When Mike Roy saw flames creeping up the walls outside New Life Mission's thrift store early Monday morning, he saw an opportunity to give back and he jumped on it.
"The New Life Mission helps out a lot of people. The New Life Mission helped me. Got me thinking about something other than myself . . . thinking about other people," said Roy. "I didn't want the building to burn. Where would people go to get blankets or sweaters this winter?"
Just after 5 a.m., Roy was dropping off warm clothes at the bay doors in the alleyway behind Thrift City on the 300 block of Seymour Street where others had also gathered.
He noticed flames starting to engulf some furniture that had been left behind the shop and heard someone shout "fire!"
He immediately scrambled to beat it back.
"I've never done anything like that. All I know is I needed to do something," said Roy. "People were just standing around watching. People were telling me to get away. And I was like 'No I'm going to fight it until . . . I don't know.'"
His first instinct was to get a mattress away from the building using a stick but it was already stuck, melting into the asphalt. But he wouldn't relent.
"I was trying to get close but it was starting to heat up really quick," he said. "My arm was starting to burn up really bad."
He picked up a small metal table to use as a shield and grabbed a patched-up garden hose lying in the alleyway. He got it working and doused himself down first so he could keep up the fight.
Then as he doused two burning couches, he noticed blue flames coming from inside the building and began fearing that propane tanks were nearby. It turns out that he was right, but they didn't explode.
It became clear that he couldn't extinguish the fire so he turned the hose onto the second floor to maintain the flames until Kamloops Fire Rescue arrived.
Once authorities arrived, residents in a building next door were evacuated due to smoke and the stretch of road was blocked off for the morning commute. It was reopened shortly before 9 a.m.
Roy was pained to see the scorched areas while standing in the alleyway later Monday morning.
"It really hurts. It really does," he said.
He also had a hard time imagining the fire could have been deliberately set.
"Why do this to a place that helps so many people? I really don't get it.
Fire Chief Dean Olstad said Roy's actions "probably" helped since any amount of water would cool things off. But trying to fight a structural fire is "always sketchy" and not advisable when it becomes dangerous.
Olstad said the fire originated in the mattress Roy originally tried to pry away from the building. After speaking with Roy and residents in the second floor of a neighbouring building, it will never be clear whether it was deliberately of accidentally set, said Olstad.
However he added that the incident looks suspiciously like another that occurred in the same alleyway in August when furniture was set a few doors down from Thrift City at around midnight.
"That's why they don't want you dropping off furniture like that," he said.
Terry Butcher, operations manager for New Life Mission, said the store might be closed for a week but he can't be sure.
The fire damaged a bay door and part of the building where goods are received. There are no structural issues but there was significant smoke and water damaged to the rest of the building.
"We are just waiting now for forensics to determine the cause of the fire and proceed with restoration," he said.
"We will need the restoration company to come in and determine the course of action and how long that is going to take."
A volunteer blamed the fire on drug addicts who hang out in the alley, but Butcher said it's too early to say.
"There has been some issues there, but I don't want to comment on that at the moment because we really don't know what happened."