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Homeless man helps save Vernon business from fire

Crews were quick to respond to a fire at Surplus Herby's early Wednesday morning, thanks in part to a homeless man who triggered the fire alarm
A fire caused slight damage to Surplus Herby's store in Vernon in the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

A man experiencing unsheltered homelessness demonstrated quick thinking to help spare a Vernon store from a fire early Wednesday morning.

Cyle Hallborg, manager of Surplus Herby's on 31st Avenue, said someone started a fire in the garbage cans in front of the store around 3 a.m. on June 19. He said whoever started the fire "obviously used an accelerant because the flames were crazy."

Hallborg said fire crews arrived in a timely fashion and extinguished the blaze, thanks to the actions of a homeless man in the area.

Not having a cell phone, the man couldn't call to report the fire, so he threw a rock through the front window of the store to trigger the alarm system and effectively call emergency crews to the scene, Hallborg said. 

The store manager said the damage could have been a lot worse if emergency crews hadn't been on the scene promptly. 

Hallborg said the homeless man, who frequents the area, returned to the store around 6 a.m. and apologized for breaking the window, even offering to pay for a portion of it. Hallborg told him: "Absolutely not."

"I said, 'You did a good thing, so there's no way I'm taking money from you," Hallborg said.

"It's one of those things that kind of changes your attitude a little bit because everyone's so down on (the homeless) now," he added. 

The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP confirmed that police and crews from Vernon Fire Rescue responded to the fire around 3:10 a.m. June 19. 

"The preliminary investigation determined the fire caused damage to an exterior wall of the building and the glass front entry window was broken. No suspects were identified and the police investigation into the incident continues including a canvas of the area for video surveillance," said Cpl. Tania Finn, media relations officer. 

Slight fire damage could be seen on the front of the store Thursday morning. 


Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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