Family rallies as fire victim remains in hospital

A residential fire in Stephenville on Nov. 3rd resulted in a woman being airlifted to hospital in St. John’s. – © Jaymie L. White


Special to the Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – A fire that took place two weeks ago, Nov. 3, at a residential building on Georgia Drive, left two units with extensive fire damage and one resident airlifted to hospital in St. John’s in critical condition. Ron Murphy, whose sister is in St. John’s receiving treatments for the burns she sustained in the fire, said he passed her home earlier that morning, and there was nothing out of the ordinary.

“I was at school when I found out. I drove by her place at 8:30, because I’ve got school at that time, and there was nothing going on then, no fire, and then I went to school. It was around 9:30-10:00 when students started saying that there was a fire going on down the road,” said Murphy. “I came out of the school and started looking and thought ‘My God, that’s looking close to Arlene’s,’ and then I went down there and saw it was her place on fire.”

Murphy said, once he realized his sister was injured in the fire, he rushed to hospital.

“I went to the hospital right away. She was there and my mom and dad, my sisters were there, and we were just looking at her. She was in pretty rough shape,” said Murphy.

The fire remains under investigation, so the cause remains unknown. Arlene, who is 61 years old, not only lost her home, but sustained severe burns to a large portion of her body.

“She is still in St. John’s in critical condition,” shared Murphy. “We aren’t sure what her percentage of burns is. Here in Stephenville they said 47 per cent, but I think it is more like 25 per cent, and they are second degree burns.”

Murphy said his sister had numerous health conditions that were getting progressively worse, and that it is amazing that she was able to get out of the fire.

“She is a retired teacher and she had a stroke about 12 years ago that almost took her life. Then she was diagnosed with vascular dementia on top of that and her life has been going down really quick as vascular dementia is a very progressive disease. We were seeing her getting worse daily,” said Murphy. “And with her mobility issues, to get out of the fire, it is a miracle, a blessing. It could’ve been a lot worse.”

Arlene was airlifted to St. John’s on the same day the fire occurred, and remains in a coma.

“She can’t speak or do anything yet, so we are just waiting to hear some news,” said Murphy. “They don’t know how long she will be out there. It all depends on how well she recovers.”

Murphy said the family is updated daily. One of their sisters lives in the Eastern region and visits Arlene in the hospital each day, but he hopes to travel down for a visit as soon as his sister is in a more stable condition.

“She is intubated right now. She’s not going to know me or anything. We are just waiting for things to get a little better so we can go down with her.”

Arlene lived in the building with her cat, a calico named Faith, who has yet to be located.

“I have it on Facebook, and there is a lot of people out there looking for her, but we are still waiting for the fire department to do their final investigation and see if they found her cat inside the house somewhere.”

Murphy said that his family is having a difficult time adjusting to the news, and they are all hoping and praying for Arlene to make a full recovery.

“We’re not doing very well,” admitted Murphy. “We just found out that she has a lung infection and pneumonia on top of all of this now, so that’s just adding to it. We are just not doing well. She had such a hard life before this, and it’s just very sad.”

Arlene lost everything in the fire and is going to have to start from scratch when she is eventually released from the hospital, but her family will be right there to help.

“We are hoping she is going to come back, and we can get a little place for her, furniture for her, clothes and all the stuff she will need,” said Murphy. “So any money would go toward clothes for her, pots, pans, dishes, all the basics.”

Anyone who wants to help the family support Arlene, perhaps by organizing a fundraiser, providing a monetary donation, or by donating goods such as furniture, clothes, and essentials, can contact Ron Murphy through Facebook, or via email at

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