The smell of charred wood still lingering in the chilly fall air, Bill Connor stood on his front lawn Monday and surveyed what was left of his Abbotsford home.
"Can't live in it," the 88-year-old remarked.
The windows of the modest, two-bedroom home were boarded up and the entrance criss-crossed with yellow caution tape. A chimney fire had gutted the inside the day before and Bill, his 86-year-old wife, Annie, and son, John, were waiting to see the extent of the damage.
"We lost quite a bit of stuff, I know that," Bill said.
The fire broke out around 10 a.m. Sunday, when the Connors were out for their daily coffee.
Sylvia Reddicopp, who's known Bill and Annie since 1948, drove past the house after picking up Bill's sister and saw the fire.
"I went by and I thought, gee whiz," Reddicopp, 79, said. "The smoke was just coming out of the windows like crazy."
Reddicopp saw that no one was home and went to the neighbour's house to call 911.
"I've never seen anything like that. That really frightened me," Reddicopp said. "It was a real panic."
As she watched firefighters attack the blaze, Reddicopp saw the Connors drive up.
"I went to the cafŽ in the morning and I came back and the house was burning," Bill said.
The Connors had left the wood stove going when they went for coffee, which was not unusual, but never expected a fire to break out.
Fire investigators believe the fire began in the chimney and don't deem it to be suspicious.
It's the second house Bill and Annie have lost to fire.
The first home they built on the six-acre property burned down due to faulty wiring. They lost most of their wedding photos, among other keepsakes, in that blaze.
They built the house that burned Sunday in the mid 1960s. It's the home where John grew up.
The Connors could not get home insurance because they did not have an insert in their chimney and couldn't afford to get one, John said.
"He's burned wood all his life," John said of his father. "You can only get away with something for so long, I guess, but we never had a problem."
The family spent Sunday night in a hotel and will likely spend two more nights there, but after that they're not sure what they will do. Staying with friends may be a short-term solution.
Bill said they hope to put a trailer on the property, which used to be part of a larger acreage purchased by Bill's parents when they came to Canada from Britain in the 1920s.
Bill said he's lived on the land since he was a toddler and expects to live there "till they pack me out.
"I figure I'm staying here till I die."