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New West man loses almost everything in "devastating" condo fire

Online fundraiser launched to help resident who didn’t have content insurance

Alex Vanstone went to his soccer game on Saturday – only to return home a couple of hours later to find his condo had been destroyed by fire.

Vanstone is a resident in the London Place complex at 836 12th St., which caught on fire just after 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. He said witnesses told him the fire was started by a barbecue, but New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services told the Record it’s still investigating where and how the fire originated.

“It’s been a super tough year for me,” he said. “My dad died two months ago. It’s terrible.”

Vanstone, who bought his loft unit in the building six years ago, said he was told eight units were affected by the fire, with his sustaining the most damage. An initial assessment suggests his unit is structurally sound – aside from the patio – but the contents and interior were badly damaged by smoke and water, as well as firefighting techniques used to stop the fire from spreading to more units in the complex.

“It’s a salvage operation of anything I can salvage,” he said.

Vanstone, who didn’t have contents insurance, lost one item of particular sentimental value in the fire – a painting from his grandma. A contractor told him it’s likely to be at least a year before his unit is repaired and he can return to his home.

“The whole entire apartment has to be gutted – the walls, floors, ceilings. A new roof – the whole roof is going to be taken down,” he said. “You can literally see through the wall to (my neighbour’s) apartment.”

Returning home from his soccer game on Saturday afternoon, Vanstone could see smoke billowing near his condo.

“It was a pretty devastating moment,” he told the Record.

A couple of days after the fire Vanstone was escorted into his suite to retrieve necessities – and that’s when he saw the destruction firsthand.

“The living room is pretty well gone. When I first went in I thought maybe I could save my couch – I have a really nice couch,” he said. “I talked to the restoration guy. He said, ‘I wouldn’t take a single thing out of this apartment.’”

New Westminster’s acting fire Chief Erin Williams said the Emergency Social Services program found hotel accommodations for 13 people who were displaced by the fire. Vanstone went to stay with his mom, who lives a few blocks away in Burnaby.

“Her roommate just moved out,” he said. “I guess I am the roommate now.”

That living arrangement works in the short-term, but Vanstone said he’ll have to figure out what to do next.

“She is going to need the money of a roommate and I’m not going to have it, so I’m probably going to have to go up north and work in a camp or something,” said Vanstone, who is a sprinkler fitter. “At least I have that option.”

For now, he’s busy washing all the clothes he retrieved from his condo in an effort to remove the stench of smoke and he’s sorting out what comes next to repair his unit. He said his living room is destroyed, his bedroom is badly damaged, his kitchen has sustained water and smoke damage, and his patio is charred and is no longer structurally sound.

“It’s depressing,” he said.

According to Vanstone, the strata has insurance that covers the building’s structure. He’s awaiting more information about the cause of the fire to see if the owners of the unit where the fire started have insurance that may cover his unit – a unit he’s spent six years renovating and working to make his home.

Vanstone’s brother has set up a GoFundMe campaign (Apartment Fire Alex Vanstone – 12th Street) with the goal of raising $7,500 to help him.

“I am not even working right now. It is kind of devastating,” he said. “It’s all gone. The bed and bed frame, the couch, TV, wall mounts, dressers. Everything.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus
Email tmcmanus@newwestrecord.ca

 

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