A seven-year-old boy who died in a house fire near Barrie on Thursday evening is being remembered as someone who was always laughing.
Dominic Denesiuk-Smith was a happy little boy, said his aunt, Denise Langille. “He was very loving.”
“The last time I saw him, me and him were just laughing,” said James, Dominic’s 11-year-old half-brother.
“I was just tickling him and he was laughing about it. That was the last time I saw him. I watched TV with him. Me and him used to play together a lot,” said James. “I loved him.”
Dominic perished while four other occupants of the home escaped unharmed just as the farmhouse became fully engulfed.
Ontario Provincial Police said emergency crews arrived at the scene in Clearview Township on Highway 26 around 8:50 p.m.
“Despite rescue efforts by first-responders and persons at scene, the victim could not make it out and died in the house fire,” said the OPP.
Denesiuk-Smith’s father, Donald Smith, 35, lived at the house along with family friend David Fleming and Fleming’s three children: Brooke Fleming, 18, David Fleming, 11, and Dylan Arney-Fleming, 12.
“Dave and Donald are friends and have known each other for years,” said Karla Amy, a family friend, adding that they are both single parents.
Smith had gone out that night to a car show in Collingwood when the house caught fire, said Cassidy Emmett, who lives across the street.
“The fire was somewhat vague at first but then a few minutes later, the whole house was engulfed in flames,” said Emmett. “In that time, you can only pray that everyone makes it out safely.”
Langille said Dominic and his stepbrother, James, both had autism.
“James and Dominic were separated at a very young age after their mother died seven years ago, when Dominic was very little,” said Langille. “Since then, I have been taking care of James.”
Amy created a GoFundMe page that has raised over $18,000 as of Saturday. She said the family doesn’t have house insurance and they are in need of anything the community can give.
“Being a single parent isn’t easy and starting from the bottom is tough,” she said.
Dominic was always “full of energy and full of life,” according to Cindy Baker, a school van driver for a local transportation company.
Baker said she picked up Dominic and drove him to school when he was 5 and 6 years old. She recalled he had a keen level of observation and loved to sing along to tunes like “Wheels on the Bus” that she played on the way to school.
“He was very curious in the van, just looking out the windows as we drove by at everything that was going on,” she said. “He was just such a sweet little boy. You could tell his dad just loved him and he loved his dad.”
CBC television personality and business woman Arlene Dickinson, who donated $5,000 toward the online fundraiser, tweeted on Thursday urging people to donate to the family.
“Tragic death of a 7yr autistic boy in fire near Stayner last night,” the tweet said. “Family devastated pls consider donating to help.”
A post-mortem examination has been scheduled. The fire marshal is still investigating what caused the fire.