September 21, 2015 - 4:53 PM
"THE AVERAGE PERSON WOULDN'T HAVE DONE WHAT HE DID"
VERNON - If not for the heroic act of a homeless man, the owners of a Vernon pet store believe their business — and animals — would have been destroyed by fire.
AJ’s Pets & Things owners Andrew Willmott and Lisa Badach caught the suspected arsonist on camera early in the morning Sept. 6, but their security footage showed something else too: A stranger working tirelessly to put out the fire.
“You can see him taking sand out of a cigarette pail and dumping it on the fire,” Badach says. “He found water in a puddle by Kentucky Fried Chicken about a block away and bucketed it back and forth with a drink cup.”
The man spent half an hour rushing back and forth, attempting to douse the fire, which was burning at the back door of the store. Willmott, a former volunteer firefighter, says there’s no doubt in his mind the fire would have consumed the building, and the animals in it, had the man not been there.
“He had it totally out by the time the fire department arrived. They said another 15-20 minutes and the fire would have burned its way through the door,” Willmott says.
The owners went about a week trying to find a way to thank him, but they had no idea who he was or how to contact him. Then one day he came to the store, and they got to know their mystery rescuer a little better.
He called himself Martin and left his knapsack at the door. He told them he’d recently broken up with his girlfriend, and wasn’t having the best morning when he noticed the fire. He didn’t call 911 because he doesn’t have a cell phone. Instead, he went straight to work putting out the fire.
“The guy’s a hero when you get down to it,” Willmott says. "You can see him talking to people, he asked people to call 911. Nobody helped him."
Martin doesn’t have a permanent home, but has been in Vernon for a while, Willmott says. When asked if they could compensate him for his actions, he asked if they knew somewhere he could pick up some carpentry work. Without going into detail, Willmott says Martin has had some ups and downs in his life, but that ‘he’s got some good karma coming his way.’
The owners gave him some money as thanks for what he did, and Willmott says Martin mentioned using it to buy a cell phone to keep in touch.
Willmott and Badach say they saw the worst, and the best, of people the morning of the fire.
“The average person wouldn’t have done what he did,” Badach says.
The man alleged to have set the fire, Ryan Patrick Warnock, 33, was arrested and charged with arson. He’s been released on bail, but RCMP Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy says police will be keeping a close eye on him to ensure he’s complying with court ordered conditions. He’s due back in Vernon court Oct. 8.
This is the guy who put it out. What a hero this guy is. We are so grateful to him for saving our store. The fire dept said another 15-20 min the fire would have burned its way through the door. This guy put it out using the cigarette bucket full of sand from down the alley, and after he dumped that he used a drink cup from KFC 's garbage to scoop water from a puddle into the bucket. He did this 5 times for a total of about 30minutes. This all happened about 6:10am Sunday morning. Can't wait to shake his hand and thank him.
Posted by AJ's Pets & Things on Saturday, September 12, 2015
AJ's Pets & Things co-owner Lisa Badach.
(CHARLOTTE HELSTON /InfoTel Multimedia)
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