Fire on Alberta Street claims man's life

A Tuesday evening fire in New Westminster claimed the life of an elderly man despite the efforts of a teenager who lived next door.

Dylan Young-L'Hironedelle, 19, and his mother were in the kitchen of their Alberta Street home making dinner when they noticed smoke and flames coming out of a vent on the roof at the back of the man's bungalow next door.

While his mom called 911, Young-L'Hirondelle ran out to try and alert the quiet man they'd occasionally seen puttering around his yard since they had moved in about a year ago.

Young-L'Hirondelle attempted to get in the back way, but it was locked, and so was the front gate. But he managed to make his way to the front door, which was locked. He struggled to force it open but it was difficult because of the pressure from the fire. Finally it gave.

"As soon as the door opened, thick black smoke came out," said Young-L'Hirondelle. "It was pretty crazy. There was a ton of smoke."

New Westminster fire chief Tim Armstrong said crews found a man believed to be in his seventies collapsed near the front door of his bungalow at 343 Alberta which is set back from the street and is surrounded by shrubs and tall trees. The man had no vital signs and appeared to be in cardiac arrest, so crews started CPR on him. He was taken to nearby Royal Columbian Hospital but was pronounced dead.

"The house is pretty much gutted out. The crews arrived and there was visible heavy smoke from the rear of the building," said Armstrong.

He pointed out many of the windows had bars on them.

"It was challenging even for our crews to gain access," said Armstrong.

The fire chief said investigators have figured out where the blaze started but not how it started.

"It's just a really unfortunate turn of events. It's never good to have a fire death, those are not stats I want to gather," said Armstrong.

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