One of the people who lost their home to a fatal fire in Willoughby last week said most of the surviving tenants have lost everything, and are scrambling to find a new place to stay.
James Wilson was one of five people living in the home in the 20600 block of 74B Avenue when fire broke out around 2:30 a.m.
Wilson had gone out to the store just before the fire, but four other residents were inside. One, a man named Willy with severe COPD, died in the fire.
“Willy, the gentleman who passed on, his oxygen tanks were a factor,” said Wilson. He believes the fire started in or near Willy’s upstairs room, and the tanks later exploded, blasting open the roof.
Wilson’s friend Shannon Edgington was the most seriously injured of the survivors.
She suffered a back injury when jumping from a second storey window to escape the flames and remains in a trauma centre at Royal Columbian Hospital.
A GoFundMe campaign started by a friend is trying to raise money for Wilson and Edgington.
Campaign organizer Lisa Reid wrote that Edgington suffered serious harm from her jump from the window
“She will require a back brace and an undetermined amount of time in physical therapy to heal two broken vertebrae,” Reid wrote.
Wilson said another man also jumped from a second-storey window, but survived with scrapes and bruises. He was taken to Langley Memorial Hospital to be checked out and later released, said Wilson.
Wilson and Edgington and the other survivors lost almost everything in the fire, including their jobs, Reid wrote.
The two had been working for the property owner to repair the home and clear and spruce up the grounds.
“They just completed extensive repairs to the rear deck, as well as multiple household repairs that were needed,” Reid wrote. “They were in the process of cleaning the property, and removing a massive tree and mounds of overgrown blackberry bushes.”
The pair had also been asked to look at removing more trees and building a new fence, potentially a few months worth of work.
“Now neither of them have a place to live, the work prospects gone, and they are in need of immediate assistance while they search for a new residence and employment,” Reid wrote.
She said the GoFundMe would help them find a new place to live and aid in getting them needed clothing, personal items, replacement personal ID documents, and food.
Wilson said the survivors have a couple of days left of hotel housing supplied by the Red Cross, but after that they’re out in the cold.
“We’re trying to stick together so we can pool our resources,” he said.
A box of photos was recovered by firefighters from the scene, and have sustained water damage. He’s not sure how many are salvageable.
Fire investigators were going through the ruins of the home the day of the fire, with the Langley RCMP and B.C. Coroners Service taking part in the investigation, but an official cause of the blaze had not been released. The cause is not thought to be suspicious.
The GoFundMe had raised $669 of its $5,000 goal as of Monday.