Fire displaces veteran family

September 13, 2019 — Defence Stories

Two military veterans and their families were displaced last week when a fire gutted their Langford home.

The six-bedroom, three-story house located on Bear Mountain is owned by Master Corporal (Retired) Elder Pineda, a veteran who did two tours in Afghanistan, and his wife Catherine, a paediatric nurse at Victoria General Hospital. The couple resided there for three years with their two children, their service dog Lincoln, and Catherine’s mother Diana and father Warrant Officer (Retired) Darren Scott, who occupied a ground floor in-law suite.

“We are still in a state of shock, have lost most of our personal belongings, but are very grateful and blessed that everyone is still alive, that’s the important thing,” said Elder Pineda.

The fire broke out at approximately 1 a.m. on Aug. 18 while the family was sleeping. Pineda was the first to awake to the smoke alarms and his first concern was making sure everyone got out.

A neighbour called 911 while the men tried unsuccessfully to control the blaze with a garden hose before it engulfed the upper floors, which were destroyed in the blaze. The ground floor was spared but sustained extensive smoke and water damage.

“No matter how hard we tried to fight the flames back it wasn’t enough and there was nothing we could do,” said Darren Scott, who works at Rocky Point Ammunition Depot as a civilian after a 30-year military career.

Pineda is in the final year of studies for his masters degree in communications at Royal Roads University. His final thesis project was stored on his computer, which was lost in the blaze. His graduation from the program has been pushed forward to 2020.

At press time, the cause of the blaze was was still being investigated.

Scott was able to retrieve some of his late father-in-law’s service medals, but all of Pineda’s medals were lost in the fire.

Pineda was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Operational Stress Injuries and anxiety from his tours in Afghanistan. He says coping with the stress of the ordeal immediately afterwards was difficult.

For the past week the family has been living out of suitcases, first staying at a family friend’s home in Belmont Park and later in the week at two different hotels. They have also relied on the generosity of neighbours who have donated food, clothing and other essential items.

Immediately after the fire, Scott’s daughter, Master Corporal Andrea Lorinczy, who works at 4 Wing Cold Lake, flew to Victoria to assist the families. Both Pineda and Scott credit her with keeping everyone focused on the recovery operation and helping them plan and put their lives back together in the hours and days after the blaze.

The entire family believes the military training of Pineda, Scott and Lorinczy have been crucial in getting them through the ordeal.

“Learning basic survival skills and practising them over and over again enables you to deal with problems. No matter the level of stress, you can always rely on these skills to get you through tough times,” said Pineda.

The family’s next step is to rent or lease a house in Langford and return to what Pineda describes as “a sense of normalcy,” as they await the insurance claim, which could take over a year.

In their spare time Scott and Catherine Pineda referee youth hockey games with the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association. The association’s Referee-In-Chief, Galen Brewer has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family.

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