Tracy Dass’ first indication that something was wrong was a pounding on her bedroom wall.
“That’s how I woke up,” said the single mother of two young children.
Dass’ townhouse unit at the Fenstanton Place townhouse complex in Maple Ridge, was heavily damaged by smoke and water Tuesday, March 30, after a neighbouring townhouse went up in flames.
Dass sprang out of bed and raced down the stairs.
“All I saw was bright orange,” she explained.
After she took a couple more steps forward, all she could see was the orange and the propane tank at her outdoor fire pit.
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Dass then unlocked her front door and a 16-year-old neighbour rushed into her unit. They both ran up the stairs to the children’s bedrooms.
“We ran up the stairs, and it was completely filled with smoke. I opened my child’s bedroom door and I couldn’t see her face. I couldn’t see her at all. We grabbed the two kids,” said Dass.
They all ran outside.
Dass is still trying to process the series of events that has landed her and her two children, Linden, 10, and Rylee, five, into a temporary townhouse at the same complex, until hers is repaired.
However, Dass had no insurance and has lost everything.
A GoFundMe was started last week that has raised $2,805 for the family so far. And Dass it truly grateful.
She has purchased beds and a couch, and says she is not in any need for anything else right now. She won’t be thinking of replacing any of her household items until they move back into their unit again.
The only item she managed to salvage from her unit was her dining room table. All of their clothing is currently at a dry cleaner and she is unsure if it will be able to remove the smell.
She is also heartbroken that she lost her outdoor gazebo and patio furniture that took her a couple of years of saving to purchase.
“We don’t have much of a backyard so I wanted to build a gazebo and an outdoor living room. That’s all gone now,” she said.
And there is also the loss of the irreplaceable family photographs and important documents.
At around 3 a.m. on Tuesday Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue raced to the fire. Assistant fire chief James Clelland recalled heavy smoke and flames spewing out a patio door on the main floor area at the rear of one of the units.
It took 25 firefighters about 15 to 20 minutes to knock down the blaze.
Clelland credited working fire alarms for saving the lives of the mother and her two young children inside.
However, Dass claims, neither her fire alarm, nor the fire alarm next door went off in a timely manner.
She said her neighbour’s fire alarm in the unit where the fire took place, didn’t go off until the house was nearly engulfed. And hers didn’t sound until water from firefighter’s hoses hit the flames. Something that she finds difficult to comprehend since it goes off regularly when she boils eggs or soup, and also because there are regular smoke alarm inspections.
Mike Kowalchuk, Dass’ ex-partner and the father of her children, heard about the fire when Dass called him at about 5 a.m. and he picked the children and took them back to his house in Richmond until Dass could figure out her living situation.
Dass and Mike are thankful that the outcome wasn’t worse.
Just outside their daughter’s bedroom the fire destroyed everything and inside the smoke was so thick, that Dass believes her daughter’s room would have caught fire next.
Dass is waiting to hear what caused the fire. She was told by the fire department they have ruled out electrical or arson as causes of the fire.
Her biggest concern immediately after the fire was getting her children into a stable environment.
“Because a mother without a roof over their child’s head is a very scary feeling,” said Dass.
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