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Richmond man wakes neighbours as complex burns

It was a little after four a.m. when the insistent ringing of a fire alarm roused the sleeping community at Dockside Village last week.

It was a little after four a.m. when the insistent ringing of a fire alarm roused the sleeping community at Dockside Village last week.

The alarm wasnt unusual at the housing complex, and it may be why the reaction of most of the residents ranged between annoyance and indifference.

Shane Rehncy, 29, didnt have to get out of bed for another hour to head to his landscaping job, but by chance he was awake when his mother called him to see if this one was real.

The whole sky was red, Rehncy said, recalling his first view of the fire. Pieces of the roof were flying in the air.

Wearing an undershirt, boxer shorts, and oversized donkey slippers inspired by the movie Shrek, Rehncy bounded out his front door and started waking up the neighbourhood.

The flames were shooting maybe eight feet in the air, Rehncy said.

While the flames crackled and the siding started to melt, Rehncy yelled at people to get out of their homes.

My manager was only in the office to turn the alarm off because she was annoyed by it, he said.

While Rehncy booted one door, he said the resident of an adjoining suite walked out, took a look around, and walked back inside.

Nobody realized it was on fire, he said. Nobody would open their doors.

Rehncy said sounding the alarm was also difficult because some of his neighbours didnt know him.

I dont think they recognized me, because I live on the other side of the housing.

Adding to the problem, the fire alarm only worked on one side of the building, according to Rehncy.

I thought somebody was going to die, he said.

Persistence and single-minded determination paid off, and eventually, Rehncy persuaded a few people to open their doors.

I said, we have to go, your house is on fire!

Eventually 12 people came out, wrapped in blankets as a fire trucks siren cut through the early summer morning stillness of Trites Road.

If he hadnt got them out, they wouldve died of asphyxiation, said Bonnie Rehncy, Shanes mother.

About eight fire trucks arrived on the scene, and while Rehncy urged people to move their cars in case the fire spread, the firefighters went to work.

Putting out the blaze was made much easier because they could concentrate solely on the fire instead of pulling people out of buildings, according to Bonnie Rehncy.

I feel bad for those school kids, Shane said, who said he did his best to console a little girl who was afraid her new school clothes were burning.

Bonnie said she made an immediate donation of bras to a neighbour who lost all her clothes in the fire.

The fireman said theyd never seen a community come together like that, Shane said.

Almost a week later, Shane said he can still smell the remnants of smoke and ash at home, and hes still coping with how close he came to tragedy.

Instead of fire trucks, we wouldve seen ambulances, he said, reflecting on the difference a few more moments of sleep or even a small hesitation could have made.

It wouldve jumped from place to place within minutes, Shane said, glancing down at his tattooed forearms.

The fire caused considerable damage, and three families have been displaced, probably for at least three months.

Shane Rehncy has a shaved head, an earring, and a flower tattoo on his neck thats a tribute to his mother.

His appearance has complicated his life, and he said hes been pulled over 35 times making the drive to Squamish.

He looks gangster, Bonnie said. But hes probably the nicest guy there.