Frozen water had formed a slick sheet of ice on the living room floor of Geoffrey Holland’s fourth-floor suite at the fire-damaged Paddington Station building in Langley City.
“It was slippery,” Holland said. “They had to bring pieces of carpet in (for me) to walk on.”
Holland’s Tuesday morning visit was the first time the Langley man had been inside the unit since the Dec. 11 fire that destroyed the top floor of the building on 201A Street near 56 Avenue and left dozens homeless.
Residents were being allowed to make escorted trips, as crews have begun tearing out the damage.
Holland was required to wear a hard hat and steel-toed shoes.
He said much of the roof to his unit was gone, leaving it open to the elements.
There was a strong smell of mould.
“That was the worst part, probably,” he said.
Possessions ‘absolutely trashed’
Most of his possessions were ruined beyond recovery, including almost 14,000 CDs and DVDs that he was storing for his online sales business.
“Absolutely trashed,” he said.
While Holland had renter’s insurance, he said it didn’t cover his business inventory.
He recovered a pair of shoes and a few boxes of possessions, including some of the collectible bobble heads, LPs and discs that had somehow escaped destruction.
Holland also managed to find one of his most prized possessions, a hand-made Paddington bear that his mother sewed for him when he was seven.
He dug it out from a pile of debris in a storage closet, finding it messy but unburnt.
His mother has already offered to make repairs.
“She said she might be able to unstitch him and put new stuffing in.”
In the series of children’s books created by Michael Bond, Paddington bear takes his name from Paddington Station, London, where the kindhearted character is discovered wearing a rain hat and duffel coat.
When Holland was nine, his family went to England and he took his bear to Paddington Station.
So when he moved into the Langley Paddington Station complex in Langley, “it all seemed like the perfect thing,” Holland laughed.
“Perhaps I was wrong.”
Holland is currently living with his mother while he searches for a new place.
It’s proving to be a challenge.
“Rents are super high and vacancies are super low and it’s hard to find a place (that will allow) a dog,” he said.
Another Paddington victim, Robert Freeman, found very little worth recovering in the second-floor suite that he owned when he went through it on the weekend.
“Anything fabric, anything plastic, anything fibrous, is gone,” Freeman said.
Water had soaked the unit, then frozen solid.
“We had the sofa iced up against the walls.”
His son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter lived in the suite.
Freeman said his granddaughter lost her special blanket in the fire, but the family was able to find a replacement through an appeal on social media that located a near-perfect duplicate.
Freeman told the Times he was informed by crew members during his visit that the lower floors were structurally sound, and the plan is to strip away the fire and water damage and rebuild.
It is a process that is expected to take about two years.
The Paddington Station strata council president and the insurance adjudicator assigned to the fire were unable to comment on reconstruction plans when contacted by the Times.
However, Langley City Coun. Rudy Storteboom, who lives in another building of the Paddington Station complex, said his understanding from talking with the insurance company is that plans call for stripping away the damage, followed by reconstruction.