'He absolutely adored Avery': Dad, daughter mourned after northern Alberta house fire

Haley Baker and her family moved to Plamondon, Alta. for a new start on life.

But nine days after settling in to the hamlet 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Baker is facing a future she never expected after her fiancé, Nathan Payette, and their two-year-old daughter, Avery Baker, died in a house fire.

Payette is credited with trying to save the toddler from the blaze on June 15th.

“Nathan woke up and the house was full of smoke,” said Michele McCormick, a friend of the family.

“He told Haley to get onto the floor and crawl on her stomach to the door, and she didn’t make it.

“Considering his lungs would have been full of smoke, he pulled her out and he tried to throw her away from the house. And he ran back into the flames and smoke to get the baby. And they were found together in the baby’s bedroom.”

Payette, 23, is being remembered as a “gentle giant,” with a love for fishing, camping and hunting — and an even greater love for his family.

“He absolutely adored Avery with every ounce of his being,” McCormick said. Avery wasn’t his biological daughter, but Payette always called her his “little girl.”

“If anyone looks at any Facebook picture and sees the two of them together, it’s like the whole world shines out of both of their eyes.”

Haley Baker (right) survived a house fire that killed her fiancé, Nathan Payette, and their daughter, Avery Baker, on June 15, 2019. (Michele McCormick/Facebook)

Payette and Baker had been dating for about a year before getting engaged and moving to Plamondon, McCormick said.

Payette grew up in Grande Cache. A funeral service will be held there this week.

“When Haley comes back on Tuesday, I think she’s going to feel overwhelmed by how much love and support she’s going to get,” McCormick said.

The whole town is stepping up to support Baker, 19, who is still recovering from the fire, McCormick said. She hopes the same support will be extended to Payette’s mother, who has been devastated by the loss of her son.

“He’s his mom’s hero,” she said. “No one should have to bury their child. No one.

“My heart is broken for this family.”

A friend has started a GoFundMe page to support both sides of the family.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the fire, McCormick said.

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