Tragedy struck Manitou on Saturday evening as a devastating fire broke out in the barn on the historic Silversmith Farm. The fire was reported to Emergency Services around 8:40pm and helicopters and surface response crews were immediately deployed.
Stormy Waters, weather prognosticator for Lloydminster Abbey, reported that "summer in Manitou has started off on a very dry note" he said "we did not see as much rain in the spring that we normally do and this has created the perfect conditions for devastating fires". The dry weather conditions and old wood structure unfortunately contributed to the rapid spread of the fire to nearby crops and trees.
Fire Chief Red E'lite conducted an investigation into the fire early this morning, his early findings report that "the fire may have been electrical" referring to the wiring in the barn that was "installed before Manitou became a town with building code standards", he said. Fire crews from three communities were able to contain the blaze in under two hours. The fire was declared extinguished around 10:00pm last night and Manitou Air Traffic Control (MATC) released air traffic restrictions for Manitou and Massey. An air quality alert remained in effect until after midnight until the jet-stream removed the remaining smoke from the regions.
"It is a terrible loss for the historic aspect of our community" said Mayor Silversmith, CEO of Manitou Tourism. "The cottage burned down earlier this year and we decided not to replace it simply to maintain the historic nature of the remaining estate."
The Farm has been the center of discussion lately with Manitou council following a fire that destroyed the cottage earlier this year. Council had originally blocked a development plan for the area citing the historic significance of the farm in the community. Mayor Silversmith was on scene early this morning and met with the Fire Chief, and other emergency personnel to assess the damage to the estate. Emergency Services has estimated the damage at over MC$ 2,500 in loss of structures and stock.
Council met in an emergency session before noon today and voted to sell the land for immediate residential and parkland development. "We can not afford to restore the estate and it won't be historic if we do", Mayor Silversmith said. "We will preserve the rural feeling of our community with the new low-prim rental development". The new construction of a residential development will cost Manitou Tourism over MC $2,500 in cleanup, new building design and planning.
The Planning Department already had plans submitted earlier this year which were blocked by the historical nature of the estate. "This is not the way we wanted this land developed", a spokesperson for Manitou Tourism told the Corran Journal, "we had hoped to fit modern buildings throughout the existing estate lands, trying to preserve as many of the historical structures as possible just like we did in Massey."
Massey Estate was a privately owned region complete with a large residence in the middle. After the remaining members of the Massey family had passed away the estate fell to disrepair. Local farmers reclaimed the surrounding lands, and later when Manitou Tourism acquired the lands residential homes were built merging history and practicality. Massey Estate remains as a historical landmark in the middle of the region and part of the surrounding property has been designated for public land use for camping.
"The fire could have been a lot worse", said Red D'lite of Manitou Emergency Services. "Thankfully Manitou Tourism just invested thousands of $Maples into the community with the construction of the new Emergency Operations Centre and response network". Shortly after the fire was reported a call went out to neighbouring regions to send any available fire services crews. Two neighbouring communities responded to the call and the blaze was contained. "The fire could have easily spread to Meaford jeopardizing over twenty commercial structures." he said. "We were able to stop the fire at the river to the west and the ruins to the north."
"The winds were light which was a welcome change from last week. If the fire had occurred in mid-April the spring winds would have spread it much faster." said Stormy Waters.
Crews will begin clearing the land today followed by construction of the new residential development. "We're looking at natural but modern buildings with more wood and windows to keep the natural look to the region", said Bill D'rite, construction foreman for Manitou Tourism.
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Donations to Fundraisers 2017:
Hendrix tribute concert
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Kevin M. Klerks, Editor
(aka Winter Silversmith)