Suspicious fire burns down massive hay barn for second time in less than two years
MALAHIDE TOWNSHIP, ONT. -- A massive barn fire on Vienna Line just north of Port Bruce, Ont. has caused an estimated $4 million in damage.
Around 11:30 p.m. Monday seven fire stations from Malahide, Central Elgin and Bayham were called in, and arrived to find the barn already engulfed in flames.
"We put a lot of water on it to bring it down, but as you can see even as much as we were getting it choked down, it will re-erupt as it is now," says Brent Smith, director of fire and emergency services for Malahide Township.
When the call came in, Smith and his crews knew exactly where to go. This is not the first time the hay barn has burned to the ground.
In Oct. 2018 the same barn was destroyed by fire. At the time the value of the damage was $3 million. It was rebuilt in the summer of 2019.
Structural Engineer Nick Hiemstra was on site Tuesday morning taking pictures and seeing his most prized build turned to rubble.
"This is a large hay storage facility," says Hiemstra. "It was an 80x600 [feet], which is extremely large for the function it is serving. It was built to all the appropriate codes but when an event like this occurs, it’s difficult for the fire department to catch up, and as you can see we have the sad results."
An overnight fire has destroyed a hay barn in Malahide, Ont. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Source: Malahide Fire Department)
Excavators have been called in and fire crews are now dousing the hot spots as the machines move some of the siding and wood out of the way.
Smith says in 2018 they were on location for three full days, and a fire like this can smolder for weeks.
The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office (OFM) has been called in, but won't attend immediately as there is no physical or video evidence of the origin of the fire. The OFM will follow up in the coming days.
However, OPP investigators are on scene as Smith has deemed the blaze a suspicious fire.
"It’s not like an old structure, it’s a new structure,” says Smith. "Electrical armored cabling is less prone to rodents chewing it. The lights are not quite like old fluorescents and ballast resistors that when they exploded and popped you had a hot molten material dropping on a combustible material. So it is less likely to have building failures in building like this."
Smith also points to the fact that the hay in the barn isn't recently off the field.
"It's been graded and checked for moisture content in another barn and then only moved in here when its well below 12 to nine per cent. So we are not dealing with spontaneous combustion."
Hiemstra says the original building was destroyed in October of 2018 and rebuilt last summer, so this structure has only stood for a year.
"In 2020 this should not be happening, but it did so I'm sure there will be people looking into it," says Hiemstra.
Field and Flock Farms, where the barn is located, is owned by Mat Versteeg and produces hay for sale locally and internationally.
When contacted by CTV News, a distraught Versteeg said he "had to get away for the day and will be back Wednesday" and declined any other comment.