Nfld. & Labrador

Fire at ski club in Grand Falls-Windsor is area's 3rd in just over a week

A third suspicious fire in eight days is creating a concerning trend for the Grand Falls-Windsor Fire Department.

Firefighters responded to Exploits Nordic Ski Club shortly before 11 p.m. Friday

The remains of a snowmobile and trail groomer can be seen in the rubble of a building fire at the Exploits Nordic Ski Club in Grand Falls-Windsor. (Submitted by Dave Stoodley)

A third suspicious fire in eight days is creating a concerning trend for the Grand Falls-Windsor Fire Department.

Fire crews responded to a call at the Exploits Nordic Ski Club in Grand Falls-Windsor shortly before 11 p.m. Friday. When they arrived on the scene, a building housing a trail groomer and snow machine was completely engulfed in flames. 

Crews were able to get the fire under control within a few minutes of arriving, but the building and the equipment inside were destroyed.

According to Chief Vince MacKenzie, a building adjacent to the burning structure that contained a second trail groomer, was also minutes away from catching fire. 

"The siding was actually off-gassing, and off-gassing is the point where it's just about to catch fire with the radiant heat … and the two windows had been broken from heat as well," he said.

"We were about two minutes, I'd say, from that building igniting as well, so it was just in the nick of time."

'Pretty disheartening'

Dave Stoodley, communications manager for the ski club, said the club estimates the fire did $25,000 worth of damage. He said the damage puts the ski club in a place of uncertainty for the rest of the year.

"Right now with the COVID, we don't know if we're going to be able to open up our chalet, and we were just assuming that the trail grooming would be fine," Stoodley said. 

"But now, with the loss of this equipment, we don't know if we're even going to be able to groom the trails this winter.… It's pretty disheartening for all of us right now."

Firefighters were on scene at the ski club when communications manager Dave Stoodley got the call before 11 p.m. Friday night. The shed was destroyed, with equipment inside engulfed in flames. (Vince MacKenzie/Twitter)

Stoodley said the facility is owned by the nearby Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and will meet with the town on Monday to see if insurance will cover the damage. Leading up to the meeting, he said the club is left with "a huge question mark" as to how they will move forward.

Similarities between fires 'certainly raises the suspicion'

Friday's ski club fire is the third business-related fire in eight days. Since the beginning of July, the area has also seen incidents at a local dance studio and at the site of the former Islander RV location.

While the timing of the recent fires is one major concern, the similarities between them are also drawing MacKenzie's attention.

Grand Falls-Windsor fire Chief Vince MacKenzie says the fires of the past eight days have had several suspicious similarities. (CBC)

"We've had a rash of fires and this is another building on the outskirts of town, adjacent to a wooded area. It's been a common practice for fires to be in this area so that certainly raises the suspicion," he said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. However, the local RCMP and fire commissioner's office were on scene to investigate the ski club fire Saturday morning.

MacKenzie said responding to these sort of calls can be dangerous because of the multitude of unknown variables.

"My concern is somebody's going to get very seriously hurt — a member of the public or a firefighter — and that has me very concerned for the safety of our crews," he said.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the fire or dash cam footage of the area around the ski club to contact the RCMP.

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