It’s been over 10 months since Kristina Simpson was jolted out of a deep sleep by her boyfriend Chris Denton so they could flee their burning home with nothing but their phones, their dog and the clothes on their backs.
“Chris woke up to a huge boom,” Simpson recalled Friday of the blaze that destroyed their rental suite above DJ Auto Market and the Super Suds Car Wash, in the 2300-block of King George Boulevard.
The noise, she soon learned, was the sound of the canopy on Denton’s truck – parked by the only entrance to their 2,200-square-foot unit – being blown off.
“He woke me up in a panic. We knew that was our only exit,” Simpson said.
“I don’t know what we would’ve done if it had been literally five minutes later. We would’ve been stuck.”
In the days and months that followed the March 2 fire, Simpson, 33, avoided speaking to media about the ordeal – a tact she and Denton chose due to what Simpson described as questionable circumstances surrounding it.
Last week, she decided to go public.
“There’s just so much more to the story,” she told Peace Arch News from her new home in the Okanagan.
At the time, the fire was deemed suspicious.
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schumann confirmed Monday that the investigation was concluded in November, as all leads had been exhausted and no suspects could be identified.
He said he could not speak to the specific cause, to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“There’s always the opportunity it might be opened at a later date should more information become available,” he said.
The fire started around 2 a.m. and spread quickly, forcing crews to resort to a defensive strategy. At its height, 26 firefighters were working to bring it under control.
Simpson, a real estate agent who grew up on the Peninsula and graduated from Earl Marriott Secondary, said she and Denton, a journeyman electrician who attended Semiahmoo Secondary, lost everything in the fire. They did not have insurance.
Community support in the aftermath, she said, was “unbelievable.”
Staff at a nearby Tim Hortons took them in as the fire burned. In the days and weeks that followed, the real-estate community rallied, organizing a fundraiser and donating clothing, accessories and cash. A GoFundMe campaign was also launched, raising more than $9,400 for the couple.
“Honestly, the support of our community was just mind-boggling… really, really kind.”
Simpson estimates the financial hit of the fire was “way more than $100,000.”
It was a costly lesson, she said – but one she hopes others can learn from.
“We talked about getting renters’ insurance and didn’t get around to it,” she said. “That was a mistake we paid for.”
Simpson said she wasn’t advised about the police decision to close the file (PAN informed her) but said the outcome didn’t surprise her – “It’s an arson. Nobody saw anything.”
At the same time, she believes police could have handled things better, noting she and Denton were initially treated more like suspects than victims, and that communication in the months that followed was lacking.
“What about a phone call? What about a followup? They didn’t do anything,” she said.
Schumann said he could not speak to concerns regarding a specific investigation.
According to the RCMP website, complaints against officers can be lodged at any RCMP detachment, or by contacting the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
Simpson said that while the experience has been tough to recover from, “positive things have happened since then.” She named a move to West Kelowna in October as among those things.
“I’m happy and content and great, but I don’t know where I would be if I was still down there.”