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Surrey woman says thieves stole sentimental items after fire

Esther Walls hoped to find her mother’s handwritten recipes
Esther Walls was shocked to find thieves had ransacked her former home after a fire. (Photo: Facebook)

A Surrey woman is “devastated” after not only losing her home, but discovering thieves have stolen sentimental items from her.

Esther Walls says she was given the opportunity to visit her burned out suite to see if there was anything salvageable.

“But thieves got in before we did,” she explained, adding, “What they didn’t steal they destroyed.”

Walls had hoped to find a small suitcase that contained her mother’s handwritten recipes. But it was gone.

“I went home and cried for hours,” she told the Now-Leader. “It sounds so stupid but that suitcase of recipes are all I had in my mother’s handwriting.”

Walls was among nine people left homeless after an early morning fire on Aug. 7.

She and eight other residents of a Surrey fourplex, near 103rd Avenue and 128th Street, awoke to find their home on fire. Twenty-three firefighters fought the two-alarm fire, but the home was destroyed.

The human residents all escaped, but three dogs died in the fire.

Walls said last Friday was the first chance she was given to return to her former home since the blaze.

“There’s stuff you can replace and there’s stuff you can’t replace,” she said. “And that’s the lesson: What really mattered to me wasn’t the new couch I’d bought or the new vacuum or anything else I’d purchased in the last year. It was the memories, the things I could never replace and get back. It just feels like, ‘Why don’t you just hit me again?’ I feel like I’ve been smacked down.”

It takes an “immoral” person to do such a thing, she added.

Walls said she now understands how people wildfire evacuees feel when thieves loot.

“They’d shoot you in the old days for doing that, I’m not saying people should be shot but I understand how devastating it is during these hard times.

“I’ve never done a cruel thing in my life to anybody,” she added. “Never been in trouble, always helped people, that’s the way I was raised. I would never, ever take from somebody let alone when they’re down, someone who is suffering.”

Luckily, Walls was able to get another item she had her heart set on, a memorial plaque of her cat Ollie’s paw print, who passed away a month before the fire.

And she also found a Grade 1 photo of her son.

Another positive turn is that Walls just signed a lease on Sunday for a new home, which she moves into on Sept. 1 with the help of her son.

Walls said she won’t bother with filing a police report, but that she’s left in awe of whoever took her items.

“It takes a special kind of person to steal from people who have already lost almost everything,” Walls said.