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

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Skaters get a golden moment with Chan

Olympic medallist conducts two-day seminar that attracted close to 150 participants

Society proposes outdoor performance stage for Community Park

The Parksville Beach Festival Society is proposing an outdoor performance stage for… Continue reading

Faye Smith remembered, honoured through new interpretive pavilion

Qualicum Beach’s upgraded Brant viewing area is dedicated to the long-time wild salmon advocate

Get ready for a week of sunshine across Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is forecasting temperatures in the high teens all this week

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Vancouver Island designated as foreign trade zone

Designation simplifies importing and exporting and provides duty relief

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

Most Read