Radium heartbroken after fire destroys hand carved home of ailing woodcarver
A Friday morning fire devastated a multistory, hand carved home in the village of Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia but the resident slumbering within was helped to safety by some of his friends.
The local landmark, known as The House of a Thousand Faces, is the home of Rolf Heer, a beloved woodcarver well-known for his eccentric ways.
News of the fire spread quickly through the village. “I got a call from my boyfriend about 10:20 or so and he just said that Rolf’s place was on fire,” said Mike Gray, a Village of Radium councillor. “I was at the chamber of commerce and a couple of us from there ran over here and, yeah, it was just totally engulfed in flames. The firefighters were just arriving as we got here.”
Gray says some of Heer’s friends had entered the home and retrieved him. “He was sleeping inside when it was happening and they got him and brought him out,” recounted Gray. “He was groggy and wasn’t aware of what was happening .”
A section of Highway 93 was closed in both directions during the fire response that included the Radium, Invermere and Windermere Fire Departments.
“It’s devastating for…,” added Gray. “Rolf has been sick for quite a while and he’s not expected to live to the end of the year."
“What a catastrophic thing to have happen in the final months of your life.”
Gray says his first encounter with Heer occurred at a funeral service that took place a short time after Gray moved to Radium. “This person showed up that had this wizard hat, his little cape that he wears and I was just ‘Who’s this guy?’. ‘What’s this guy doing at a funeral?’ and that’s just who (Rolf) is.”
Heer, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, remained outside his home into the afternoon watching the firefighting effort while wearing his wizard hat and cape.The woodcarver is originally from Switzerland but has resided in Radium for the better part of four decades. “Just that personality, you would never be able to replace Rolf.”
The House of a Thousand Faces has been a popular spot for tourists and local residents for years as Heer would proudly welcome visitors into his home. The log home had been recently put up for sale given Heer’s health concerns.
“He (is) an icon of Radium,” said Gray. “We knew we’d lose him as a person but we were so hopeful that we would be able to keep his legacy going with his place. The Chamber of Commerce had been looking to form a museum society to carry on with the wood carver tradition.”
Gray says community members are attempting to help in any way they can. He has received numerous phone calls from residents wanting to help Heer and a restaurant situated across the street from The House of a Thousand Faces began cooking hamburgers to feed the firefighters as they tended to the blaze.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
With files from CTV’s Shaun Frenette