Grain elevator, hardware store destroyed by Crystal City, Man., fire

A devastating fire tore through Crystal City, Man., on Monday evening, reducing a grain elevator to ash and severely damaging a hardware store.

Man in his 30s airlifted to hospital after sustaining burns

The Crystal City, Man. elevator caught fire around 6 p.m. Monday. (Submitted/Kaylene Pryor)

A devastating fire tore through Crystal City, Man., on Monday evening, reducing a grain elevator to ash and severely damaging a hardware store.

A 31-year-old man is recovering in hospital after sustaining burns. He was airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and is in stable condition, a STARS helicopter service spokesperson said. Police say the man was working at the elevator at the time of the blaze.

An RCMP spokesperson said officers  from the Crystal City detachment responded to the fire at around 6 p.m., after a caller reported reported hearing an explosion and seeing fire coming from the top of the elevator.

The fire spread to the Cudmore Bros. Hardware building as well, which is around two blocks away from where the elevator was ablaze.

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      Colleen Henderson, who is part of the emergency response team in Crystal City, described the initial blaze as an explosion.

      "It's in the middle of our town, right along our railway," she said. "We're trying to keep everyone safe."

      It was huge, huge flames, which obviously they couldn't even try to control.- Cathy  Beavis

      Cathy Beavis, who lives two blocks away from the grain elevator, thought she was hearing thunder before she saw flames shooting up instead. 

      "It was huge, huge flames, which obviously they couldn't even try to control," she said.

      Firefighters from surrounding communities descended on Crystal City — 155 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, not far from the U.S. border — to battle the blaze.

      Local farmers and a nearby Hutterite community banded together to haul water, while other neighbours cooked food for the firefighters, residents said on social media. RCMP officers helped with evacuations of nearby homes and crowd control as people gathered to watch the fire.

      Janice Cournoyer was having dinner at Prairie Harvest Restaurant when a fire truck raced past the window.

      "Three blocks away, you could feel the heat of that fire on your face — it was really hot."

      She said firefighters could do nothing but watch as the out-of-control blaze hounded the grain elevator. The ash spread south, she said, igniting the Cudmore Bros. Hardware building and launching plumes of black smoke into the air.

      Firefighters tried to douse the blaze from the roofs on either side of the business. 

      "There's a lot of memories in that store," added Jeremy Wall, an automobile apprentice. "It's one of the original Crystal City buildings."

      Wall said he and many other residents were called into duty. He helped put out a fire that started on his neighbour's lawn.

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      Beavis said the elevator, owned by Paterson Grain, has a long history in the community.

      "There was just grain trucks there today, delivering grain," Beavis said. "It's used here by our local people all the time. It will be a huge loss for our farmers."

      RCMP say the cause of the blaze is not yet known. The Office of the Fire Commissioner and police are investigating.

      Manitoba Hydro said on Monday night that 270 customers in the region were without power as a result of the fire. An estimated restoration time was not available. 

      Paterson Grain did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.

      About the Author

      Ian Froese

      Reporter

      Ian Froese is a reporter at CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote about rural Manitoba for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

      With files from Tessa Vanderhart, Holly Caruk

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