Firefighters on scene in South Surrey Monday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

COLUMN: Sense of community found after fire

Peace Arch News reporter explains aftermath of fire that displaced seven, including himself

The past decade, I’ve reported on a number of fires that were enough to put residents into a whirlwind of uncertainty, as they scrambled to find a place to sleep for the night, and every night thereafter.

It’s impossible not to feel empathetic for their situation.

This week, even more so.

Sitting in the bedroom of my rental home Monday – where I’ve lived since becoming a Peace Arch News reporter nearly two years ago – I picked up a faint smell of burning plastic.

Unusual, but I knew my landlord was cooking. I could hear the sound of oil sizzling in the pan.

The sizzle was followed by the sound of her screams.

A fire had started in one of the bedrooms upstairs. By the time we noticed, it was too late. Black smoke billowed under the door. The handle was hot and a cloud hung above our heads.

I could hear, but not see, as the crackling fire tore through the room.

The homeowner rushed water buckets up the stairs. I lost sight of her, though she was only an arm’s length away.

It was not a battle worth fighting. I grabbed her and we went outside to wait for the Surrey Fire Service.

As fire crews rushed the house, RCMP officers made sure nobody was left behind.

We were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, given oxygen, X-rays and blood work, and they monitored us. For hours.

Everything checked out, but it became apparent that seven of us – including three home-stay students – were displaced. The house on 17 Avenue is now boarded up. Nobody is allowed inside, not even to get personal items.

Kudos to the RCMP for staying in touch with us throughout – not only to understand what happened, but to make sure we were looked after. I tip my hat to the paramedics; they provided much-needed light to a traumatic situation. And, of course, props to the firefighters, who were there in minutes.

Every responder showed genuine concern for our health, our home and our future.

Luckily, my landlord has family nearby. The other tenants found temporary accommodation, their long-term future uncertain.

My friends – without hesitation – offered me space. In a matter of minutes, four beds were available. Fortunately, I had planned to move to a new building on June 1. Explaining my situation to my new landlord Tuesday, I was given the keys.

Since Monday, I’ve been bombarded with offers of help from friends, colleagues and family members. Evan, Brighton, Kayla, Sabrina, Julia and Derek were there for support, and some have already delivered furniture for my new place. The long list includes work contacts and others in Ontario, Vancouver Island and Alberta.

Rachel, a tenant in my new building, heard the news. I’ve spoken to her once. When I went to unlock my new apartment Tuesday, there was a bag of essentials hanging from the door. Heartwarming, indeed.

This has made me realize that when someone is displaced – a situation that I’ve written about before and, with regret, will again – it’s not the “stuff” that makes the biggest impact. It’s the community support.

I’m lucky, and I’m home.

Thank you.

Aaron Hinks is a Peace Arch News reporter.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

Visit us at peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Surrey couple visits the Philippines each year to give back to wife’s former village

Nissa and Bob Clarkson give toys to children, provide medical-dental missions

Surrey mom says Liberal budget falls short in helping people with autism

Louise Witt, whose son has autism, says budget provisions like ‘putting a Band-Aid on a cancer’

Upbeat White Rock concert blends ecology, history

The Wilds and Tiller’s Folly raise ‘Voices for the Salish Sea’

South Surrey mother guilty of second-degree murder in death of daughter

Lisa Batstone ‘took seven decades of Teagan’s life’

STRONG, PERSEVERING AND PROUD: Surrey Pride celebrates 20 years with biggest party yet

PART ONE: A special series on the past, present and future of our LGBTQ+ community

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vancouver-bound transit bus involved in fatal crash near Seattle

One man was killed and a woman injured in crash with bus purchased by TransLink

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

98-year-old cyclist in critical condition after struck by car in Abbotsford

83-year-old driver stayed on scene and did not suffer any injuries in the incident

Most Read