Families and friends are suffering the loss of three young adults in their early 20s after a horrific fire tore through a house on Johnson Street this weekend.
No names have been released by the B.C. Coroners office, but the families of one young couple sent out messages on social media as they try to cope with their loss.
The parents of Mark Mitchell and his girlfriend, Emily Morin, confirmed that their children were two of the three victims. They were not your typical young adults, said Emily’s mother, Heather Morin.
Both graduated from the horticulture technician program at Camosun College in 2010 and worked on several organic farms in the province as they were both just starting their careers.
“Everyone’s kids should be like these kids,” Heather said. “They would have changed the world.”
After graduating from Camosun in 2010, Emily and Mark immediately travelled the province working on organic farms in exchange for room and board. It was all part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, also known as WWOOF.
They were also quite proud of the massive organic garden project they helped build in Campbell River. For about a year around 2011, they worked with Kira DeSorcy, a former classmate from the horticulture technician program at Camosun College.
The trio built a two-acre farm that produced food that was harvested and sold directly to locals through a weekly food basket program, known as community-supported agriculture.
“They loved that farm,” Heather said Sunday. “We went to visit them for several weeks to help them. We laughed and cried and laid down on the earth because it was so exhausting.”
Heather remembers looking at the 75-foot-long rows of vegetables, saying people had to see it to believe it.
Jennifer Davies met Emily about five years ago, when Emily was still in high school. As a hair stylist, Davies heard about all Emily’s crushes, all her plans in life. Emily would even babysit for Davies.
“Then she met Mark and I just knew that was it for them. They were going to be together forever,” Davies said. “They were perfect for each other.”
They moved into the house on Johnson Street and were both excited to move close to Davies, who lived in the Fernwood area.
“They were so happy to find that house,” Davies said.
Both were passionate about living off the land, said friends and family.
Heather remembers taking her daughter out to teach her how to drive, but with mom behind the wheel, Emily could barely pay attention because she was identifying all the plants they passed, by their Latin names.
Simple walks through the woods could take hours with both of them stopping to study everything they saw, Heather said. She remembers Mark carried a magnifying glass on a chain around his neck and would pull it out to study plant life.
Friends of both Mark and Emily say there was a party at the Johnson Street house Saturday. At least one friend stayed until about 3:30 a.m. to help clean up.
Firefighters say the blaze may have started from the porch, where a couch was reportedly on fire earlier in the evening and may not have been put out properly.
Heather wants to remind people that this group of friends were not traditional party-goers.
“These were the types of kids who sat around and played piano and other instruments when they got together,” she said. “We’re just devastated right now.”
Heather and her family send their thoughts to the firefighters who fought the blaze for hours, pulling people from the house.
A joint service for Mark and Emily is tentatively planned for next Sunday, and the firefighters are invited, said Heather.
• Donations to help support the victims of the Johnson Street house fire are being gathered by friends. Cash donations can be made at any VanCity bank to the account Johnson Street Fire Victims or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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