The Aldergrove community went all-out to help a man and his dog who lost their humble home in a fire Wednesday night.
By Saturday afternoon a fully refurbished camper filled with groceries and goods was delivered to the homeless duo.
Aldergrove fire fighters had responded promptly to the fire about 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, as the camper was parked on the Aldergrove Mini Storage property just across Fraser Highway from Aldergrove Fire Hall #3. They arrived just in time to douse the camper before the diesel pickup truck also was destroyed.
The first fire lieutenant on the scene, Robert Vinette, said, “Flames were coming through the roof when we pulled up to attack it. The camper was clearly a write-off but we thought at least we could save the truck.”
The owner, Greg Laing, had only briefly left the camper to help a friend at the mini storage and ran back in time to save his dog from inside the camper. However, he lost all his material possessions in the fire.
It’s believed that the dog had knocked over a candle, which then caught the curtains on fire.
“After we put the fire out he was standing with his dog, almost crying; he lost everything he had,” said fire fighter Jamie Shaw.
“We were spreading out what we could salvage from inside the camper but there was really nothing left.”
Laing had no insurance and nowhere else to go. Fire fighters arranged “personal disaster assistance” from Langley Township, which provides food and shelter for three days, but none of the hotels would allow dogs.
That’s when the mini storage owner, Jack Dhaliwal stepped in to open up a heated storage locker for Laing and his dog. Dhaliwal had permitted Laing to park the camper on his property for the past few weeks and was one of many in the community who grew to like Laing.
“Greg was trying to get work on a farm but had no place to go in the meantime so I said he could stay. He’s a really good guy,” said Dhaliwal.
The fire fighters were also moved by Laing’s plight, as were the truck drivers from MHL Transport next door.
“I figured we could get him some clothes at least because all he had left was what he was wearing,” said Shaw. “And when a couple truck drivers from MHL Transport pulled in they came running up, asking if Greg was OK.
“So I sent out a text message asking friends what we could do and that’s when my phone went crazy (with offers of cash donations),” said Shaw.
Shaw went home and on a whim started looking for a replacement camper on Craigslist. He looked at four campers around the valley area but none were fit, until he found one in Brookswood that was clean and within reach price-wise at $1,000.
“The word got out fast (that cash was needed for a camper),” said Vinette.
First to rise to the challenge were the 24 employees at MHL Trucking, who took a collection and presented the fire department with a $700 cheque the next day.
The fire fighters picked up the camper on Friday and delivered it to Kustom Koach in Aldergrove, where it underwent a complete inspection, at no charge. Kustom Koach checked that there were no propane gas leaks, re-sealed the roof with silicone caulking and replaced the mattress with a new one.
To dispose of the burnt-out camper, a roll-off bin and disposal services were donated by Emterra Environmental.
And the fire fighters went shopping for groceries and other goods which were placed inside the new camper, for its delivery Saturday. Extra Foods and Save-on Foods both donated to this, along with Bosley’s Pet Food Plus, which contributed a coat and food for the dog.
Laing had also lost his bicycle in the fire, as it had been leaned up against the camper and the rubber and plastic parts had all melted. Vinette said Laing thought he could restore the bike but another fire fighter, Louie Maragianlo, bought Laing a new bike and helmet.
Vinette said fire fighters also replaced the back window of the truck, which had blown out from the heat.
“The truck just needs a new set of glow plugs and he can keep on trucking, when he gets back on his feet financially,” said Vinette.
And so at 1 p.m., Saturday, fire fighters delivered the new camper and goods to Laing. Laing beamed in appreciation as fire fighters lowered the camper on the back of his truck, filled with all the food and goods.
The community kindness hasn’t stopped there either.
“I’m still getting calls,” said Shaw. “Just today (Monday) the veterinarian on Fraser Highway called to say he’d heard about it and offered to provide assistance to the dog.”