Boxing Day fire leaves man homeless

For Doug Drake, it was the nightmare after Christmas. On Dec. 26, he was watching TV in his apartment at 20 Klondike Rd., relaxing after what he called a "wonderful Christmas" with friends. Then the woman who lives above him yelled about a fire in her apartment.

For Doug Drake, it was the nightmare after Christmas.

On Dec. 26, he was watching TV in his apartment at 20 Klondike Rd., relaxing after what he called a “wonderful Christmas” with friends.

Then the woman who lives above him yelled about a fire in her apartment. And one of the worst nights of his life began.

After making the call, he stood outside in the cold for an hour and “watched everything that I own just go,” he said. The flames were “massive,” he said. “Smoke was just billowing out.”

No one was injured in the fire, said Whitehorse Fire Chief Clive Sparks. The fire was contained to only one of four apartments in the building. That apartment is completely destroyed, he said. The department estimates there was about $75,000 in damages to the building, with another $25,000 to $30,000 in property damages, he said.

And it’s left Drake homeless. The woman who lives in the apartment where the fire was also needs a place to live, he said.

As he watched the flames, he knew it was coming.

“My biggest, really, thought was, ‘Oh my God, where am I going to live?’ Because I knew it was gonna, it was directly above me. I knew what was going to happen,” he said.

Drake’s apartment was “completely saturated” with water, he said. The bathroom ceiling has begun to cave in and plaster is peeling off the walls.

He’s lost family photos, and his collection of Harrowsmith magazines he’s kept since his youth. He’s been able to salvage some of his furniture, and he had firefighters retrieve the machine he uses to help remedy his severe sleep apnea. Drake stops breathing when he sleeps.

Friends have been able to offer moral support, but little else. His whole family is in Ontario. He’s “couch-surfing,” he said. He has a place until the end of the month, but after that he has nothing.

It’s been an “ongoing nightmare,” said Drake. “The only thing you can really do is check the local newspapers,” he said.

Drake, 60, came to the Yukon from Calgary over 30 years ago to take what he thought would be a temporary job in retail. He had to stop working three years ago because of health reasons, he said. He had been living in Riverdale for about a year. Before that, he had applied for social-assisted housing in Whitehorse. He’s on a waiting list.

He’s not the only one. There are 87 people on the waiting list in Whitehorse, said Marc Perreault, director of housing operations for Yukon Housing Corporation. There are no vacant units right now, he said.

In June, the median rate for rental units in Whitehorse was $835 and the vacancy rate was 1.3 per cent, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. This number is based on buildings with three or more units. The median rent has increased by nearly 23 per cent over the last five years.

Tammy Devlin, who lives in the apartment next to the one with the fire, will also be looking for a place to live. She’s been using floor heaters since the fire, she said. I “don’t feel warm and fuzzy,” she said on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the department does not think it was suspicious, said Sparks.

For Drake, the housing search will continue. “I guess this is just something that happens to other people on TV, I don’t know,” he said. “Ha ha.”

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com