Investigators in Duncan sifted through a burned-out unit at Lewis Apartments, as displaced tenants visited the building to survey the scene Monday.
“It’s really scary,” said Roberta Canute, who lives on the third floor.
“Everything’s damaged in our apartment. We’re not allowed back in,” she told CTV News.
On New Year’s Eve, a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the building, sending flames shooting out of the apartment’s windows.
Eight people were taken to hospital following the fire. The man who lived in the unit where the fire started did not survive.
He’s being remembered by friends and neighbours as an older man, known only by his first name, Jerry.
“On the street here, you don’t know people’s last names. You go by the first name and that’s it,” said Randy Scott, who lives in the area.
Scott says he met Jerry one day when his wheelchair was stuck in the mud.
“He was sitting there rocking back and forth trying to get out of it. The guy could barely stand,” said Scott.
Scott helped him out of the mud that day and the pair hit it off.
“Every time I (saw) him, he was talking to somebody. If he had a couple dollars and you needed it to get a coffee or a sandwich, he’d give it to you,” said Scott.
“He’d have no problem doing that, he helped a lot of people out.”
Canute says she will miss seeing Jerry around the building.
“He was friendly, he said hi to everyone,” she said. “He was a real kind man.”
For now, the building on Lewis Street sits behind police tape.
All of its tenants have been put up in hotels and are getting support through the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s emergency services.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for victims of the fire. Over the weekend, it raised more than $20,000.
“It’s scary for everybody, not having a place to stay, but the community is helping,” said Canute.
The North Cowichan Fire Department is investigating along with the RCMP and BC Coroners Service.
No cause of the fire has been determined yet, but police say there is no indication that illegal drugs or activity started the fire.