It was a dramatic scene when firefighters arrived at the Hillview apartments in Merville, north of Courtenay Tuesday morning.
The upper half of the eight-unit complex was engulfed in flames.
Minutes earlier, Amber Foster a resident of the building had helped an elderly man to safety. He’d been overcome by the smoke and was still inside when Foster heard someone screaming there was a fire.
“The door was already open and the smoke was just coming out like crazy and it was just awful so I just grabbed a fire extinguisher and went down on my knees and just started spraying as much as I could screaming for them to come out,” said Foster.
She and 11 other residents are now being cared for by Emergency Social Services.
Foster says she’s had nightmares about trying to get to the bedroom where a woman she knows wasn’t answering her calls.
“I couldn’t hear anything but I did see a fire from under the bedroom door and I knew at that point that probably she had not made it,” added Foster.
She then turned her attention to the woman’s long-time partner, whom Foster says is like a father to her. She thinks he was lying on the couch and quickly being overcome by the thick, acrid smoke.
“After spraying and everything for about ten minutes and me being covered in smoke and soot for crawling in there he came out and between about three of us managed to be able to drag him out,” said Foster.
On Wednesday the RCMP and a coroner were at the building investigating but there’s still no word on the cause of the fire.
It’s believed the blaze started in the couple’s apartment.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to assist the displaced residents who have lost everything.
“Just something to help them out anything from toiletries to medications to clothing or even to simply get a down deposit for another place to be able to rent,” said Sarah Cameron who started the fundraiser.
The elderly man remains in hospital but is expected to recover.