A Saskatoon homeowner meets a man who saved friends from a burning basement
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’ve noticed smoke coming up and I think it looks like a fire,” he said on Friday, describing that November day.
For Stan Dimnik, that morning comes back when his cell phone rings.
“We were a few miles down the road buying groceries and got a call from our neighbor telling us our house was on fire,” he said.
The two men met face to face for the first time on Friday. They stood in front of the empty, snow-covered lot, hugged and told stories about the day their paths in life crossed.
It was just before noon on a Thursday in November. Napper was on his way to Backside Board Shop Ltd., the business he owns. He turned off Warman Road and saw smoke rising from a level with the tree-lined backyard.
“There are people inside, there’s a car, there’s lights on,” he said.
The fire spread quickly. Napper started banging on windows and doors. A neighbor came out to help.
“There is no answer. In the end we kicked in the door. I’ll go downstairs and get the two renters and the cat out,” Napper said.
Dimnik and his wife had taken the bus that morning to go shopping. The neighbor called them and told them their nearly three-decade-old house was on fire.
Dimnik said his mind leapt to her friends in the basement: “Dave, who is blind and hard of hearing, and Ryan, who is cognitively challenged.”
Napper said her disabilities added a layer of complexity to the rescue.
“The tenants didn’t know the house was on fire, so they didn’t know who would come into their house and get them out,” he said.
Napper said the rescue was a fuzzy scream and pull, but he, the other two men and Jessie the cat made it to safety.
Dimnik said the months since the fire had been tough.
He said he and his wife had lost everything – memorabilia, mementos, documents, birth certificates – and were struggling to rebuild their lives.
“I have been a social worker, teacher and psychotherapist for years. I’ve worked with people who have lost absolutely everything,” he said.
“So it hit me in a way it’s never hit me before. It was all kind of academic.”
At the same time, he knows that 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 harm those two guys. They are gentle fellows.”