Turtleford residents watched with worry last night as the last grain elevator in town burnt to the ground.
Angela Csiki lives across the street from the elevator. Csiki says her partner, Chris Michelon, noticed the fire at about 9:15 pm. By that time, the local fire department was already on the scene, she adds.
“We moved our cars to the (school) division office just down the road. Then hung out there a bit just watching the debris and seeing how much was going over our house and whether we should be concerned or not,” Csiki says.
- PHOTOS: The aftermath of the Turtleford grain elevator fire
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Turtleford is located 90 kilometres north-west of North Battleford. At one time the elevator belonged to the Sask Wheat Pool, but is now owned by a local farming family. The elevator was located in the middle of town, along a CNR branch line that was shut down in 2000. A neighbouring Richardson Pioneer elevator stopped taking grain four years ago, and was subsequently demolished.
As sections of the structure burned open, blazing mounds of grain would flow out like lava, Csiki says. There was quite a bit of debris from the fire, but it was falling on the nearby Co-op grocery store, rather than her house, she says.
Lawrence Weinrauch is the general manager of the Turtleford Co-op and deputy mayor. Weinrauch was on his way home from Paradise Hill when he saw the flames, a little after 9 pm.
Both Csiki and Weinrauch credit volunteer fire fighters with saving the Co-op. Csiki says the fire fighters sprayed the Co-op for several hours. “I think the only thing that caught on fire was a garbage bin outside of the Co-op,” says Csiki.
Weinrauch says they did heat checks in the grocery store at about 3 am, and they didn’t lose anything, which he credits to the fire departments. At one point there were 32 fire fighters on scene, from volunteer fire departments of Turtleford, Glaslyn, and St. Walburg, a Town of Turtleford news release notes. RCMP officers and Sask Power workers were also on scene. There were no injuries, the news release adds.
Fire fighters also had a bit of luck on their side. As the elevator burned, it slowly collapsed inwards, Csiki says, rather than falling outwards. Residents did report hearing explosions. Fortunately Csiki says most of the debris wasn’t large.
As the night wore on, the flames started to die down, and there was less debris. “We felt safe at about midnight, and then we went home,” says Csiki.
Weinrauch says the fire is “a pretty controlled burn” now, but the fire department was still watching it. The cause of the blaze isn’t yet known, he adds, and investigators wouldn’t be able to look into it until the site was deemed safe. “It could burn the rest of today. It could burn two days, three days.”
Exactly what was in the elevator, besides some type of grain, is also an unknown right now. However, a semi-trailer was visible amongst the wreckage.
Csiki notes the elevator was a loss for the community, and the farming family who owned it. “Hopefully he has some form of insurance because he just lost a lot of hard work.”
Weinrauch says things went as well as they could, given the circumstances. “I hope there’s a happy ending to the story with that kind of damage and the crop loss.