Owen Wilson immigrated to Canada from England four months ago with the hopes of starting a life in Vernon before his downstairs apartment was disintegrated in Thursday’s house fire. (Photo: Harjot Kaur)

Renter of torched Okanagan home a British Army veteran, new Canadian

Owen Wilson was just beginning to settle into life in Canada when the blaze occurred

The house that was reduced to ashes at Commonage Place in Vernon on Thursday had a second renter, in addition to the family of five who spoke to media shortly after the blaze started.

A British Army veteran who recently immigrated to Canada was renting the downstairs floor. Now, both he and the upstairs family have GoFundMe pages set up by friends who have opened their doors to them while they get on their feet.

Just four months ago, Owen Wilson left family and friends behind in England and immigrated to Canada, with the hopes of starting a life of his own and supporting his family from across the pond.

Wilson spent the past two months renovating the bottom floor of the house to make it a livable space to start his new life in Canada. All of his savings from England went into creating his home before all of it went up in flames, as explained on the GoFundMe page started on his behalf by Vernon resident Harjot Kaur.

Read More: Vernon mom rescues sleeping baby from burning home

“He finally moved in, and then the fire happened and he lost everything,” Kaur said in a Saturday interview.

Kaur and her husband, Amar, met Wilson in November 2017 while backpacking in the Philippines, and having stayed in touch they became close friends with him once he made the move from England to Vernon. The Kaurs live right next to the scorched remains of the building that Wilson had lived in for a few short weeks.

The Kaurs have put Wilson up in their home ever since his Mission Hill residence was disintegrated in the fire – the cause of which is not yet known.

Wilson is a British Army veteran who spent time in Afghanistan. Kaur explains that when they met him two years ago he was struggling to find a living wage with the higher cost of living in England, and was living day to day. When he first arrived to Canada he lived with the Kaurs for a couple months to find employment, and Kaur felt that he was just beginning to settle into his new life when the blaze occurred.

“It’s devastating,” said Kaur. “He was so ecstatic to finally have a home in Canada and felt like he was starting to make it.”

The Kaurs also know the upstairs residents of the home – Rick and Tina Sinclair and their three children. A GoFundMe page was created for the Sinclairs by Sophona Rose Slattery on Friday. Like the Kaurs with Wilson, Slattery is housing the Sinclairs until they can recover their bearings.

“They are the nicest and most kind-hearted people,” Kaur said of the Sinclairs, “and same with Owen.”

“Everyone’s pretty shaken up.”

Wilson’s GoFundMe page – posted on Friday around 10 a.m. – has a goal of $3,000, and so far donations have covered the first $170. Like his upstairs neighbours, Wilson did not have renter’s insurance to cover the loss of his possessions.

Read More: Suspicious fire rips through abandoned Okanagan home

Read More: Car catches fire while being towed by motor home on Hwy. 97


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at [email protected]
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