Victims of Surrey apartment fire try to rebuild their lives

GoFundMe pages set up for those who lost everything after being burned out of their Surrey homes

  • Aug. 25, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Delview Secondary School teacher Vlad Nikic

John Colebourn, Vancouver Sun

For the past 10 years Delview Secondary School teacher Vlad Nikic has always been there for his students in the classroom and on the basketball court.

The popular teacher is often still at school well into the evening — and his positive energy as a coach has helped him year after year pull together a senior boys basketball team that is a contender at the high school provincial finals.

Nikic now knows what his efforts mean to both his colleagues, students and long list of former students from the North Delta school as he tries to rebuild his life only days after being burned out of his Surrey condominium.

Nikic lost everything in the late Saturday fire at the Celeste building at 82 Avenue and 121A Street and through the efforts of friend and colleague Noah Choy, a GoFundMe page has been set up.

Since the fire Saturday night fire the fund for Nikic has already had more than $9,200 in pledges.

Choy a teacher at Delview said when they heard about the fire at Nikic’s condominium complex they knew they had to do something. “He suspects everything is a writeoff,” said Choy. “He hasn’t even been able to go back into the building,” said Choy.

About the only lucky part of the loss is that Nikic had his computer and all his school material already back at the school as he prepares for basketball season and lessons in the classroom.

When the GoFundMe page for Nikic went up, Choy said the response was amazing. “That is more a testament of the teacher he is,” said Choy of the donation total. The GoFundMe link is: https://www.gofundme.com/coachnikic

SURREY, BC: August 21, 2016 -- Firefighters investigate an apartment fire on 121A Street in Surrey, B.C. Sunday August 21, 2016. The blaze has displaced residents and their pets from the four-storey complex that took overnight to extinguish. (photo by Ric Ernst / PNG) (Story by John Colebourn) TRAX #: 00044740A [PNG Merlin Archive]

Firefighters investigate an apartment fire on 121A Street in Surrey. Ric Ernst / PNG

Rupinder Kahlon, 31, was renting his apartment at the Celeste from his sister. “Now I’m looking for a new place,” he said on Tuesday. So far he has not been allowed back into his first-floor suite.

“They won’t let us take anything out,” he said.

One of his headaches right now is having his car stuck in the underground parkade at the apartment complex. “My biggest problem right now is my car,” he said. “I borrowed a car from my friend. We don’t know yet if our cars are damaged.”

Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne said most of the residents at the Celeste had home insurance. But he has also heard they may be out of their homes for a long time.

“My understanding is about 10 per cent did not have proper insurance,” he said of the fire victims. ”The building is severely damaged and residents have been told it could be a two years before they are back in,” he added.

Hayne said the Canadian Red Cross, the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) and City of Surrey social services workers have done a commendable job in housing and helping the fire victims. “They did an incredible job,” he said of the people who have been working hard to help the fire victims. “It is a terrible event and they really stepped up.” About 16 families need additional hotel housing and Hayne said they will be given free housing until Aug. 29 and then a further evaluation will be made. “Everybody is being taken care of,” he said.

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schumann said they are not part of the investigation as the fire does not appear to be criminal in nature. “They believe it is not suspicious,” he said of the fire department’s initial investigation of the fire.

Surrey fire department assistant chief Chris Keon said the fire appeared to have been caused by careless smoking.

“It is still under investigation,” he said of the fire. “We believe it may be some smoking materials,” he said of the cause. “It is our understanding there has been a history of smoking on that deck.”

“The building is very badly damaged,” he said of the strata-title complex.

These are the other GoFundMe links for the Celeste fire victims in Surrey.

They are: https://www.gofundme.com/2dxqrqha

https://www.gofundme.com/2nrmwts4

https://www.gofundme.com/2kxxuujc

https://www.gofundme.com/25s66957

https://www.gofundme.com/youcantburnali

jcolebourn@postmedia.com

Click here to read more stories from the Vancouver Sun.

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