It was a little after 4 a.m. when the insistent ringing of a fire alarm roused the sleeping community at Steveston's Dockside Village last week.
The alarm wasn't 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, didn't 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," he 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 neighbours.
"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.
Even the person who turned up at the complex's office to turn the alarm off was only doing so because it was annoying them, said Rehency. And while he 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 didn't recognize him as he lives on the other side of the complex.
Adding to the problem, the fire alarm only worked on one side of the building, according to Rehncy.
Persistence and 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 truck's siren cut through the early summer morning stillness of Trites Road.
"If he hadn't got them out, they would've died of asphyxition," said Bonnie Rehncy, Shane's 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 they'd 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 he's still coping with how close he came to tragedy.
"Instead of fire trucks, we would've seen ambulances," he said, reflecting on the difference a few more moments of sleep or even a small hesitation could have made.
"It would've 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, a flower tattoo on his neck and even his mom admits he "looks gangster." But "he's probably the nicest guy there," added his mom.
Dockside Village is a 40-unit complex owned by BC Housing and operated by More Than A Roof Housing Society.
The Society has set up a special account for the famiies most seriously impacted. Tax receipts are available.
Donations of quality furniture and household items are also welcome. Contact McWilliams at 604-271-2592.