Gastown fire victim remembered by family member as a 'dedicated mother'

·2 min read
One of the victims of the Winters Hotel fire on Abbott Street in Gastown, Mary Ann Garlow, is pictured here. Her niece, Misty Fredericks, is remembering her aunt as a dedicated mother. (Submitted by Misty Fredericks - image credit)
One of the victims of the Winters Hotel fire on Abbott Street in Gastown, Mary Ann Garlow, is pictured here. Her niece, Misty Fredericks, is remembering her aunt as a dedicated mother. (Submitted by Misty Fredericks - image credit)

The niece of one of the victims of the Winters Hotel fire in Vancouver is remembering her aunt as a dedicated mother who helped others in the Downtown Eastside community.

Misty Fredericks says her aunt Mary Ann Garlow, 62, died in the April 11 fire that quickly consumed the building at Abbott and Water streets.

Fredericks, who never got the chance to meet her aunt, says she has learned through other building tenants that Garlow was a "very gentle, soft-spoken woman who had a sense of humour."

Fredericks says it's important for her to share stories about Garlow's life so that her legacy is not forgotten.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"My aunty's life mattered," Fredericks said. "It's absolutely horrifying, there are so many questions that arise from this fire."

On Friday, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services confirmed two bodies had been found during the demolition of the hotel .

"This is a very tragic situation ... these are some of the most at-risk people in our community," said Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry on Friday. "It was a very large, aggressive fire and it would definitely have been difficult for someone who was trapped to escape."

Fredericks says Garlow was a member of the Oneida Nation from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. She says Garlow was also a residential school survivor who moved to Vancouver in her twenties.

She says before moving into the Winters Hotel, Garlow was a resident of the Balmoral Hotel.

Fredericks says Garlow has a son with disabilities named Johnny who lived with her his entire life. She says he escaped the fire, but remains in hospital with injuries.

"I can imagine he's distraught [and] traumatized," she said. Fredericks hopes to visit him soon.

Unattended candles started blaze, say fire rescue

Officials said the fire was started accidentally by unattended candles in a second-floor suite, displacing more than 70 residents living in the single-room occupancy (SRO) housing. The four-storey brick building also housed several businesses and a restaurant on the ground floor.

Another 73 tenants of the Gastown Hotel, an SRO next to the Winters Hotel, have also left their suites until further notice because of smoke damage.

Fire officials said the sprinkler system in the Winters Hotel was shut down and waiting to be serviced on April 11 due to another fire in the building a few days earlier.

Fredericks says she wonders whether the fire could have been extinguished if the sprinklers had been working.

CBC News has not been able to identify the other victim of the fire.

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