SPALLUMCHEEN - A North Okanagan dairy farm is suffering major losses after its hay barn and cattle feed were destroyed in a fire.
The Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department was called to the blaze on Knob Hill Road around 5:45 p.m., July 1. When crews arrived on scene, the fire was raging, fire chief Ian Cummings says.
“It was fully engulfed, extremely hot, and had lots of smoke,” Cummings says. “They figure there was about 750 tonnes of hay in the barn, apparently it took off really quickly.”
The family who owns the farm, and a number of employees, were on site when the fire began but no one was hurt. No livestock on the farm were harmed either.
The fire caused a hydro pole to burn down, sending wires to the ground, Cummings says.
Given the large size of the fire, hot weather conditions and proximity of other outbuildings, the fire department used a ‘surround and drown’ technique and didn’t take any chances. Seven Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department trucks and more than 30 firefighters, plus mutual aid from the Enderby Fire Department were part of the response, Cummings says.
No damage estimate is available for the barn, which was completely destroyed, but the value of the lost hay is pegged at more than $200,000.
“The issue they’re going to have... (is) the amount of feed they’ve lost. They have a lot of cows to feed. Right now it’s not easy, there’s not much extra hay on the market. They’ll be looking probably to Washington and probably the prairies,” Cummings says.
The fire department remained on scene until 4 a.m. and with the fire is still burning Thursday, July 2, firefighters are still there today. A large amount of hay still smouldering and crews can either watch over it and let it burn itself out or pull the piles apart, dousing as they go.
“If you let it burn, it will take a week. We don’t want to let it burn for a week, because someone has to be there monitoring it,” Cummings says. “Being a volunteer fire department, it’s hard for guys to commit to those kinds of hours…. You also have to be careful of not overtaxing them.”
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but because there was no electricity running to the barn, or machinery in it, Cummings suspects the blaze started in the hay.
“I want to thank our members for the amount of time they put into it, and Enderby for coming out and assisting us,” Cummings says.
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