A homeless man is lucky to be alive after using a camping stove to stay warm inside an abandoned South Ruckle cabin Thursday night, Oct. 22. A neighbour phoned 911 after noticing smoke coming out an upstairs window.
Deputy Fire Chief Rich Piché said the man could have succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning after sleeping in a cramped loft next to the stove, which he’d sued to burn paper. The man had covered the flames using an upturned metal bowl.
Fallen ash had settled on a piece of folded cardboard used to prop up the stove, which Piché said was “absolutely” a fire risk. Burning fuel in a confined space can easily generate lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, he warned.
Mayor Brian Taylor and Capital Program Manager Justine Dinsdale confirmed that city hall bought the cabin under the auspices of the Disaster Mitigation & Adaptation Fund (DMAF) last Spring.
Dinsdale said South Ruckle homes owned by the city had been broken-in to recently but said he wasn’t aware that people had been living in vacant homes before Friday, Oct. 23.
This is the third year in-a-row that Grand Forks has not set up an emergency homeless shelter before freezing temperatures hit city streets, Taylor told The Gazette.
“It makes me ashamed to be mayor of a community that can’t take care of its most vulnerable citizens,” he said.
BC Housing has asked city council for a permit that would allow the agency to fund an extreme winter shelter out of the old Hardy View Lodge near Boundary Hospital. Council will decide whether or not to grant the permit at a special meeting at city hall Wednesday, Nov. 3.