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The heartbreak of a downtown Prince George store fire

Owner talks about the aftermath of a fire that swept up the back wall of her downtown Prince George store, Niche Clothing & Trading Co., on Tuesday, April 9.


That’s the word Kellie Young used to describe her feelings soon after fire swept up the back wall of her downtown Prince George store, Niche Clothing & Trading Co., in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 9.

It’s a story downtown Prince George merchants have heard and experienced dozens of times.

An unhoused man trying to stay warm lit the fire by the store’s back door and walked away.

“I’m not sure even now that he even knows he lit the building on fire,” Young said.

The situation for the unhoused that live in the downtown core is terrible, she added.

“This is a humanity crisis and something has to be done to help them,” Young said.

“I love the downtown, I love the people in Prince George,” Young said. “And we have to get this straightened out so we’re all safe down here.”

And she doesn’t want to hear any negativity about the unhoused.

“You know what? That’s somebody’s kid you’re talking about,” Young said. “That’s somebody’s auntie or son – they are somebody’s family member and they have been tossed aside by society. And they need to be looked after. It breaks my heart to see them like this.”

By the time Young drove down to the store that fateful Tuesday morning emergency crews were already on the scene.

“The firefighters and police were just stellar,” Young said.

“The support I have received from so many people – phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages – it’s just a great community we live in and it hurts me that they’re hurting because of my circumstance.”

The report that came from Prince George Fire Rescue about the April 9th fire stated the structure damage was $150,000 and that is accurate.

What usually goes untold is the effect a fire like that has on a small business owner whose inventory includes massive amounts of natural fibre clothing and items like handbags, quilts, rugs, pillows, throws and baskets.

All the materials that absorb smoke like a sponge.

The worst hit were items in the large storage area at the back of the store, closest to the blaze. Young doesn't want to guess at the dollar figure loss because the insurance company hasn't completed its investigation.

So what’s next for Niche and its owner?

“Right now it’s hurry up and wait mode for me,” Young said. “The insurance company and the restoration company have both been fantastic. But there’s nothing I can do to speed up the process. I cannot open my store with the amount of smoke damage that’s in here. So I am going to stay closed for a while. This fire has swiped my livelihood out from underneath my feet.”

The only thing that can possibly be recovered is any metal pieces in the store because those can be wiped down.

The rest, including every bit of inventory inside the store and the building including the walls, ceilings and floors have been affected.

“I don’t want one whiff of smoke left in the store before I reopen,” Young said. "I'm still trying to figure out when it’s possible to reopen or not.The city needs a push on maintaining the downtown instead of it being like a 'Mad Max' set."

So it’s a wait-and-see situation.

“I love my store, I love the gals that come in to shop – and the guys, too,” Young said. “You know how many people I have met that are my good friends now because they’ve come into the shop to play dress up and hang out and how many have met each other here and have become good friends? So this is really hard to take.”