A last-minute decision to go and visit a friend likely saved Port Alberni resident Mary Brawn (Dick) from burning to death or being severely injured in a fire, she said.
Brawn and her daughter Rosemary were residents in a Falls Street fourplex that was heavily damaged by fire on Monday night. Brawn’s unit was among the two that suffered the most damage.
She stood crying outside the unit on Tuesday morning. Her residence was located only one metre in front of her. Pictures of her mother and daughter hung on a wall just inside the broken front window.
But the unit was behind yellow fire scene tape and she was unable to retrieve her belongings. “I just want some of my stuff. There’s pictures of my mom and Rose right there,” Brawn said. “I don’t have anything. All I have is the clothes on my back.”
Firemen from Port Alberni, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake brought the blaze under control within a half hour and remained on the scene until midnight mopping up. There were no fatalities or injuries reported, Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charlie Starratt said.
Two of the inside living units sustained heavy fire damage while the two corner units suffered only smoke and water damage. The investigation into the cause of the fire continues, Starratt said.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley told councillors that at least two residents are receiving assistance through emergency social services.
Brawn said she was dozing on her couch while watching television on Monday night. Her daughter had gone to visit someone and Mary was at home alone.
She debated on going to sleep but got up instead to go and visit a friend. By the time she got there someone called to say that her place was on fire.
Brawn said she rushed back only to find fire engines outside her burning complex. “I was so close to something bad happening – what if I went to sleep? The smoke could have got me,” Brawn said.
Brawn isn’t sure how much of her belongings she can salvage. “I just have the clothes I was wearing and I had to borrow my friend Ken’s shoes,” she said.
Brawn’s living unit is uninhabitable and she is without a place to live. A friend has offered to take her in for the time being until she gets more permanently settled, she said.
Edited to reflect Mary Dick’s married name (Brawn).