It was minus -35 C and Ray Paulokangas was worried his pipes would freeze.
He turned on some heat lamps and portable heaters near the water pipe, along with the baseboard heaters. He then settled in for the night, while his partner Linda headed to the sauna in a building at the back of the house. It was Dec. 29.
He figures he must have fallen asleep, only to awaken to Linda’s shouts about smoke in the house. He realized right away there was no hope and ran outside, wearing only socks and pajamas.
“Somehow something got ignited and got loose and the house went down in under an hour,” he told the Free Press. “I could see there was nothing we could do.
“I tried to open the door and there was a big draft of smoke coming right at me. It burned my forehead and some of the hair on my head … I cried for help for half an hour before the neighbours came.”
While Linda had her boots, Paulokangas wrapped his feet and head in towels from the sauna while they waited for help to arrive. Their home, on the Tin Cup Golf Course at the south corner of Green Lake, is part of a 40-acre parcel. Their nearest neighbours are about four kilometres away but rushed over when they saw the glow of the fire and heard his cries.
Paulokangas and Linda waited in their warm truck for another half hour until the South Green Lake Volunteer Fire department and ambulance showed up.
By then the house was pretty much gone anyway, with everything they owned. The outbuildings, including the sauna, were spared although there was some damage to Paulokangas’ truck and fifth wheel.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Paulokangas, meanwhile, is trying to figure out the insurance. The couple spent a few nights with a friend in Pressy Lake before heading to Paulokanga’s daughter’s home in Maple Ridge. It took them 8.5 hours to get there.
Meanwhile, the 70 Mile Community Club and Paulokangas’ family are calling on the community for donations to help Paulokangas and Linda, who lost their home and basic necessities. Paulokangas’ granddaughter Raychel Colangelo has started a GoFundMe account – called “Fire Relief for Ray and Tin Cup Greens” – with a $10,000 goal. As of Tuesday this week, it had collected $4,460.
Paulokangas said he was grateful for the support. “They’re great people around the area and I couldn’t believe how good they were to us,” he said.
Although they’re now safe in Maple Ridge, Paulokangas said the ordeal was “a nightmare actually. I think I did breathe in some of the smoke because there is still some of it in my chest. Linda saved my life, there’s no doubt about it. If I had been there two more minutes, I wouldn’t be here today.”