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Citadel family faces stream of bylaw complaints after house fire

The night before the fire, the Marshes were a family of four – plus their six pets – and all together under one roof.

But then, early in the morning on July 15, a fire started in the garage of their Citadel home, and the compromises and strains of the following months would scatter them.

"We had four dogs, a cat and a bunny," said Robert Marsh, laughing.

"Yes, it was a handful and a houseful."

The fire destroyed the attached garage of their Citadel home and cut into the main-floor living area.

The house can be saved, but the costly renovation has much of it gutted down to the studs.

Unable to find a home for the whole family and their pets, Marsh took a trailer they'd bought in the summer and parked it in the driveway of the vacant home to live with the dogs while his wife and kids stayed at a hotel.

But soon complaints started coming in to City of Calgary bylaw enforcement – the RV was parking for more than 36 hours, the tongue of the trailer was hanging over the driveway a little, the temporary electrical box in the garage by the insurance company's contractor wasn't exactly to code, the protective fencing wasn't properly secured.

Marsh says most neighbours have been very supportive and understanding of the family’s situation, knowing it is temporary.

But someone has called bylaw again and again, and that has some other neighbours upset.

"Somebody who loses their home in a house fire and (is) having to live in a trailer on their driveway in the winter months, people should absolutely have no problem with it," said Ranya Assaf, who lives two doors down.

"If you have a problem with it, you're just kicking someone when they're low."

The Marshes have been forced to re-home two of their dogs.

The cat and rabbit are now living with another neighbour in Citadel.

Mom Julia and their 17-year-old son are in a hotel for now.

Their teenage daughter is attending school out of province.

The family applied to the city for relief from the bylaw issues on compassionate grounds a month ago, but the city is still reviewing the application.

A traffic enforcement officer was at the home again on Thursday.

"We recognize the impact that the fire has had on the family and empathize with their situation," the city said in a statement.

"The residents have applied for a recreational vehicle permit, which would allow the RV to stay parked where it is beyond the typical timeframe under our bylaw (the bylaw currently allows RVs to be parked for 36 hours maximum).

"However, the city has received a number of complaints from the community, and we are reviewing the issues to ensure that we are balancing compassion for the residents with the overall safety for the community, before we can make a determination on the permit."

Renovations will move forward once cost estimates and contractor bidding is complete – a process required by the family's insurer.

"We'll look after the family first and foremost," said Marsh.

"This can always be rebuilt, right? And the community – Citadel – has been fantastic." Top Stories

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