The victims of a massive downtown Nanaimo fire who lost their businesses are still trying to rebuild a month after the blaze took everything they’d worked for in a matter of hours.
Most have never been allowed back into the historic building at 10 Commercial Street that is now a burned out shell filled with debris, but the community’s efforts to help those people move on is helping lessen the heartbreak in a big way.
“It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing I mean what else can one say,” says artist Paul Fudge looking at the tower of donations for people burned out of 10 Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo.
Thanks to a massive fundraising effort from their community, with cash and a tower of new art supplies, artists who thought they’d lost everything are getting a chance to start over.
“Out of every really dark cloud comes a silver lining and the reaction of the community in support of us has been an amazing experience,” says Fudge.
15 businesses in all called the historic block home, when fire tore through it the night of March 30th. Ripping through the historic old Jean Burns building with a fury that’s left nothing to be salvaged. It’s also never been safe enough for anyone to return to their spaces to try and many were uninsured.
“We were not allowed to go upstairs afterward because they think there’s asbestos there, there’s lots of tar,” says artist Gerda Hofman.
“You can’t even go in there themselves past the door because there are these burnt timbers and what not. There is contamination,” says artist John Hofman.
So photos shot by the Nanaimo Department will have to give them the closure of a last look.
“It’s kind of a shrine now in downtown Nanaimo,” says Fudge.
“You will be tempted to say I wanna go in there and get that thing but he says no way,” says John Hofman.
And with this community’s help, they’re rebuilding.
Though they’re still struggling to find spaces to replace what they’ve lost though in this hot real estate market.
“We will just have to keep looking,” says Fudge.
Having lost so much they rightly feel they can now only stand to gain.