Regional fire services is doing its part in determining what caused the largest structure fire of the year.
Kootenay Boundary Fire Rescue met with claim adjusters and private investigators Thursday at JF Auto Centre in Waneta. An onsite storage structure that caught fire Tuesday burned right to the ground, according to regional fire chief Terry Martin, which will complicate a large investigation that involves several parties.
An initial inspection revealed the fire at the 30-foot wide by 200-foot long storage structure on the Old Waneta Road was further ignited by 28 vehicles, mostly recreational and locally owned, in and around the facility. A green house at the end of the building, where owner John Foglia grew fig trees and other Italian speciality trees, also disappeared in the flames.
The Trail business specializes in vehicle removal, truck and auto repair, and towing. Foglia also operates his other business Champion Cabs out of the same property.
“We still don’t have a definitive cause yet and it’s going to be a tough one because of the destruction of the building or how badly it was damaged,” said Martin.
“These were fibreglass structures, these recreational vehicles, with propane and gasoline and diesel in them, it was just added fuel to the fire.”
Foglia said taxi cabs were not included in the lot and the City of Trail could not verify whether two vehicles towed by the company in May had yet been picked up.
“After the impound then it’s up to the owner to collect their vehicle from the lot,” said Trail corporate administrator Michelle McIsaac. “Like I say, we tow seldom and typically it’s only if it’s abandoned, unlicensed vehicles on city roadways that we haven’t had success in tracking down the owners.”
Up to 35 firefighters were on site dousing the flames for about two hours from the time the fire started at about 6:30 a.m. that morning.
Regional fire put much effort on the side of the building closest to nearby company Able Plastics, which was in real threat due to its proximity.
Able Plastics owner Dan Manson admitted the thought of his building going up in flames crossed his mind.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for the fire departments that showed up here,” he said. “They just did absolutely a fantastic job.
“They had it beat down pretty fast, the main flames that were most threatening, were probably down within the first hour so it was just more the heat than the flames that caused most of our grief.”
Able Plastics sustained some surface damage while the fire minimally impacted JF’s other neighbour Les Schultz Autobody & Glass.
The fire goes down in the history books with some of the largest fought locally, said Martin. He compared Tuesday’s incident to the Toxco fire, when lithium explosions from an outbuilding in the rear yard of the battery recycling plant eventually caught fire in November of 2009, and the Sandu Apartment fire on Rossland Avenue Christmas Eve 2006.
“At this present time all I want to say is that there are people out there that are opening their mouths without much known for facts,” said Foglia. “We’re still running as per usual; there has been an incident in the backyard, that’s it.”