Fire damages Vantreight farm
Sep 20 2012
Flames spread through a storage area at Vantreight farms.Photograph by: Ryan Vantreight. , Times Colonist
A plume of smoke that rose high into the sky over Saanichton Wednesday night was caused by a raging blaze in a large storage area on Vantreight Farms.
“It was terrifying,” said Ryan Vantreight, general manager of Vantreight Farms. “I broke down in tears about five times.”
No one was hurt, the fire was contained and the main building was saved, along with greenhouses, a shop and most of the major farming equipment. Nonetheless, members of the well-known farm family estimated that hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage was done.
Vantreight, who was on the scene, became emotional about the outpouring of community support in the wake of the blaze. Many asked what they could do to help.
“Buy local. Support farming,” Vantreight said, choking back tears. “We have to work that much harder right now to bounce back from this, and it’s not easy.
“It’s just hard when you’re trying to do the best you can and you’re constantly faced with challenge after challenge after challenge,” he said. “After a while, it wears you down. And if anyone wants to help, support our local farmers.”
The blaze was reported as a grass fire about 7 p.m. An estimated 60 firefighters from the Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney fire departments responded.
The flames quickly spread to an area where plastic trays for the transportation and storage of bulbs and flowers were piled up to 12 metres high, over an area of about 30 by 23 metres, said Central Saanich Fire Chief Ron French.
“You could see it for miles away,” French said. No structure was involved but the oil-based plastic burned black and hot.
Fire hydrants were about 900 metres away from where the firefighters needed to be, but French said that didn’t make a difference in the end.
An employee living on the farm immediately called owner Ian Vantreight, and began pulling large machinery away from the blaze.
“From my window I could see clear as a bell what was going on,” Ian Vantreight said. “The employees did a masterful job at directing things.”
Ian Vantreight’s main concern was that no one was hurt.
He immediately called his son.
“His voice was full of panic that there was a fire at the warehouse,” Ryan Vantreight said.
“I pulled a Dukes of Hazzard with my truck and tried to weave through all the parked cars,” he said.
“I drove through the field at one point.”
People had come from miles around to see the blaze, which caused a black plume of smoke that could be seen from Sidney in the cold night air.
“My dad was on a forklift pulling machinery out of the fire,” Ryan Vantreight said. “We were pulling out anything we could until the flames were too hot.”
And there “to offer support and help” was Ian Vantreight’s brother, Michael. It was unexpected and appreciated, Ryan Vantreight said, of his uncle’s support. Ian and Michael were involved in an acrimonious court battle after the death of their father, Geoff, in 2000.
French said he’ll return to the farm this morning to investigate the cause of the fire.
“There’s nothing suspicious,” French said. “The farm has a good safety record and there’s been no problems in the past.”