An early morning fire Friday, Oct. 5, left more than two dozen people spending the Thanksgiving long weekend in a hotel and wondering how to rebuild their lives.
A home, a car, and all their belongings — 18 years worth a life together — were lost inside the York Street home of Raymond and Delilah Johnston, where neighbour Angel Jack said the blaze began.
But they were safe.
“We were all sleeping and I heard my neighbour yell ‘fire!’ and I woke all my kids up and ran out,” Jack explained Tuesday morning.
Jack, her husband and their five kids — including a newborn — fled along with another neighbour, Catherine Gee, and her family.
North Cowichan Fire Department-South End chief Rob MacDowell said his crew of 16 firefighters got to the building around 2:15 a.m. to see approximately 25 people standing across the street from the burning sixplex.
It was the largest residential fire in the region since the Parkland Place apartment fire in June.
“They had all escaped and were in the parking lot of B.C. Ambulance, and paramedics and RCMP and RCMP Victims Services came and looked after them,” MacDowell said.
Sybille Sanderson, the CVRD’s emergency services program coordinator confirmed the families were put up in a hotel until Tuesday.
Now they must scramble to find another place to live.
“That’s the challenge,” Sanderson said.
As for the fire, “when we arrived on scene there were flames coming out of both windows front and back and downstairs front and back,” MacDowell said. “It was only the one unit that was involved and two units to the right and left of it were heavy with water and smoke damage,” he added.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
“We don’t know the cause yet. The investigator is going to be coming in [Tuesday or Wednesday] to do an investigation on it.
Firefighters were finished their job and packed up around 5:30 a.m.
The real work is just beginning, however, for the families left devastated by the fire.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help.
“We are heartbroken and needing lots of prayers and anything helps,” Gee said on her Facebook page.
“We lost everything in the building,” Jack said on her Facebook page. “I just feel so bad, my kids just keep asking when can we go home. I just feel so hurt right now. I don’t know what we are going to do…”