Sometimes it’s the heroes who need saving.
For years a Penticton man has been in the wrong place at the right time; his no-hesitation attitude has resulted in him saving the lives of several individuals.
However, an incident that took place in March affected him in a particularly profound way, and months later, he said it also saved his life.
A Penticton family owes their lives to Gord Portman and Rob Madden, for rescuing them from a burning building in March. Now, Portman said he owes them his.
Months after assisting in rescuing Linda Paksec, her husband, and daughter from a structure fire at 76 Duncan Avenue East, Portman said he is more than one month clean.
On March 28, the Western News reported that two bystanders assisted in rescuing a family from a Penticton house fire. Neighbour Gord Portman and A&W employee Rob Madden saw smoke rising from a building close by, and jumped into action.
Not only did they notify first responders, but they also didn’t hesitate in charging into the burning building to rescue the residents.
“I looked at that picture of me in the paper and I just (said) I need to get better,” said Portman.
Forty pounds heavier, smiling from ear to ear, Portman says he feels good.
“I think it really saved my life,” he said.
Asked if he would do it again, Portman answered confidently, “For sure I would. No questions.”
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|Three individuals were rescued from a structure fire at 76 Duncan Avenue East, on March 28, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Mike Biden)|
But, Paksec and her family aren’t the only ones who are indebted to Portman. The now clean Penticton resident stands outside the Western News office with an individual who says Portman saved his life. Years ago, Portman walked into the man’s home to find him laying on the couch unconscious, gray in colour, just an hour from death due to thyroid disease.
Recently, the man returned the favour.
Standing outside Discovery House, a men’s recovery centre, the man whom Portman saved beckoned to him from across the street, encouraging him to come live there.
“I just thought hey, it’s time to get clean. So then I got into the Discovery House right away, (they had) open arms… the Discovery House saved my life,” said Portman.
Together with several other men from the house, Portman continues to support Paksec after the fire. Her smoke-damaged home was recently boarded up to prevent squatters from living inside.
Penticton RCMP confirmed on June 30 that RCMP and Bylaw officers have attended the structure with reports of people inside it. Bylaw last reported that the home would be boarded up, left in the hands of the owner to determine if it can be repaired.
“They (squatters) totally tore the place apart. My bedroom, every piece of clothing that was in my closet is out, everything that was in my drawers is out. Jewelry is missing, I don’t know what was there,” said Paksec.
Since the fire, Paksec’s husband has passed away. She also lost her dogs. Her daughter, who had to be revived three times the night of the structure fire, is in a care home. Linda is currently living out of a motel, paying over $300 a week.
She had no insurance on her home.
Despite her situation, Paksec is above all grateful to Portman and Madden for saving her family’s life.
“Thank you, thank you so much; they will always be in my heart… I went to see him (Madden) the other day and I don’t know how long we hugged, I just thanked him so much.”
If saving their lives wasn’t enough, Portman wanted to help the family, financially.
Those wanting to assist can drop bottles and cans off at 76 Duncan Avenue East, which will be picked up by Portman and the funds donated back to Paksec.
“Nobody’s been helping… she’s lost everything. It’s really sad, she’s such a sweetheart,” said Portman.
He and several other individuals have been watching over the home, looking out for anyone who might try to break in. They hope to have Paksec back in her home by Christmas.
“They say they can renovate it, and they can get the people to (help) get it back,” said Paksec.
He also hopes the community can rally together to support her.
“The town should come together and help her because she needs it really bad,” said Portman.
Portman and the man who now stands beside him said they have hope.
“The people in this town are called pennies to me,” said Portman’s friend, who’s name has been withheld due to privacy reasons. “Because as one they’re still strong, but as a bunch, we’re very very strong.”