Half of tenants displaced by Esquimalt apartment fire finally return home


“I’ve never been so happy to get back home in my whole life!” said Cathy Vares.

With new keys and stacks of months upon months of mail, residents of an Esquimalt apartment building ravaged by a fire are finally moving back in.

On April 7, flames quickly ripped through this Esquimalt apartment building. Crews scrambled to rescue the residents trapped on their fourth-floor balconies, but the blaze proved fatal by killing neighbor Judith Burke.

Since then for the many displaced tenants, where to stay and if they would ever be able to go home, has been up in the air.

“When you only got a few bags full, it’s not home, you know you’re living out a few suitcases, it’s just not home,” said Kevin Daniels.

“The uncertainty was the most difficult aspect of it,” said Imogen Cookie-Bailey.

But when emergency funding and provincial funding ran out, residents say Belmont Properties, the new owner of the apartment building, stepped up in a big way.

“They put every one of us in hotels and motels the entire time we were gone,” said Cathy Vares.

“If we had anybody else, we wouldn’t have had a roof over any of our heads.”

The company even offering a gift on move-in day.

“Holy smokes! A $250 Thrifty’s card!” said Daniels.

“That’ll help, that’ll help.”

And local advocacy groups can’t remember another time where a landlord has shown such generosity.

“It’s always great to hear that tenants are well taken care of. Of course, we want to see that in every situation. It sounds like the tenants are really happy here and I hope other landlords will emulate this,” said Emily Rogers with the Together Against Poverty Society.

For those living on the east side of the building where the fire originated, the wait could be still 6 months to a year to be able to move back in.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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