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Community comes to aid of Bridgewater fire victim

Demolition crews knock down fire-damaged buildings on King St. in downtown Bridgewater last Wednesday evening. 
(RYAN TAPLIN - The Chronicle Herald)
Demolition crews knock down fire-damaged buildings on King St. in downtown Bridgewater last Wednesday evening. (RYAN TAPLIN - The Chronicle Herald)

The smoke alarm she’d installed herself saved her.

But she lost almost everything except the clothes on her back two Sunday nights ago when a powerful blaze ripped through an historic Bridgewater building, destroying five businesses and her upstairs apartment. Her three cats are still missing.

But the woman, who opted not to speak to The Chronicle Herald, is fortunate to have a circle of loyal friends and family members who are determined to piece her life back together, little by little.

At the centre of that effort is her colleague and best friend Shelley Bishop.

“This is a woman who’s done more for me than I can think of,” said Bishop. “She’s an awesome person, a volunteer for Shaid Animal Shelter, and if this were to happen to someone else in the community I know for sure she’d be first in line to help.”

Bishop’s best friend was sleeping as the fire churned its way up to her apartment. She was awoken by the fire alarm that she’d installed in the laundry room near her bedroom.

“It saved her life, and I do know that she and her family want people to know just how important it is to make sure they have fire alarms in their homes and that they’re maintained regularly.”

Bishop and her team of local devotees have launched four fundraisers on her behalf.

Among them is a bake sale planned for Northfield District Fire Hall on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. About 30 people have already contacted Bishop to offer goods for the event. On Sunday, Saltbox Brewery in Mahone Bay, who offered their venue free of charge, will host a live band and silent auction from 6-9 p.m. A donation box will be on hand for money or gift cards.

Bishop has been overwhelmed by the show of support coming from the wider South Shore community.

“People have been amazing. The hardest part I’m finding right now is that people are wanting to give more stuff than we can handle.”

So she was planning to hit up some storage companies on Monday in search for a free place to temporarily store donations.

Currently, Bishop’s friend is staying with family and coming to terms with her loss.

“She’s so grateful and kind of overwhelmed by the support. She has no expectations and I keep telling her, ‘You’d be the first person to do this for someone else.’

“She’s not a materialistic person. What she had was what she really needed, which is why we felt the need to do something.”

A silver lining in all of this is that many of the woman’s most important documents and photos were saved because she stored them in a fireproof safe that was recovered by investigators after the fire.

Everyone closest to her, including Bishop, is holding out hope for the cats. Each day, family and friends continue to post pictures of them on Facebook. “The cats were like her children. Pets are part of your family, right?

“I go back to where the building was torn down every night, and there’s been some sightings but the thing is with cats, it could be any cat.

“We’re hoping for the best for them and for her. But she’s doing well and she’ll recover from this. She’ll be OK.”

Anyone interested in donating gently used items or contributing to the weekend fundraisers can contact Bishop at luckymeema1966@gmail.com.

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