On Monday, Geoffrey Holland returned to the burnt-out shell of his former home in the Paddington Station condominium complex on 201A Avenue.
At a noon-hour meeting, the Langley City fire department had offered to help residents of the fourth floor, where the damage from the Sunday fire was the worst, to retrieve any valuables that survived the blaze.
Holland wasn’t allowed to go into his suite because the roof had collapsed into his living room.
But the firefighters who did, managed to find the electronic items he was asking for, and his hard-to-replace shoes and boots as well.
“They brought down everything (I asked for),” he said.
The 6’7″ Holland takes a size 16, so he was especially pleased to find his footwear had survived the flames because he had left the building wearing sandals.
His car is another story, however.
It was in the underground parking lot, and he has been told it is under four feet of water.
On the Sunday of the fire, Holland was at the Douglas Rec centre with the other evacuees, getting ready to rent a car to take himself and his dog to stay with his mother on the North Shore.
That was when a couple he’d never met before offered to give him a ride anywhere he needed.
So it was off to Wal-Mart in Langley, where he picked up dog food, dry socks and some other items of clothing.
Another person ended up driving him to the North Shore.
When he mentioned that he was looking for a CPAP machine, because the one he uses for his sleep apnea had been left behind in the fire, the woman who was driving offered a solution.
“My husband has one he doesn’t use,” the woman told him.
The machine was missing a mask, but that proved to be no problem, either, because Holland’s sister had gone on social media to mention her brother was in need of a machine.
A friend of the sister saw the message and drove to a parent’s place to pick up some spare masks, one of which fit perfectly.
On Monday, Holland was driving a rented SUV, after patiently explaining to the rental company that anything smaller simply wouldn’t fit.
Holland said the strata agent who manages Paddington Station has informed the residents that the building has enough insurance to completely rebuild, if necessary.
He said there was no estimate of how long that might take.
As for the many strangers who have helped Holland and the dozens of other residents displaced by the fire, he has just one thing to say.
“Thank you very much.”