Family loses barns, home to fire

A family from rural Manitoba is still in shock this morning after losing everything in a raging grassfire on the weekend.
Fire consumes one of the barns on the Bokhari farm on Saturday. (CBC)

A family from rural Manitoba is still in shock this morning after losing everything in a raging grassfire on the weekend.

They are also questioning whether the fire crews need better equipment.

"I have a very hard time believing and understanding that in 2012, an area like Springfield [and] an area like Oakbank does not have bigger fire trucks," said Rana Bokhari.

"Like, what they have is these little tiny tankers that they're running back and forth to get water in."

Bokhari says she and her family were in Winnipeg when they got a call from their alarm company saying there was a fire at their property in the Rural Municipality of Springfield, near Anola, about 25 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

Thick, dark smoke fills the air near the Bokhari family home in Anola on Saturday. (CBC)

When the family got to the property, they saw two barns go up in flames. Then shortly afterwards, the house also burned.

Bokhari says fire crews couldn't save the house because they couldn't get near it.

Some downed hydro wires made it unsafe to approach, so everyone could only watch as the flames crept up to the home.

Bokhari said the hardest thing is watching her parents deal with the loss of so much property and the house they owned for 40 years.

Their everything was in there," she said. "I mean, the house and all that stuff, the material stuff — they've watched every one of their kids take a step in that house. We were all born in that house."

Burned out vehicles and machinery sit at the site of Saturday's fire on the Bokhari farm. (Rana Bokhari)

The house was insured but the barns were not, Bokhari said.

Although the family had operated a poultry farm at one time, and then a sheep farm, but there was no active operation at the time of the fire.

Bokhari's parents now live in Winnipeg and the farm house was often vacant, occupied sometimes by her brothers. The family still kept many of its belongings in the home, which is why it had a security alarm.

Tall grass on property, says reeve

But the reeve for the RM of Springfield, Jim McCarthy, said he was told the house was vacant and derelict.

The yard was also filled with tall, thick, dry grass, which provided plenty of fuel for the flames.

Property owners need to do their part to keep grass mowed and reduce fire threat on their land, McCarthy said.

But Bakhori said his family still lived in the house, although no one was there at the time.

Bakhori said he is upset that people would claim the house was abandoned, adding that his family considered the property to be their home.

Fire started kilometres away

The fire actually started kilometres away from the house and firefighters had been working at it for five hours before it got to the Bokhari home.

"If they're fighting a fire for five hours and it still gets to us, like you can imagine how insane that fire was," Bokhari said.

Four fires this weekend near Anola caused about $500,000 in damage. A total of three homes and some out-buildings, like the Bokhari barns, burned.

Dick Vlaming, the fire chief in the RM of Springfield, urges the public to follow the area's burn ban.

"Please don’t burn. It's so dry," he said.

"The ditches are dry [and] in the bushed areas, the leaves and that are so dry, it doesn’t take anything to light them up. And now with the winds, it just carries it.

"It's putting people's properties in jeopardy."