Many years ago, an old grizzled editor gave me some advice.
“Wolf,” he called, never calling my name. “When you report the news, you don’t want to be the news.”
I was a little happy when I was young, because the column I wrote attracted the interest of the national media, and all kinds of media wanted to talk about it.
Publicity is good, I suppose, but the boss doesn’t like it.
“When you’re on the news, you don’t want to be on the news,” he repeated, waving me away from his office.
While I didn’t fully agree with him at the time, those words echoed in my head Wednesday night.
“When you report the news, you don’t want to be the news”, it couldn’t have sounded more true, as I stood there, shocked, horrified and stunned, watching our PQB News/Vancouver Island Daily office’s heroic firefighters be killed The fire burned to blackened rubble.
The texts I got first said “British Bobby’s on fire” and then “It’s La Belle’s on fire”.
British Bobby is of course an iconic Parksville landmark restaurant. La Belle Parksville is to the right of British Bobby, Parksville Heritage Center (road view).
When I arrived, reporter Michael Briones was already on the scene, as were dozens of firefighters from various regions, and many onlookers were watching the grim scene.
Our office is just two doors down from Bobby UK. At first, when I saw firefighters raining water on the roof from sky-high ladders, and then spewing more water from the ground, I thought “maybe they can save our office”.
Incorrect. The flames burst through the ceiling and then quickly spread into our office, engulfing years of old newspapers, personal memorabilia and everything else in flames.
“We’re definitely news right now,” I thought.
Then I focus on the business next to ours, Heritage Animal Hospital.
At first, I thought it might be saved. Then the new flame explosion told me I was wrong. I can feel the heat of the road.
I sat down and watched some more, then kept going late into the night, and eventually drove home for a bit of sleep (well, non-existent). I’ve always loved smelling like a campfire. I may never feel that way again.
In the morning, I came back to investigate the scene. Total destruction.
To keep things light, I bemoan the loss of my favorite Calvin Klein finish. If you look inside the window on the right in the attached photo, that’s my desk.
Not much left.
But my main thoughts then and now have to do with the other businesses affected.
Animal Hospitals, Restaurants, Upward Refillery and NextGen Automation. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.
As a news organization, we will move forward. Thanks to technology, we still managed to get the story out that night (“Wolf, you don’t want to be in the news”), and we’ll still have print this week, and our talented executives will get us back home. (Thanks to all who provided the interim office/warehouse space, and many well-meaning people).
For other businesses, this may be a slower process.
They pour their heart, soul, talent and resources into their livelihood. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, it’s been quite a hit that business is finally starting to pick up.
Rebuilding may take some time. I know when that time comes, the community will come together to embrace and support them all, hopefully soon.
And endless thanks to the firefighters, their efforts are always amazing. We are lucky to have every single one of them.
And I’m 100% okay and will never be in the news again.
PQB News/VI Daily Editor Philip Wolf can be reached at [email protected]
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