PEI

'Nothing that could be done': Fire destroys Hayden Produce warehouse during blizzard

As a blizzard shut down P.E.I. overnight Monday a fire hit Hayden Produce in Vernon River, destroying a warehouse being used to store straw.

'They did their best in the circumstances, I'm grateful for that'

'The roof had already collapsed on the building,' when firefighters arrived on the scene of a fire that destroyed a warehouse, says Vernon River fire chief Allister Veniot. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

As a blizzard shut down P.E.I. overnight Monday a fire hit Hayden Produce in Vernon River, destroying a warehouse used to store straw.

Plows, which had been called off the roads due to whiteout conditions, were sent to help firefighters get to the scene after the call came in about 10:30 p.m.

"There was no way I could get out my lane with my truck, so I got in my farm tractor and blew my way out the lane and started up my road, and I could not see the engine bonnet on my tractor," Vernon River Fire Chief Allister Veinot said. 

Veinot, realizing the drive was too dangerous, turned back and called his deputy chief, who was also stuck. 

You just hope that your pager doesn't go off and hope for the best when it does.— Allister Veinot

Next, Veinot called a firefighter who lives next to the fire station — he was shovelling out around its doors while waiting for a plow escort to the fire scene. 

"In the meantime, one of our firemen showed up with their farm tractor and escorted our trucks to the scene," Veinot said, adding Vernon River was able to send four fire trucks and six firefighters, whereas normally 15 to 20 firefighters would respond.  

'Fully engulfed'

The Crossroads Fire Department also received a plow escort to the scene and were there with two trucks and seven firefighters within approximately 10 to 15 minutes — they'd just returned from a previous fire call — but Veinot said it was already too late. 

Pictures on social media showed the warehouse engulfed in flames. (Mandy Swim/Facebook)

"By the time anyone got there the warehouse was fully engulfed and I understand that the roof had already collapsed on the building," Veinot explained. Straw was stored in the building which fed the fire and made it more difficult to put out, he added. 

"There was absolutely nothing that could be done to save the warehouse at that point," he said, so the firefighters turned to monitoring the remaining storage buildings and a machine shop on the property. 

"They did their best in the circumstances, I'm grateful for that," said Dean Hayden, of Hayden Produce. 

"You just hope that your pager doesn't go off and hope for the best when it does," when receiving a fire call on a stormy night, Veinot said.

The Crossroads Fire Department left the scene around 3 a.m. while the Vernon River Department continued to monitor the area.

With files from Mitch Cormier and Kerry Campbell

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