The largest blaze in Andy Hewitson’s 30-year career and the community response after has the assistant Township fire chief grateful for a community that rallied after the Alexander Square condo fire.
He was one of nearly 80 firefighters who responded to the fire, first reported at 9:30 p.m. at 208th Street and 80th Avenue, on April 19 that took days to put out.
“Even during a global pandemic, neighbours were offering refuge to evacuees, local restaurants and businesses were offering food and services to the displaced residents,” Hewitson said.
“Our members were inundated with messages of support from concerned citizens, and some amazing artwork and thank-you letters from students at Willoughby Elementary, that were shared with every member of the fire department,” he said. “What truly stood out was the overwhelming sense of community that was displayed by the businesses and residents of Langley, our members are humbled by the generosity and so proud to serve such a great community.”
Soon after news broke of the fire destroying the property and displacing neighbouring residents, many in the community sprang into action.
Some took to social media offering space in their homes for those who were forced to flee on a moment’s notice.
The emergency disaster services team at the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope served food and water to firefighters at the scene during the fire.
Even though the pandemic has hurt the bottom line for many organizations, local businesses didn’t shy away from offering support.
Trading Post Brewing offered impacted residents and first responders a beer on the house, while Fraserlife Physio located in Willowbrook offered displaced Willoughby residents office space to continue working.
“It is vital in these times of ‘bad news’ that we celebrate the positive side of humanity. Hearing how the community supported itself acts like a beacon to guide people to do great things for each other,” he commented.
“As anyone who has ever served will tell you, people are truly amazing, and have the ability to cast aside fear to help each other in times of need. As first responders we see some terrible things that take their toll on your very being, but knowing that people support you and more importantly support each other make what you do feel worth it.
“It is so important that all of the people who came forward know what a positive impact they have on those affected by the fire, the first responders and the entire community.”
Looking ahead, Hewitson said this emergency was a learning opportunity.
“The fire will have long lasting effects on many things we do as a fire department and a community… Our firefighters and prevention staff will be able to grow from the experience and provide new improved levels of service to the community,” he assured.
“Langley is incredibly resilient, and will come together as neighbours, policy makers, businesses and public servants to grow even stronger.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
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