Damage will make determining Tyne Valley arena fire cause difficult
Neighbouring rinks offering ice time after fire
As firefighters worked to put out the fire at the Tyne Valley arena early Sunday morning, they may have destroyed evidence that would help determine the cause, says P.E.I. Fire Marshal Dave Rossiter.
"The fire department had to use heavy equipment to try and get at the fire because of the steel structure. But unfortunately in doing so have destroyed a lot of the evidence we were looking for," he said.
That includes both electrical and mechanical infrastructure in the building, said Rossiter.
"We do have our challenges," he said.
The 911 call came in to the Tyne Valley fire department at 2:50 a.m. The fire battle — with help from Summerside, Lennox Island, Wellington and Miscouche — went on until dawn, but the building was a total loss.
Rossiter was on-site sifting through the wreckage with three deputies Monday.
The rink had had issues with air quality in recent weeks. Rossiter said he is not ruling anything out yet, but he doesn't see any connection between those problems and the fire.
'Plan in place'
The town is moving quickly from shock to plans of rebuilding after the fire Sunday morning.
"Didn't believe it at first, to be honest with you," said Tyne Valley Mayor Jeff Noye.
"But we went up to see the mess and it hit home pretty quick."
Noye said town and rink officials have already been meeting to discuss rebuilding. A committee has been struck to oversee the project. While it is comprised of representatives from both the town and the rink board, Noye said in a small community like Tyne Valley there was already a lot of overlap.
"We've got a plan in place already and we're going to be hitting her hard here shortly," he said.
"The one thing I'm not worried about is us rebounding, and building bigger and better. I know that's going to happen. We'll get at 'er as soon as possible."
Committee members have already been in touch with federal and provincial officials about funds for rebuilding.
The arena was more than a rink, Noye said, and really the only significant community building the town had. In addition to hockey, the arena hosted events for the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival.
People across the country were familiar with the building because of that event, and Noye said he has received messages of support from all over Canada.
The community will be keeping activities other than hockey in mind as it plans the rebuild.
"When the rink was built in '64 it was built for a hockey arena, it wasn't built to host Canadian Oyster Shucking Championships as big as it is today," said Noye.
Offering up ice time
Jeff Ellsworth coached and played hockey at the Tyne Valley rink. Now, he is the facility manager at the O'Leary Community Sports Centre. He said his "heart broke," when he heard about the fire in Tyne Valley.
Ellsworth said he has offered up ice time at O'Leary's rink.
"We presented them with a bunch of hours so they can bring their athletes here to finish out the rest of the 2019-2020 season," Ellsworth said.
He said he has about five hours a week to offer, but might be able to find more with "some creative moving around."
"We are very lucky and fortunate in western P.E.I. in that we have a lot of rinks," Ellsworth said.
There are rinks nearby in the Évangéline region, Alberton and Tignish.
Joel Bernard, the manager of the Évangéline Recreation Centre in Abram-Village, P.E.I., said the community knows what it is like to lose an arena.
"I wasn't manager at the time, but we had our own fire nine years ago completely destroying our old facility," he said.
Bernard said the former manager put a lot of work in getting the arena "back together again."
"I really do have a lot of hope for Tyne Valley," Bernard said.
"I know they are going through a big heartbreak right now. I am sure they're as resilient as we were, they support that building like it belongs to every single person."
We will certainly do everything we can to ensure the Tyne Valley minor sport associations find places to play.— J.P. Desrosiers, city of Summerside
He said the arena has also opened up ice time for Tyne Valley minor sports associations.
"They are going to rent approximately eight hours from us between minor hockey and figure skating," he said.
J.P. Desrosiers, Summerside's director of community services, said the loss of the arena in Tyne Valley "is devastating."
"We will certainly do everything we can to ensure the Tyne Valley minor sport associations find places to play this winter," he said.
"Minor hockey here in Summerside has already been looking at ways they can reallocate their schedules to make some ice time available there."
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With files from Island Morning, Steve Bruce and Brian Higgins