The personal care home they have lived their elderly years is all but destroyed. Gone with it, up in the flames that towered from the High Street building for hours Thursday evening, are many of their prized possessions and life-long treasures.
However, luckily, the 21 residents at the Manor were in the eating area for supper when the fire alarm rang out. They were quickly evacuated, even before signs of eventual inferno that would engulf the large building became evident. An overnight fire, even if any of them had been dispersed throughout the building, would have made the evacuation much more difficult.
The residents were brought to a local church, and cared for while members of the Baie Verte Fire Department battled the blaze for hours on end. They had no view of the crowds that gathered to watch the fire or the concern over three large propane cylinders that led to the evacuation of about a dozen homes.
Inside the church, there were volunteers and representatives of different organizations there to care for them. People throughout the town dropped off necessities like blankets and food and offered any assistance that might be needed of them.
Concern across the country
Across the country in British Columbia, there was a different tone. Shirley Brien-Kelly was in a panic after seeing the first Facebook post about the fire. Living in Tumbler Ridge, the distance from her 92-year-old father, Bernard Brien, is difficult enough. She had spoken with him Thursday morning, as he took a break from making model boats in his room at the manor. She said the conversation was exciting as they spoke about plans for her visit this summer.
That talk did nothing later to provide reassurance from not knowing if he was OK. She called her twin sister Sharon Rice, who is also in B.C., shortly after hearing the news, and together they monitored social media updates. Reports everybody got out safe and sound, that they were all being cared for, did little to ease their stress.
Still today, Brien-Kelly is unnerved.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know what to think. I am on no sleep and stressed. It is so difficult.”
She eventually learned her father was with his niece, and safe like everybody else. He would later go to stay with his niece, awaiting details of where the 21 residents not staying with family or some other alternative would be placed.
“It’s a horrible, horrible thing,” Brien-Kelly said. “For a man his age, and I’m sure everybody feels the same way, what’s next?”
As details of placements are revealed — including disbursement to various facilities in other towns in the province — the worried daughter plans to take him back with her to live. Living in an unfamiliar place, away from family, will be too difficult for her dad, she said.
She told him she would do that, but it would take some time. She said he acknowledged, but she’s not sure he understands fully. In the meantime, she hopes he is placed in a facility with some of the others from Baie View Manor. That way, at least he has people he knows with him.
Thankful for all the community did for the residents — especially the emergency responders — she now hopes her dad can get past losing those prized possessions like his model boats.
Panic at home too
Elizabeth Shea was still working at the bank, when news of the fire at the home reached her. She raced off to check on her mother, Margerie Regular, who is 87 years of age and uses a walker to get around.
By the time she reached the manor, heart pounding, all residents were evacuated. Her mom was actually at a neighbour’s house because she could not get up the steps to the bus transporting residents to the church.
“She was going in with her walker, a pair of slippers on her feet, shuffling through mud and snow,” Shea said, now able to laugh at the memory.
That neighbour was one of the ones later evacuated during the fire, so she took her mom down to the church with everybody else. The spectacle of what was happening at the church was unbelievable, she said. After only a short time, tables were full of food and beverages and whatever anybody needed was there.
“It was amazing how the community worked together,” she said.
Shea is grateful her mother was not hurt, but also that she didn’t have to see the home in flames. Regular may be offered placement in a home in Grand Falls-Windsor, said her daughter. It is not ideal to be away from family, but she would be with friends from the manor.
“She said she is 87-years-old and it is the first time she doesn’t have a home to call her own, and that she doesn’t have a piece of clothes other than what she has on her back,” Shea said. “She is a bit upset because she has to leave her hometown, and a lot of them are.”
Local businesses were offering large discounts as she went shopping for her mother today. Also, the Canadian Red Cross was expected in the town to do assessments. She said there is expected to be vouchers available for clothing and necessities.
The loss of Baie View Manor leaves the town without a personal care home.“It’s a big, big loss for our community for sure,” she said. “It’s devastating to lose something so precious in our community.”