It was 1989, when John Sanford, an aerial fire boss, was attacking a fire by helicopter near Lac La Biche, about 130 kilometers east of Edmonton.
The chopper went down, crashing in the remote area, leaving Sanford with crushed bones throughout one side of his body.
He was also left with the trauma that comes with such accidents and remains on disability.
Now unemployed and living in Ted Kuhn Towers at 102 Avenue and Old Yale Road and has a much more immediate fire to put out.
The bloodsucking parasites have infested the building for more than three years.
They come out at night, and feast on Sanford’s body. The B.C. Housing complex for low-income people is crawling with the bugs.
B.C. Housing has sprayed multiple times, but the parasites keep coming back.
Officials with B.C. Housing say that to rid the building of bedbugs, the spraying has to be executed throughout the tower. Some residents aren’t preparing their rooms properly, and spraying is incomplete.
The bugs just come back.
So at night, Sanford and the rest of the residents at Ted Kuhn crawl into bed knowing they will be feasted upon by the bugs.
The red welts on their bodies in the morning serve as proof.
Sanford said part of the problem is Surrey doesn’t have a Standards of Maintenance Bylaw similar to the ones in other Lower Mainland cities.
Mayor Dianne Watts said the city is working to develop such a bylaw.
“We’re looking at what other communities are doing, and our Social Planning Committee has undertaken that task,” Watts said.
First and foremost, she said, the tenants need to be looked after.
“But we want to make sure B.C. Housing doesn’t shirk their duties and not be responsible for their properties either,” Watts said. “It’s totally unacceptable, and it should be rectified immediately.”
Whatever pressure the city can apply, it will, she said.
Calls to B.C. Housing were referred to the housing ministry, which responded by email that it is doing whatever it can to rectify the problem.
“The appearance of bedbugs is becoming more common in private and public sector housing developments across North America, and we have developed a thorough and rigorous bedbug eradication program to address the issue,” the ministry spokesperson said in the email response. “We urge all tenants to follow the instructions and directions they are given so the problem can be eliminated. However like any landlord we cannot force tenants to comply with directions that will help prevent further recurrences of the problem.”
So, while the tenants point to the city and the city directs blame at B.C. Housing, which says the tenants are responsible, Sanford readies himself for another night being ravaged by parasites.