By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – A mid-morning fire Tuesday destroyed a tin barn at the Smokin’ Elk Ranch just outside Morinville and caused an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 in damages. Crews were called in from Morinville, Sturgeon County, Legal and Namao to combat the fire.
Morinville Fire Department Captain Brian Johnston, incident commander on the fire call, said the department was called to a non-residential outdoor structure fire around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and arrived to find the building fully in flames. “When we arrived on scene the roof had already collapsed in,” Johnston said. “There wasn’t a whole lot we could do. Once everything was collapsed in, we didn’t really have access to any of the burning contents inside.”
Lost in the fire was the structure itself as well as a large quantity of equipment and some livestock. Johnston said the structure contained a gravel truck, tractors, quads, a track hoe and 40 chickens. Additionally, the garage contained a walk-in freezer that contained a large quantity of the company’s product.
Although the loss of a barn, equipment, product and livestock is a tragic loss for the local business, the fire could have been worse. Johnston said the east side of the structure had an active gas riser and meter. “We had to protect that until ATCO Gas got there. They were eventually able to do an emergency isolation because they couldn’t get close enough to do an isolation on it.”
Johnston said his crews moved in with hose lines to do their own isolation until ATCO could cut off the line. There was concern that a collapsing wall could take down the gas meter.
At the same time crews were working the west side of the building where Johnston said there were three 1,000 litre fuel tanks, units that were only partially full at the time of the fire. Additionally, inside the barn were several propane tanks and oxygen cylinders that fire crews did not know if they had exploded or not.
“Our basic plan of attack was to protect exposures, protect the gas meter, and just let it burn down,” Johnston said. “Once we got a track hoe in we were able to pull the tin out of the way and we were able to complete extinguishment of the fire.”
It is not known what caused the fire and Johnston said it is unlikely the cause will be known. “We’re going to have to put this down as undetermined,” he said. “Because of the fact we had to bring the track hoe in to completely remove everything, there is nothing left for us to investigate. In talking with the County Chief and the County Deputy Chief we came to the conclusion it’s just going to have to be undetermined at this time.”