Cries for “help” startled Janine Dollman as she sat in her one bedroom apartment inside Carroll Court March 23.
She looked outside her balcony and saw plumes of smoke.
“So I go to my hallway, and about a foot down from the ceiling, you could see the black smoke,” Dollman related.
It wasn’t long before flames started rolling out of her neighbour’s door.
Dollman escaped the building with her cat still stuck inside.
Luckily, Dollman’s beloved tabby survived.
“When I got out, I started coughing. I had (the effects of) smoke inhalation, coughing up blood for the remainder of the week,” Dollman said.
By the time she was outside the 52-year-old complex in Langley City, Dollman could see flames shooting up to the top of the building from the second floor.
She thought her home of three-and-a-half years was gone.
The fire damage was extensive, destroying six units at Carroll Court, 5630 201A St.
After the incident, Dollman was put up in a hotel and returned to her apartment a week later.
On Dec. 5, Dollman, along with residents of Carroll Court and the neighbouring Merton Court, was informed that the two apartment buildings are slated for demolition, tentatively on April 1, 2017.
In a notice, property owner Linda Wu said insurance assessments over the past several months revealed the extensive extent and scope of the damages.
“Unfortunately,” Wu said in the notice, “this is beyond our means of repair.”
In the interim, Wu will continue to operate the two buildings until Feb. 28, since that is the last day of insurance coverage.
The City has received a demolition permit application, noted Gerald Minchuk, Langley City’s director of development services and economic development.
The news shocked Dollman.
“They kept telling us they were going to rebuild it, that it was going to be renovated,” Dollman said. “In fact, the fellow that lived on the bottom floor, he moved across the hall from me and he was waiting for them to rebuild so he could go back to his suite.”
Dollman thought it was a red flag when she saw property surveyors at the buildings.
“I was asking questions,” she said.
She had a “funny feeling that it was all about asbestos removal.”
“And I thought, if they do that they’d have to kick us all out,” Dollman said.
She didn’t expect the letter, “especially before Christmas.”
Now, she’s scrambling to find a place to live on a limited income. Dollman is on disability, at $983 a month, and she was paying $600 a month rent at Carroll Court, she told the Times.
“All bachelors in Langley seem to be at $800 (month),” Dollman said. “I suffer from a deadly allergy to sulphites so I can’t use the food bank. So that’s all my food money, basically, gone.”
Dollman isn’t happy with the way the information was communicated.
“I felt they led us all astray. I had kind of figured out what was going on but there were others who didn’t have a clue.”
She bristles at some of the comments made by some on social media about the kind of people who live in the two buildings.
“To me, we’re not tenants. This is the first place I’ve lived at that’s been almost like Melrose Place,” Dollman said. “It’s a community. I’ve made amazing friends here — best friends. There’s been bad stuff, but there’s been good stuff, too. You are going to find bad stuff everywhere you go.”
She continued, “We’re not low-class. I suffer from mental illness, plus multiple other things, but I used to work at CBC for 15 years.”
Concern for her future exacerbates the severe anxiety Dollman already suffers. “Both of my parents have passed, my sister doesn’t drive and she lives in Burnaby. That’s it.
“That’s all I have. I’m having a hard time with this.”