Simon Warner was one of more than 200 people who were forced to suddenly flee their homes in the middle of the night on Friday as a fire tore through two condo complexes along Brown Avenue and 121 Avenue.
“I was just watching TV with my son,” he recalled. And when his wife called them over to the other room because of a fire, Warner said that he thought his wife was overreacting, but quickly realized there was a very real danger.
“It was literally raining fire,” he said. “Pieces of debris were falling all in the streets and on the cars.”
It was a sight that he had never seen outside of movies and TV shows.
“We were in shock for a few seconds and then realized that we better get out,” said Warner.
At that moment, an RCMP officer banged on their door, letting them know that they had to evacuate immediately.
Warner grabbed his wife and five kids and left their home, which sits across the street from the condos that were largely destroyed by the fire.
They headed to the Maple Ridge branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, along with dozens of other families, where the displaced residents were temporarily sheltered until the Greg Moore Youth Centre opened up as an emergency shelter at approximately 2 a.m.
Warner and his family joined dozens of other locals at the youth centre who were tended to by Canadian Red Cross regional manager Sarina MacDonell and her team.
“We had about 20 families that registered with us in the early morning,” explained MacDonell. “As of right now, we have five families.”
“This has been a really resilient community. The majority of people have friends or family or insurance that they can turn to, so we only had a small number of people stay with us last night.”
MacDonell and her team provided help to the displaced residents in many different forms.
“We made sure that they have accommodations and somewhere safe to go, food, and clothing,” she said. “We also provide emotional support and other tools and resources that can help connect them with other agencies to ensure that all of their emergency needs are met.”
Several local businesses and organizations have also come forward offering help for the affected residents, according to Maple Ridge councillor Ahmed Yousef.
“Mary Robson, executive director of the Friends in Need Food Bank is heading over to the youth centre to see what can be done,” said Yousef. “Lisa Craik’s brokerage firm and Dave Sheppard from Haney Appliance and Sound have also reached out. Dave is offering an 80-inch screen and projector for the families.”
It is unclear just how long Warner and the other families will have to seek temporary shelter, as the full extent of the damage is not yet known.
However, Warner said that his home was one of the luckier properties near the blaze.
“I have seen the house, so I know it’s still standing, but who knows about damage to the roof, but that’s a minor thing,” he said.
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