'There won't be anything left': Symons Valley Ranch owners, vendors watch as market consumed by fire
'It’s the emptiest feeling I’ve ever had in my life,' farmers market owner says
Leaking natural gas hampered efforts to put out a major fire that destroyed much of the main building at Symons Valley Ranch Thursday morning.
The blaze fully engulfed the mostly wood building at Symons Valley Road and 144th Avenue N.W. where a popular farmers market has operated since 2013.
The fire department was called just after 6 a.m. and the blaze was quickly upgraded to a second alarm, spokeswoman Carol Henke said.
Battalion Chief Stu Laird said a ruptured gas line kept the fire burning, but capping it off could have created a more dangerous situation since the gas could have escaped someplace else.
Laird said crews allowed the gas to vent until ATCO Gas officials were able to shut down the supply.
About 40 residents downwind of the fire on Sage Bluff Green were asked by police to leave their homes until the air quality improved, the fire department said.
Other residents in the area were asked to stay indoors. There was no fire risk to nearby homes.
Ken Aylesworth, one of the market's owners, said he was able to contact all 32 farmers market vendors and confirmed that nobody was in the facility when the fire broke out.
"We believe everybody is safe and sound," he said. "After that, it's the emptiest feeling I've ever had in my life."
Aylesworth said the main floor of the market and the basement were totally gutted.
"It would appear that virtually all of that is gone," he said.
The restaurant on the third floor at the east side of the complex did not appear to be damaged, Aylesworth said.
Shawnna Taylor, who owns One Cup Coffee Club in the market, said it's likely her business was completely destroyed.
"There won't be anything left," she said. "I might be effectively out of business and have to go find a job now."
School bus company First Student, which parks its buses in a lot next to the ranch, said the fire had an impact on 103 routes across the city.
But drivers were able to retrieve all the vehicles later in the morning and the company said the afternoon runs would be back to normal.
The cause of the fire is under investigation and fire officials are asking anyone with video, pictures or information to email the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fire also ripped through the complex more than two decades ago. Three banquet halls that were added to the Symons Valley Ranch complex in the 1980s were destroyed by fire in 1989 and later rebuilt, according to the owners' website.
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