“Never Say Never”: Man Who Is Blind Shares Message After Escaping Blaze

A 71-year-old man is urging Londoners to learn from his mistakes, following an apartment fire that could have had a much worse outcome — if not for a neighbour, and the man’s seeing eye dog.

Arko Ypma — who is blind — was doing some early morning vacuuming in his unit at 374 Simcoe Street on Dec 28th, when he realized the appliance was overheating.

“I felt the heat coming off my vacuum, so I proceeded to put it outside on the balcony to let it cool off,” explains Ypma, who didn’t realize the device was already spitting flames, dropping burning plastic on flammable items.

“When I set it down on my dog bed in front of the balcony door, the dog bed caught on fire and everything just exploded into a huge massive flame.”

The fire alarm in the apartment began to sound, the building fire alarm began to sound, and Ypma headed into the hallway yelling to his neighbour Pam Claveau while his 8-year-old German Shepherd Trooper raced to her door.

“He banged on the door with the back of his tail and his back — because that’s what he does, he’s got a strong tail,” explains Claveau, who heard Ypma yelling there was a fire, and realized he was already heading for safety outside.

Claveau brought Trooper to the balcony of her apartment with her own small dog and waited for fire officials to douse the flames, but not until after closing the door to Ypma’s apartment — an instinct she picked up from school and watching TV, which officials praised.

“Apartment buildings are designed to contain fires to the apartment unit,” explained Deputy Fire Chief Brian McLaughlin, who said closing the door stopped the fire from spreading into the hallway and causing more damage.

Trooper has recovered from smoke inhalation, while burns on Ypma’s fingertips are expected to heal fully.

Now, he’s urging Londoners to invest in something he didn`t have.

“I didn’t have content insurance,” he explains. “[It] is so important, so important. I’ll never move again without it.”

Ypma’s daughter, Suzanne Ypma-Williams has launched a GoFundMe campaign to replace some of the belongings lost in the blaze, while the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is replacing much of the specialized equipment necessary for living on his own.

“He’s a very independent guy,” said Ypma-Williams. “He values his independence, and we appreciate that. It’s great to see him have that independence and act in his own manner.”

A community unit inside the apartment building is being converted so Arko and Trooper can go back to living independently; his own apartment should be restored within four months.

Source: “Never Say Never”: Man Who Is Blind Shares Message After Escaping Blaze | (CFPL AM) AM 980