Neighbours are rallying around a Cowichan Valley resident who lost his home to a fire last month.
Peter Colyn’s trailer caught fire on Sept. 11, and is beyond repair. While he has already found a new place to live, it will cost him thousands of dollars to move the shell of the trailer out of the park where he has lived for 47 years — 46 of them in the same spot.
The 75-year-old Colyn has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leaving him with 25 per cent lung capacity, and as a result he is on oxygen. That doesn’t prevent him from taking care of himself, though.
“I still try to do all kinds of things,” he says. On Sept. 11, Colyn was working on the trailer with a torch, preparing to build a new roof he had saved up for. He believes a spark got into the wall and smouldered for hours before finally catching fire. He was doing dishes that afternoon when his neighbours yelled at him that they could see flames.
“I’ve been torching on this place for 47 years, probably, but one spark decided to hibernate for a little while, and poof,” he recalls.
The fire spread into the ceiling, where it did most of its damage. Most of the ceiling was destroyed, and about 5,000 gallons of water got into the floor as firefighters doused the blaze.
“It kind of really buggered up the living room and three quarters of the kitchen,” Colyn says.
Because the only source of heat in the trailer was a wood-burning stove, he was unable to get insurance. Until he can get the remnants of the trailer out of the park, he is paying rent on the pad and on the apartment he was fortunate to find soon after the fire and which he is currently moving into.
“It’s one in 1,000 that I got an apartment,” Colyn says. “Everything’s got a waiting list.”
Even better, Colyn is allowed to keep his cat at the new place. He’s been staying with his sister while he salvages what he can from the trailer and relocates. She tolerates the cat, he says, but she’s not used to it.
“She’s 92, and she’s a little bit fussy,” he explains with a grin. “She’s set in her ways.”
An avid reader, Colyn had about 3,000 books in the trailer and lost half of them to the flames and water. He’s limited to what he can have in his apartment, as well, and is sorting through what’s left to decide what to keep.
“He’s got many years of memories to go through,” says neighbour Deborah Helme, who has set up a GoFundMe account for Colyn and is helping him sell stuff on Facebook. She had already sold his washer, dryer, wheelbarrow and power saw, and was taking pictures of his air conditioner to post.
It will cost $5,000 at the very least to move the trailer off the pad, and Colyn will also need a bin to remove the garbage and damaged parts of the trailer, and any assistance is welcome. Donations are being accepted online.
For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.