a year and it covers $10,000. It’s definitely worth it. I had easily $10,000 worth of stuff in that house.”
He cautioned other renters to do the same.
“You never know if it will happen to you or not.”
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