Amber Foster is pictured with 12-year-old Kohen Ballance at the Travelodge Courtenay — their temporary home after a fire damaged their apartment complex in Merville. Scott Stanfield photo

Senior loses his wife and all his possessions in Comox Valley apartment fire

A Comox Valley pensioner lost his common-law wife and most of his possessions, and wound up in hospital with smoke inhalation following a Tuesday fire at his apartment building.

Len Brown, 76, lived in the top floor of Merville’s Hillview Apartments, which went up in flames around 11:40 a.m., Oct. 8.

Amber Foster, who has lived in the bottom of the complex for seven years with her mother, Laura Mitchell, was outside the building when the fire broke out. She heard screaming from a neighboring unit, then saw smoke billowing from the top floor.

RELATED: One person dead as fire ravages Merville apartment

“I grabbed a fire extinguisher (from a bystander) and ran upstairs, and ran into the fire and started going as quick as I could,” Foster said. “I could see the fire coming from underneath the bedroom, and I knew that Charlotte had not made it. But I knew that Len was still in there.”

A number of neighbours appeared on scene, and helped Foster retrieve Brown from his unit.

“I could hear him, so we started screaming for Len. It was absolutely horrifying what I saw. Finally, we saw his head peak out. We managed to drag him out the rest of the way, and then drag him down the stairs.”

Foster said the fire started in Brown’s apartment.

“He was in the fire for probably about 15 minutes.”

Foster was also hospitalized for smoke inhalation. She and Mitchell are among the displaced tenants of the eight-unit building who have been put up at the Travelodge Courtenay.

“Charlotte was an awesome person,” Foster said. “Lovely woman. She would help out anyone.”

Mitchell considered 64-year-old Charlotte to be her sister.

“She saved him (Len) because she screamed for him to wake up,” Mitchell said. “She was my best friend in the world. We always used to talk about being sisters because we’re so much alike…I talked to the coroner, and I asked him, ‘Please tell me she didn’t burn to death.’ He said, ‘No, she wouldn’t have. It was smoke first.’ I’m grateful for that, if you can be grateful for anything.”

She’s also grateful that her daughter wasn’t hurt while she tried to extinguish the fire.

“I had to keep grabbing her arm, and she wouldn’t stop,” Mitchell said. “Her face was all black with soot. It was hopeless.”

Mitchell said Brown, who lost his two sons several years ago, has lost everything.

“He’s really scared right now,” she said. “We’re the only family he has. He’s a really nice, nice man. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

“It’s really tough because he’s like my father,” Foster added. “He’s having a really hard time.”

READ ALSO: Four people transported to hospital in three-alarm Greater Victoria blaze

READ ALSO: Gofundme created for Nanaimo house fire victims

A top-floor tenant, 12-year-old Kohen Ballance, was at school when the fire broke out.

“I was in shock at what happened,” Kohen said. “I saw my mom. She was crying. I couldn’t take it, she couldn’t take it.”

They, too, are at the Travelodge.

“A lot of water damage in my room,” Kohen said. “Most of the burn was in the living room, and some in my room.”

Foster said government is paying for three days accommodation at the hotel.

“We also have the Red Cross coming to help us out.”

A Go Fund Me page has been initiated to raise money to help the displaced tenants.



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Colwood school’s mascot embarks on cross-country journey

‘Dusty’ the Eagle will visit 15 schools and one wildlife rehabilitation centre

Canada Post aware of ongoing email, text phishing scams

Scammers pretending to be Canada Post will ask for personal and payment information

Suicide rates not impacted by seasons

While men are three times more likely to commit suicide, women have higher rates of depression

Stegemann: bear witness to the beginnings of a six-decade honeymoon

Who needs fancy accommodations, food and other luxuries when you have the one you love?

VIDEO: Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Ontario confirms second presumptive coronavirus case in wife of first patient

Both arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

Sidney woman promises to pay back anonymous donor who covered her back rent

Zora Hlevnjak faced eviction after refusing to repay money earned collecting cans

VicPD says circumstances around missing teen are ‘high-risk’

Arianna McKenzie last seen in Centennial Square

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Most Read