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Fire destroys Pedro Gonzales Fruit Stand

A devastating fire at Pedro Gonzalez Fruit and Garden Ltd. has left fire investigators with more questions than answers.

The Salmon Arm RCMP are working with the Salmon Arm Fire Department to establish the cause of the fire.

“The police investigation is ongoing and updates will follow as the investigation develops,” says a press release from the Salmon Arm detachment.

Assistant fire chief Rod Macfarlane says the speed with which the fire spread in the five minutes between dispatch and arrival on scene was unusual.

“Things didn’t go as expected,” he said yesterday, noting that what initially came in as a commercial alarm at 12:20 a.m. Monday, Sept. 9, was amended to commercial structure fire within one minute and was a deep-seated fire by the time firefighters arrived. “Given the time frame, it’s very unusual. It’s rare something will move that quickly and do that much damage.”

The first indication of a fire was through heat detectors that had gone off, at which point, the monitoring company called dispatchers.

What triggered the change to commercial structure fire within a minute was a call from a passerby on the Trans-Canada Highway, something that was followed by multiple calls.

Macfarlane says the duty chief was at Pedro’s within four minutes, saw a fire in the back and immediately made a call for additional resources.

Hall 3 was on scene with full equipment in less than six minutes and firefighters from the departments three other halls arrived shortly after.

“We found a fire in the feed building and focused our attention on that because that’s where we saw flames on our arrival,” he says, noting  the fire was soon rolling through the main sales building causing the roof to collapse.

“It was pretty spectacular at that point. Within a very short time, the flame was rolling out of the building there.”

Firefighters were on scene until 6 a.m. and did a good job in extinguishing the fire and preventing it from getting into the west side of the main building. The collapsed roof made accessing hot spots difficult.

Grateful no one was injured in the blaze, Macfarlane says the building and contents suffered extensive loss.

“It (flames) all went through the roof structure so there was very little damage,” he says. “The sad thing is, as much as we could save, the resulting smoke and water damage makes the rest of the product unusable.”

Macfarlane says investigations now underway will include an extensive interview process.

“You know, all those things – who, what, where, when and why?” he said. “Because of the extent of the fire and the area it covered, there are so many things to look for.”

A special meeting was held last night to interview all firefighters who attended the fire in order to determine what each one of them saw when they arrived at the fire.

Macfarlane says the fire department’s goal is first to figure out the area of origin of the fire, followed by discovering the actual point of origin – the heat source.

Fire department officials will work with insurance company investigators.

“There’s a lot of things that have to transpire before we can say the cause,” he says.

The fruit stand has been owned by members of the Ruth Family for 38 years. There is no word yet on whether they plan to rebuild.

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