Tsartlip mourns loss of dancer, father, brother

Tsartlip First Nation Chief Wayne Morris - file photo
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Wayne Morris
— image credit: file photo

The Tsartlip community is remembering an uncle, brother and man who loved to dance.

Wilfred Joseph Henry, 44, died in a Dec. 29 trailer fire on Tsartlip Drive.

"In the community, one thing lots of people remember is he was a really good powwow dancer and he's been dancing in the community since he was four years old," said Joni Olsen, a Tsartlip band councillor. "He was very good, and you could tell he loved doing it."

Known as Joe Henry Jr., he's remembered by members of the Tsartlip community as a brother, an uncle and "the nicest man"

"He was a very kind, loving guy," Olsen said.

"We're doing everything possible [to help those left homeless]. … there's never enough that can be done," said Chief Wayne Morris. "Within our community we don't have extra housing, we don't have housing to go around to all of our members."

Morris has spent the week since the fire in contact with First Nations leaders and federal government "to see if there is anything that we can access to find some way of accommodating our family that's had a loss – in the way of a life and the way of living quarters," he said. "They've lost all their clothing they've lost all their belongings."

Donations including household goods and cash will be accepted at the band office for the small children, Henry's brother and his wife who lost their home to the blaze. Donations can be dropped off at the band office at the end of Boat Ramp Rd.

Central Saanich firefighters doused the fire that started around 4 p.m. and left the home gutted.

"We've determined that the fire started in the kitchen area of the trailer," said fire chief Ron French. "It is still an undetermined cause."

Henry lived in the trailer with his wife and other family members.

As well as leader of the community, Morris knew Henry on a personal level. Henry was the son of Morris' cousin.

"Joe Jr. was always friendly and supportive and helping wherever he can, that's the loss that we've had," the chief said. "He was supporting, he would support families that were in need in any way he could. Whether it be cultural or a circumstance we're in today, he was always dependable."


A warning is issued

The B.C. Coroners Service and the Office of the Fire Commissioner are urging owners of mobile and manufactured homes, and operators of mobile home parks to take special care to prevent fires in the wake of a tragic New Year's weekend.

From Dec. 29 to Jan. 2 seven people lost their lives in five separate fires across B.C. Three of the fires and five deaths occurred in mobile homes or travel trailers being used as living accommodation. The B.C. Coroners Service and the Office of the Fire

Commissioner are continuing to investigate these fires for specific causes.

Studies show that fires in such housing tend to be more devastating than those in other forms of residence, according to the Office of the Fire Commissioner.

Escape from mobile home fires is more difficult because the space is smaller, which puts the occupant closer to the products of combustion. They do not ventilate as readily as other homes and chances of survival decrease. A second exit is not always accessible and they are sometimes made of more flammable material.

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