Evacuee Paul Breda spoke with an Emergency Services volunteer at Willoughby Hall on Tuesday, April 20. Hundreds of people were waiting to see when they could return home after a massive fire near their residences. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Evacuee Paul Breda spoke with an Emergency Services volunteer at Willoughby Hall on Tuesday, April 20. Hundreds of people were waiting to see when they could return home after a massive fire near their residences. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Evacuees describe seeing ‘Armageddon’ as embers rained down on Langley homes

Langley Emergency Services is connecting with the evacuees at Willoughby Hall

A steady stream of evacuees from the neighbourhood around the Langley condo fire visited an emergency centre at Willoughby Hall on Tuesday, while they wait to be allowed home.

Volunteers with both the Langley and Surrey Emergency Programs were on site, taking down information from the evacuees.

The most important thing on Tuesday morning was getting information from the evacuees, so they could be contacted about returning home, said the Township’s Mayor Jack Froese, who was on site.

He said fire inspectors were busy on Tuesday morning checking out the units near the site of the fire for safety.

Meanwhile, the evacuees were trying to determine what to do after fleeing their homes to get away from a wall of flames.

Paul Breda and his wife grabbed their two daughters, the family cat, and fled even before police went door to door ordering people to evacuate.

“It was just about a stone’s throw away,” he said of the fire. “We grabbed everyone and got out as soon as possible.”

The fire appeared to be very close to their townhouse, Breda said.

“We ran across the street, and then Armageddon started,” he said. Embers were raining down from the sky.

Breda has since met up with a neighbour who said he doused burning embers on the roof of Breda’s townhome, for which he’s grateful. He’s worried about how much damage his home may have sustained from the burning debris and smoke.

READ MORE: Crews battling massive condo fire in Langley

Others had similar experiences.

Erin Cimbala is worried about her two cats. She wasn’t at home when the fire began and hasn’t been able to get back to retrieve them.

She had been dining outdoors with friends and drove back over the 208th Street overpass to see a “fireball” ahead.

Cimbala tried to get to her home nearby, but it was impossible.

“There was so much debris already, I realized it was dangerous,” she said.

Jessica and Michael Venitez managed to grab their cat on the way out, despite the fact that he was more afraid of going in his carrier than of the fire, they said.

“We heard a couple of bangs when we were getting ready for bed,” said Michael.

It wasn’t long before the flames were shooting into the sky and embers were falling.

“It seemed fully engulfed by the time the fire department showed up,” said Jessica.

When someone came by to tell them to evacuate, they were in their back yard, soaking everything down with a hose. Firefighters, RCMP, and just random neighbours were going door to door warning people it was time to flee, they said.

Most of the evacuees stayed the night with friends and family. It was unclear by mid-day Tuesday when they will be allowed to return to their homes, either to collect personal belongings, or permanently.

Several evacuees said local restaurants had reached out to offer help, including free pizza, coffee, and places to charge cellphones.

Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

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