Bowen Island Fire Rescue hasn’t yet released the cause of a structure fire that devastated two households last week.
No people were in the house – which has an upstairs suite and a downstairs suite – but a beloved cat died when the Adams Road home caught fire in the early afternoon of Feb. 11.
Bowen Island Fire Rescue extinguished the fire and saved the structure itself but downstairs tenant John Yamashita and upstairs tenants Bob and Susan Pratt lost belongings and now need to find somewhere new to live given the severe damage to the house.
Yamashita is staying with friends for now but that can only last for so long. “My focus is on getting a rental,” said the islander of six years. “But Bowen’s market is just bare.”
For the Pratts, while the loss of so many of their things from over 50 years of marriage (and they don’t yet know what can be salvaged) is difficult, the most devastating loss is their six-year-old cat Kaiko.
“We’ve had lots of animals but never one like this,” said Susan. “She was almost like a person. She talked to us all the time.”
Friends have stepped up to help out the Pratts. “I’ve had I an outpouring of compassion from all through the community,” said Susan. “People I don’t even know.”
The Pratts have found a place to live for the time being but now need to find a long-term home.
The circumstances of losing one’s home during a pandemic have also made life more complicated for all involved.
The early response to the fire was thanks to some hawk-eyed neighbours.
Larry Morse was driving west on Adams Road. He knows the route well, having lived on Buchanan Road for the past six years. Glancing up what some call Josephine Ridge, he could tell something wasn’t right – there was unusual smoke. Morse slowed to make sure it wasn’t brush burning, common this time of year, and by the time he reached the Buchanan Road turn off, he’d decided he needed to check on the house.
Because of COVID-19, Brad Hawthorn has been working from home. His home office window looks east over the direct neighbour’s property. Just before 1:30 p.m. Thursday, he noticed a lot of smoke. “Smoke was actually coming out the roof vents and different places around the roof,” he said. “That’s the point where I realized there was a fire.”
Hawthorn threw on his shoes, ran out the door, clambered over the eight-foot fence between the properties and started banging on windows and doors. “Anywhere I could get at,” he recalled.
Morse had driven his truck up into the driveway and was banging on windows and doors on the other side of the house. By the time the two men met up, they’d figured there was no one inside and Morse called 911. Hawthorn called the owners of the home.
By that point other neighbours started to gather. One knew there was a cat inside and opened the kitchen door, hoping to allow the cat to escape. “The smoke coming out of it was really black, just a horrible, burning plastic or rubber kind of smoke coming out,” said Hawthorn. “So we…closed the door to try and keep the oxygen from getting in.”
Morse and Hawthorn estimated it was between five and ten minutes before the fire trucks came and the firefighters took charge.
The RCMP closed off the arterial Adams Road at first and once the fire was out, allowed one-lane traffic while cleanup was under way.