Firefighters get water on an early morning apartment fire in downtown Chilliwack Monday morning.

Firefighters get water on an early morning apartment fire in downtown Chilliwack Monday morning.

SPARKS fly to help Chilliwack fire victims

In the wake of the Mary Street apartment fire early Monday morning, a group jumped into action to help burned-out residents.

Sometimes in a crisis situation, it’s the little things that count.

Like a new toothbrush.

In the wake of the Mary Street apartment fire early Monday morning, a group of volunteers called SPARKS also stepped in, and provided some of the necessities of life to the burned out residents.

“They did a fantastic job,” said one of the fire victims, Michael Marks.

There was a feeling of “full-on” support at the scene, from the dedicated emergency responders, to the SPARKS volunteers.

“Do you know what a toothbrush means when you’re standing on the street with just the clothes on your back?

“By 10 a.m. that toothbrush meant the world to me.”

Marks lived on the third floor of the severely fire-damaged building, and does not know what, if anything, will be salvageable. Still he’s is feeling grateful and fortunate that he is one of the few, one of three, with tenants’ insurance.

“One lady lost everything, and a young couple had just moved in last month and didn’t have a chance to sign the insurance papers yet.”

Marks was out on the street, watching as firefighters battled the blaze. He’d been on his way to work in Vancouver that morning, but was able to grab his work bag and ID before escaping.

“It was pandemonium. All you do is just watch the fire. It was just an apartment but it’s your home.”

He noticed as some of the SPARKs volunteers mobilizing to help the fire victims quickly. They engaged the SPARKS network of helpers on social media, bringing down food, and other items.

Marks said he had never heard of the group of Good Samaritans, SPARKS, who have been helping those in a need for months now. They hold a weekly dinner service at Five Corners, that they call Sunday Handups.

“They were there pretty quickly.”

Some SPARKS people were on-scene, while others later followed the bus to the Comfort Inn where the victims were being housed after the fire.

“We were there at the Comfort Inn from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” said SPARKS member Linds Hlokoff, about the efforts she and girlfriend undertook.

“We were so busy we didn’t sit down, and I got heat stroke.

“But it was good to see some smiles on their faces, especially after they had just spent the morning crying.”

There was water, food, clothes, toys, pet supplies, toiletries and more on offer.

There was hot lasagna, and restaurant vouchers, as well as a movie and popcorn. There were free items at Value Village. There were emotional reunions with family members and lost pets.

“I think it gave people hope to see that there’s some good in the world,” said Hlokoff. “It turned into a pretty good day.”

The SPARKs people are now working on providing some short-term housing for fire victims in need.

Firefighters went back into the burned building and managed to retrieve a few crucial items like glasses, medications and dentures.

There were Emergency Social Services personnel helping to arrange accommodations, as well as Salvation Army volunteers helping out as well.

Local businesses stepped up too, including Value Village, Save-On Foods, Rendezvous Restaurant, Ricky’s, Cottonwood 4 Cinemas, and more.

Marks said the SPARKS people had donated items they were giving out.

“Everything was new. They said they get it all donated for free, so they give it all away for free.

“There are no politics, or religion involved. If you need it, it’s here.”

Marks said he hopes the SPARKS people “keep doing what they’re doing.”

It’s the little things that really count, like the hugs, the words of encouragement. A toothbrush.

“It just matters. They’re doing a bang-up job.”

SPARKS stands for ‘SPARKS: Special People Acts of Random Kindness Shared,’ and the group can be found on Facebook.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Annette Williams with Chilliwack Learning Society holds up one of the pages of ‘Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!’ by Candace Fleming, the story chosen for the downtown StoryWalk event. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
StoryWalk transforms Chilliwack trails, sidewalks into outdoor literacy adventures

Families can read children’s stories together, page by page, as they walk story routes

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Items seized by Chilliwack RCMP and Abbotsford Police during a Feb. 23 traffic stop. (RCMP photo)
Police from Chilliwack and Abbotsford seize drugs in traffic stop

Chilliwack RCMP worked with the Abbotsford PD to seize four kilograms of suspected fentanyl

(Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for man who tried to grab boy near Robertson elementary school

A man in a parked minivan reached out the driver side window as a young boy passed by

Hope’s station house, moved from its original location along the railroad to 111 Old Hope Princeton Way. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read