Qualicum Beach new resident Lynda Llewellyn was badly burned in an apartment fire in 1983. Now she talks about the importance of fire prevention around Western Canada. Fire prevention week is Oct. 4-10.

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: Burn victim tells her story during Fire Prevention Week

The fire was in 1983 in Edmonton; Lynda now lives in Qualicum Beach

Don’t play with matches.

We’ve all heard it before — but if you’re going to listen to anyone preach fire prevention, let it be new Qualicum Beach resident Lynda Llewellyn, who literally walked through fire to save her five-year-old son, scalding her own skin, leaving her hospitalized for nearly a year.

She underwent 35 plastic reconstruction surgeries after the fire.

The single mother lost everything she owned in her uninsured Edmonton apartment.

And it all started with matches one unassuming Friday morning in 1983.

“I woke up at about 7:15 a.m. and went to see my son, Adam… he normally would wake me up but he didn’t that morning… I found Adam was sitting in the living room totally surrounded by fire,” Llewellyn said.

“He had woken up earlier and found some matches somebody had left behind, not something that was normally in our home, and he did what any child that age would do – he started playing with them.”

Llewellyn said she called Adam but he didn’t look up, he just sat there paralyzed with fear in the centre of a ring of fire.

“So I just instinctively did what I think any parent would have done,” she said. “I walked through the flames and I picked him up.”

With Adam tucked under her arm, both ablaze, she walked to her bedroom as it was the furthest room from the fire.

She wrapped a blanket around herself and Adam to put the fire out, then looked out the window of her third storey apartment building along 66th Street to find neighbours scattered down below looking up.

“I dropped Adam down three storeys,” she said. “My hands were so badly burned I couldn’t hold onto him.”

Neighbours reacted quickly, putting Adam in a tub of cool water.

She remembers hearing the blaring sirens of fire trucks getting closer and closer, but at that moment she was all alone.

Soon after, a firefighter appeared to take Llewellyn down.

“I remember him saying he couldn’t take me down because the ladder wasn’t secure, and I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going back in there,’ and he just stayed at the top of the ladder and kept me calm until they put a second ladder up,” she said.

Llewellyn was rushed to University of Alberta Hospital, where she stayed for eight months.

At just 30 years of age, she was on the critical care list for three months and had weekly surgeries for the first five months.

Eighty per cent of Llewellyn’s body is now covered in burns, 50 per cent of them are third degree. The most extensive burns are on her face, hands, arms and back.

“The first time I saw my face was two and a half months after the fire,” she said. “I had pictures on the wall of what I used to look like and I looked at my doctor and I said, ‘Okay, but you can make me look like that again… right?’ and pointed at the pictures and he went, ‘No, there’s no way I can make you look like that again.'”

She recalled feeling completely numb for two days after hearing the news.

“And then I just accepted it and moved forward because there’s no going back,” she said.

Today, Llewellyn is glowing with a serene sense of optimism and strength.

Her face is covered in scars, reminders of the blaze that changed her life forever.

She now dedicates her life to guest speaking about the importance of fire prevention telling her story to people all over Western Canada. She talks to school groups, community organizations and fire departments.

“The gift I give to teenage girls in particular is that I talk about my surgeries,” she said. “A lot of young girls are struggling to fit in… I say, if I can look the way I look and be fine, there’s no reason they can’t.”

Llewellyn got married two years ago and she and her husband relocated to Qualicum Beach in July. She continues to share her story, recently making a presentation to the Bow Horn Bay Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Prevention Week is being recognized this year Oct. 4-10. According to a news release issued by the City of Parksville, fire prevention week was inspired by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which lasted two days Oct. 8-9 killing more than 250 people and leaving 100,000 homeless. Since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed from the Sunday through Saturday that Oct. 9 falls.

Just Posted

Parksville Qualicum Beach legions set to launch Poppy Campaign

Annual fundraiser to run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 11

Bear sightings up significantly in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Fruit trees number one food attractant, says conservation officer

Parksville Qualicum Beach crime report: Thieves pilfer laptops, tools, big-screen TV, cash and more

Oceanside RCMP received 256 complaints between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5.

Qualicum Bay writer Linda Tenney dies after battle with cancer

Celebration of life set for Nov. 2 at Lighthouse Community Centre

Pole-climbing thieves pilfering wire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Repairs are costly and thefts jeopardize public safety

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

According to a press release, both parties met on Oct. 16, 18, 19, and 20.

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Most Read