‘We’re basically homeless’: Residents of North Cowichan fire still in limbo a month later

'We're basically homeless': Residents of North Cowichan fire still in limbo a month later
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Dozens of residents who were sent running from their burning apartment building remain in limbo one month after the devastating blaze.

Victims of North Cowichan’s Lewis Street Apartment fire say they feel as much in limbo now as when flames burst from their building and sent them running for their lives on December 31.

“We’re living day-by-day,” said Barry Hall, a former resident of Lewis Apartments. “We’re basically homeless. We have tonnes of stuff in our apartments that we can’t retrieve.”

For a month now, residents have been receiving emergency accommodations from local governments at a Chemainus hotel as they try desperately to find new apartments.

According to Steve Gladman, finding new rentals they can afford, however, is proving impossible since most have been paying $700 per month in the building for years.

“I’ve looked everywhere, all the way up and down the Island,” said Gladman, a former resident. “Nothing underneath $1,000.”

“The rent is so high,” said another former resident, Elaine Thompson. “A lot of us can’t afford it.”

Since the incident last month, Lewis Apartments has been condemned due to the fire damage and asbestos.

Hazmat expert, Peter Anderson, told CHEK News, it is a dangerous and sad scene inside.

“Very hot, moldy and everything is fairly water damaged,” said Anderson.

Only two of the 34 units were covered by renters insurance.

Next week, Anderson and his team will enter the units with wishlists from residents of what they want to be saved, with a strict limitation that items have to fit in two ft by two ft box.

For one resident, Melissa Winter, she is hoping to salvage photos.

“My pictures of my kids,” said Winter.

“Everything from the day they were born to now,” she said.

According to residents, they are still waiting to learn the cause of the fire, though investigators suspect it ignited in the suite of the man who died.

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