Friends identify Judith Rose Burke as the victim of Sunday’s fatal apartment fire. (Judith Burke Facebook)

Remembering Judith Rose Burke

Burke died during a fire in her fourth-floor apartment in Esquimalt on Sunday

Judith Rose Burke was a woman with a very tough exterior and a tender heart, remembers her coworker and friend Jennifer Pauls.

Burke died on Sunday after succumbing to a fire at her apartment building on Craigflower Road in Esquimalt. Burke was trapped on her fourth floor balcony. Several neighbours tried to coax her to jump by holding out blankets, but Burke didn’t jump. She died before any fire rescue services could get to her.

READ MORE: One woman confirmed dead following Esquimalt fire

Pauls met Burke while working together at the deli at Walmart in Saanich, and shared many laughs and memories. Through their experiences, Pauls was able to see the light in Burke, which she thinks a lot of people didn’t see.

Pauls said they never talked family but bonded over their cats, remembering a time she was sad at work because she missed her late cat, Smudge.

“I felt silly for crying and how people wouldn’t understand. Well, she looked me in the eyes and said that just because Smudge has four legs and fur doesn’t mean you love them any less, our pets are family,” Pauls said. “She teared up too and gave me a hug. That meant so much to me, you could never imagine…many at work never saw that side of her. She cared.”

Burke’s own cat, Blueberry, was seen leaping from the flaming building and landing, but is now considered missing. A local group, Find Lost and Escape Cats (FLEC) is now searching for him.

Burke was also an artist, Pauls recalled.

“One time I was down, it was the anniversary of my dad’s death. He was a journalist and artist and we chatted about him and that’s when she told me of her love for art,” Pauls said. “Just like my dad, she would be hard on herself in as far as going over a piece and feeling like she wasn’t good enough. Artists can be their own worst critics.”

ALSO READ: Fund launched for victims of fatal Esquimalt apartment fire

Burke soon realized she didn’t like working in the deli, so she transferred over to the cashier side of work, and afterwards Pauls saw her less.

Burke was usually stationed at till six, and enjoyed the human interaction in her role.

On Wednesday, a memorial was put up at her till, which was kept closed during her scheduled shift. The staff at Walmart could be seen with tears in their eyes.

“I just hope she didn’t suffer, and that once the flames took over it was fast,” Pauls said. “God, I wish she’d jumped. We all wish it but wishing won’t make it so. My heart goes out to the first responders and the folks who tried so hard to help her…they must’ve felt helpless. But at least she left us knowing people cared.”

-With files from Keri Coles

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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