A Syrian family has been left homeless after fire swept through their Mississauga home and damaged eight other townhouses in the complex.
There is little left of unit 121 at 1560 Bloor St., the place that Khaled Alawad, his wife, Judy, and their three children — Odai, 11, Marina, 9, and Mera, 4 — have called home since they arrived in Canada in January 2016.
“I lost myself, I don’t know where to start,” he said, adding that all of his family’s documents and identification are gone.
Peel police are still investigating the fire, which happened early Saturday morning, Peel police Const. Bancroft White said.
Around 5 p.m. on Friday, Peel police responded to a 911 call at the same address. Alawad said he called after he was approached by a man who adamantly insisted that the bike outside of his house belonged to him.
“He said bad words about Syrian refugees, and he lifted something — I think a gun or knife. We went into the house because I was scared,” Alawad said.
Two friends came to his aid and helped Alawad hold the front door closed while the man tried to get in, but the intruder was “too strong” and broke the door, Alawad said.
Alawad called police and the man fled.
At around 2 a.m. the next day, while the rest of his family was sleeping, Alawad saw flames in the backyard. Once again, he called 911.
“I saw a light coming from the backyard, and I saw a big fire,” he said. “I picked up my children and family and brought them outside and yelled, ‘please help, help, fire!’ ”
He believes that his family was targeted.
It took firefighters almost five hours to put out the fire, said Alawad, and the family has “lost everything.”
Police said a 33-year-old man has been arrested in relation to the first incident and is facing charges of mischief over $5,000, uttering death threats, and assault with a weapon.
Police are not linking the arrest and the fire.
“The thing that I need to stress is that there is no evidence currently that connects the two incidents,” Const. White said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all residents who are now rebuilding their lives as a result of this devastating fire,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in an email to the Star.
“Soon after the fire broke out, the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre was opened for residents to access washroom facilities and to serve as a rehab location.
“A MiWay articulated bus was on scene holding residents who could not return to their homes. Peel Social Services is working with displaced families to arrange living arrangements. The Red Cross, along with other community partners, continue to provide ongoing support in the form shelter and food and clothing vouchers.”
Alawad has created a GoFundMe page, stating that his family is new to Canada, and in need of support to rebuild. The goal is to raise $20,000.
While the family has house insurance, they said they are unable to speak to someone until after the Thanksgiving weekend, and will hear back on Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, they are staying with a friend, but the family is unsettled and on edge.
“We’ve gone two days without sleeping … we’re very tired,” said Alawad.
He said he is thankful that no one was injured in the blaze, and for the friend who took him in.
“You will find bad people and good people everywhere,” he said. “I thank God that my family is safe.”
Two firefighters who sustained minor injuries were treated at hospital and released. No other injuries were reported.