Saskatoon homeowner meets man who saved friends from burning basement

Stan Dimnik, right, meets Mike Napper, who saved Dimnik's two friends from a burning house. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
Stan Dimnik, right, meets Mike Napper, who saved Dimnik's two friends from a burning house. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

The house is gone, but the memories burn on.

For Mike Napper, the images are triggered when he turns onto Seventh Avenue North from Warman Road in Saskatoon.

"I noticed some smoke starting to billow and I'm like, that looks like a fire starting," he said Friday, describing that day in November.

For Stan Dimnik, that morning rushes back whenever his cellphone rings.

"We were a couple kilometres down the road buying groceries and got a phone call from our neighbour saying our house was on fire," he said.

On Friday, the two men met face to face for the first time. They stood in front of the vacant, snow-covered lot, sharing a hug and stories about the day their lives crossed paths.

Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services
Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services

It was just before noon on a November Thursday. Napper was on his way to Backside Board Shop Ltd., the store he owns. He turned off Warman Road and spotted smoke roiling out of a split level with the tree-lined backyard.

"There's people inside, there's a car, there's lights on," he said.

The fire was spreading rapidly. Napper started pounding on windows and doors. A neighbour came out to help.

"There's no response. We ended up up kicking the door in. I'm going downstairs, pulling out the two tenants and the cat," Napper said.

Dimnik and his wife had taken the bus for groceries that morning. The neighbour called them with news that their home of almost three decades was ablaze.

Dimnik said his mind leapt to their friends in the basement, "Dave, who is blind and hearing impaired, and Ryan, who is cognitively disabled."

Napper said their disabilities added a layer of complexity to the rescue.

"The tenants didn't realize the house was on fire, so they didn't know who's coming in their house and getting them out," he said.

Napper said the rescue was a blur of screaming and pulling, but he, both the other men and Jessie the cat made it to safety.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Dimnik said the months since the blaze have been tough.

He said he and his wife lost everything — mementos, memorabilia, documents, birth certificates — and they've been struggling to rebuild their lives.

"I've been a social worker and teacher and psychotherapist for years. I've worked with people who've lost absolutely everything," he said.

"So it hit me in a way that it never hit me before. It was all kind of academic."

At the same time, he knows his friends are safe because of the actions of a stranger.

"The fact that they were all out was an incredible blessing," he said.

"I don't think we could have accepted any harm to these two guys. They're gentle guys."