The past two days have been emotional for Dan Adrian after losing his livelihood to an accidental blaze.
Adrian said he and his family drove to Sorrento for lunch on Tuesday, March 1. On the drive back, they could see a column of black smoke rising from their Notch Hill Road property. The fire started in a 60-by-40-foot outbuilding that serves as a garage where Dan does automotive work.
“When we came back we could see that the tire pile was on fire – I figured what happened was just a bit of a breeze took some of the heat from the incinerator and caught a tire that was too close,” Adrian explained in a March 3 interview with the Salmon Arm Observer, where he’s worked part-time in the circulation department for about a decade.
Along with calling 911, Dan and his sons Darren and Dakota attempted to fight the fire. He said if a garden hose hadn’t been frozen they could have put it out fire right away.
The 911 call was received by the Shuswap Volunteer Fire Department around 1 p.m. Dan said firefighters from Hall 1 and White Lake responded.
“When they got set up they started knocking the fire down, and then something malfunctioned with the pump on the truck and everything just came to a stop… So that was five to seven minutes probably that it took them to get that sorted out, and all you could do was just stand there and watch as your livelihood goes up in smoke,” said Dan, adding the firefighters worked as fast as they could to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to his residence. But he knew the garage and its contents would be lost.
Dan concluded the shop was destined to burn to the ground. Lost in the blaze were his tools, wheel balancer, alignment machine, exhaust bender, about $40,000 dollars worth of classic car parts, at least one hoist, three welders and countless cordless tools.
Darren’s tools were also lost in the fire.
“All the tools that he’s been buying over the last couple of months to prepare for his apprenticeship (heavy duty mechanic), they’re just melted gobs, and his apprenticeship is on Monday,” said Dan.
Dan and Darren also lost vehicles that were precious to them. Dan lost a 1968 Charger, a car he’d wanted since the Dukes of Hazzard television show debuted in 1979.
“It was just about ready for paint,” said Dan.
Darren’s vehicle, a 1972 Dodge Demon, was bound to be road ready this summer.
“It was his first car when he was 15 years old – he’s been working on it for six years,” said Dan. “He learned to weld body metal on it, when we painted it he learned to run a spray gun, he put the motor and tranny in it, the interior, he learned to put a headliner in. This was a big deal for him.”
Dan said the building was not insured; “there was only one company we could deal with and they refused to insure outbuildings, only the house.”
The large blaze quickly caught the attention of a friend in the area, Mike Hall of Rust Valley Restorers fame.
Dan said Hall called him to say, “We’ve got a plan.”
Hall and his son Connor Hall have since set up a Gofundme account, Help Dan Adrian rebuild, and are donating $1,000.
“He wants Darren and I to come up to the shop… It sounds like they’re donating tool boxes for Darren and possibly for myself,” said Dan, adding he also received a call from a tool supplier with totes of used tools to donate.
Dan said Chris Wilson and Wade Stewart of Chris Wilson Automotive have offered to take on his tire customers as a fundraiser for him.
People have also been reaching out to him and sending donations via e-transfer.
“While I was asleep, between $500 and $1,000 came in,” said Dan. “I woke up this morning and there’s all these email notifications from friends and customers who have sent money.”
Asked how he’s processing all of this, Dan said all you can do is cry.
“It’s very humbling to see how your friends and neighbours and customers see you as a person,” Dan explained. “You don’t necessarily think about that when you’re changing their tires or doing their brakes or spark plugs or whatever. It just kind of goes over your head… To actually see them talking online and sharing some of the posts.
“I’ve known a lot of these people since I was five years old. I went to Carlin school for elementary school. So you’ve touched base with all these people and you’ve touched their lives, even if you don’t realize you’ve touched their lives. So to see that feedback and see the overwhelming response to help get us back on our feet as quickly as possible, yeah, I just, I randomly sit down and cry.”
Dan stressed he does plan to rebuild the shop.
“Not doing what I do would be like losing an arm,” said Dan, who has been doing automotive work since 1989. “I can’t not continue to help and serve in whatever way I can.”
After the fire, Dan said he and Darren found themselves reflecting on how they responded to the fire, and things they could have or should have done that may have led to a better outcome. This frustrating train of thought, though, has been derailed by everyone who has offered to help him and his family recover and rebuild.
“It’s something about living in a community like this your whole life,” said Dan. “You make friendships and when the chips are down, nobody asks me how I feel about Covid, they ask about how I’m doing and what they can do to help… It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world around you, people are inherently helpful and compassionate and I’ve seen that in spades in the last 48 hours.”
In addition to the Gofundme page, donations can also be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Salmon Arm Observer office at 481 7th St. SW, across from Blackburn Park.
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