Fire destroys home of firefighter Sam Burroughs

After fighting many fires as part of the Moosomin Volunteer Fire Department, Burroughs sees the overwhelming community support that comes after a fire

May 2, 2024, 3:56 pm
Ashley Bochek

The home of Sam Burroughs was destroyed by fire on the night of Friday, April 19. Sam says he has seen outstanding support from the community since the blaze.

As a member of the Moosomin Volunteer Fire Department, Sam Burroughs has often rushed to the scene of a fire in the middle of the night to help a family.

Now he knows what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that help.

Just after midnight Friday night, April 19, Burroughs woke up to the sight of his house on fire.

Burroughs says it was the construction heater in his garage that caused the fire.

“It was a construction heater that I had installed in the garage when I bought the house eight and a half years ago. Eventually, it just failed that night. That is what the investigator came up with there. It’s unfortunate because I had wondered about putting a gas furnace in there and just procrastinated and never got it done. Now, here we are.

“If you are using construction heaters and space heaters make sure you turn them off when you’re not around. Hopefully, people can learn from this. I had installed a couple years ago and had intentions of changing it and never did. If people can at least be a little bit more educated on them then maybe we can save someone’s house down the road.

Thankful for neighbors
He says he was home at the time of the fire and is thankful for his neighbours and dog for waking him up.

“I was home at the time. So, I am on the fire department and the call came in around 12:22. I was out of the house by then. My dog I don’t know what she heard whether it was people talking or some banging or whatever, but she did some growling and barking and that woke me up. I heard some commotion in the garage. I threw my pants on and looked out my room and I have a direct view of the garage and that is when I noticed. It took me a bit to figure out what was going on. Then, I finished getting dressed, grabbed my phone, and dog and got out of the house.

“I am thankful for my dog and my neighbours. I can’t thank my neighbours enough for it. They saw what was happening and started banging on the windows. They were alerted by Tait Sunderland, who phoned Ava, the daughter of Tyler and Angie. She woke up her parents and that is when they saw the fire out the window and sprung into action. I’m thankful for the dog and the neighbours.

“I think my dog would have been growling and barking no matter what, but I can’t say for sure. It is one of those things that you think ‘what if?’ I think I would have been alright, but there is still that chance I might not have been. It could have been a completely different outcome. Either way thankful for good neighbours and good dogs.”

It took Sam a few seconds to realize what happened before he started gathering clothes, his phone and dog and getting outside.

“I looked up and it took me awhile— maybe five seconds—to wake up and gather myself. I looked in the garage and I could see half of the window was smoke and half was glowing orange, and I heard glass breaking. Then I realized this is actually happening.

“I am not on the receiving end of these fire calls—it is usually the other way around. Once I realized what was happening, I just thought I had to just get out. There are lots of people like me who have a game plan an escape route. I have a window that I’ve always thought in case something happens that is where I am going out. I thought about that, but then I looked and could get out through the main entrance of the house. I ran by my shoes and scooped those up and I didn’t even put them on. I got outside and thought what am I doing just holding these? So, then I put them on at least.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of smoke in the basement that I can remember, but I do remember going through quite a bit on the main floor. So, I think looking back now I probably should have gone out my bedroom window, but I did what I did. At least it is a favourable outcome.”

Training helped
Burroughs says his firefighter training was helpful.

“I think my training as a firefighter helped me in some ways. It’s still all panic mode. I got outside and Tyler was there yelling for me. He’s on the phone and I straight up said ‘I will call them I have a straight line to them instead of being transferred’ and he was already on the line with the department. Then, I ran around back to try to get the garden hose on to try and spray the side of his house, but the tap was frozen. Then, Tyler ran up to me and told me to get going so I went to jump in my car, but I didn’t have any keys for that because they were in the house. So, then Ava ended up getting a ride from the neighbour there to the fire hall. It seemed like a long wait. I feel for everyone now. I don’t know what the response time was, but it feels like a long wait. It was weird being on the receiving end of that calls. As soon as I got back there I jumped in and helped. I wasn’t just going to watch my house on fire.

Overwhelming support
Burroughs has received overwhelming support since the fire, and says he is proud to be from small town Saskatchewan.

“It’s overwhelming support. We all know how awesome this town is. You know, that small town Saskatchewan mentality and I just can’t say enough about everyone. I don’t even know where to start on who to thank. Just when you get your feet knocked out from underneath you the town is right there to pick you up. It is amazing. From my neighbours, the Thorns have been really good whether it is cash donations, clothes, lending a vehicle. I am staying at Tyler and Angela’s house right now. The support from everyone else whether it is clothes, gift cards, or even just reaching out, it has been overwhelming. There is a lot going on and you get a little emotional talking and just thinking about it. You’re glad to have the kind of support from this town here and makes you proud to be from small town Saskatchewan. I don’t typically take handouts that well, but Bill Thorn said it’s not a handout it’s payback. It’s quite humbling.”

Sam’s next steps are communicating with his insurance company and sifting through his home.

“I’m just dealing with the insurance end of things which is thankfully going smooth so far. I was a little worried about the insurance. I didn’t think I had enough contents insurance, but thankfully the girls at Westland Insurance took care of that for me a few years ago. We’re in the process of that now. Sifting through everything. The tough part is making a list of everything that was in there. That is what I am doing right now.”

Sam says the impact from the house fire is huge and he is looking forward to getting back to a normal routine.

“It’s huge. I am taking some time off work. Work has been pretty good about it, too. I’m taking some time off because of everything I have to do. Having to find a home and restart and figure out if we are going to rebuild or buy somewhere else, but that is for another day. The insurance has been really good. They say it is my choice on rebuilding or not, so I can decide on what to do. In the meantime, I will have to find a rental and get that furnished and get back to my normal everyday routine. Probably the biggest thing is to get back to your routine.

Appreciates being a firefighter
“It makes me appreciate being a firefighter and I’m seeing it in a different way now. I can’t thank the fire department enough. I am proud to be a part of it. Being on the opposite end you say ‘at least you got out. Everything is replaceable’ but now going through everything, you think you are a pretty tough guy, but then you’re going through your home and all of your belongings and you realize you’re not as tough as you thought. It brings you down quite a bit. So, I can feel for them on a personal level now. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing I don’t know, but at least I know what they are going through on those calls now.”

Toughest loss
Sam says the sentimental things are the hardest to lose.

“The sentimental things that aren’t replaceable. I lost both of my grandparents. We lost grandma last year, March 4. Then, grandpa this year March 7. Losing things connected to them is tough. I can salvage some of those things that were there, but there is still a lot of damage. Everything is replaceable, but those sentimental things you will never get back. That’s probably the toughest, but we will rebuild. Grandpa and grandma wouldn’t want me to dwell on it too much.”

He has been able to salvage very few of his belongings.

“I was able to salvage the barbecue, the propane tank, and a snow shovel that were on the front deck,” he says. “There was some stuff inside that I am going to salvage. I built the table a few years ago and I am going to restore that. I built a clock back in high school and I am going to see if I can restore that and actually a picture of the firefighters I had hanging up above the fireplace. It is pretty beat up, but I am going to do what I can to restore that. A dream catcher grandma made me, I will see if I can get somebody to refinish that for me and the funeral home papers for grandma and grandpa are charred and wet, but you can sort of make those out. Other than that there is not a whole lot and when I say salvaging it, it should be thrown out, but I am holding on to it for sentimental reasons.”

Fundraiser planned
Sam’s friends are fundraising to support Burroughs as he begins to rebuild his life.

“I don’t know much about it. Honestly, I don’t want one, but I have been told I have no say in it. With insurance I am covered, but this town is awesome and I have no say in that, so they’ll put it on anyway.

“It makes me feel great, though. It’s good knowing people care for you. Everyone is stopping and talking to me and it gets you very emotional. People care for you. They keep saying I have done so much and it is time they do something for me. It does drain your bank account pretty quick so the cash donations from people have really helped me out. The Fire Department has been supportive, the Metis group as well, just everyone.

“I can’t wait to get out on my own again and get my independence back, not that it hasn’t been good living with Tyler and Ang, but I am used to having my own place and they’re used to not having me there.”

For now he is sifting through the house to recover what he can.

“They’re going to look at getting the house demolished as soon as possible so I will go through whatever I can. For insurance I’m working on a list of all the contents of the house. A lot of it will be off memory. I might not be able to remember everything. I had thousands of dollars worth of tools in my garage there.

Learning experience
What has Burroughs learned through the whole experience?

“I learned the danger of construction heaters and space heaters. I had heard the warnings, but now that it actually happened no more of those. I learned that people should honestly take pictures and videos and make lists of contents of your house. It helps, and I mean take pictures and list like everything. That is a big process that I am going through right now. Make a list and keep it in a fireproof safe in the basement where it won’t get hot, your passport too. Another thing is to make sure everything is insured. We don’t have insurance on that quad. So, we are taking a hit on that, but we’ll deal with that. A lot of learning curves there.

“Most of all, I have learned what I already knew—that this town is amazing.”