NORTH DUMFRIES — High winds fanned the flames of a barn fire in North Dumfries Township Monday, starting wildfires up to a kilometre away. It was the second time in two days firefighters battled a large blaze complicated by high winds in the township.
Monday afternoon’s blaze destroyed an old barn and sparked numerous wildfires in nearby fields and tree lines as high winds sent embers as far as a kilometre away.
Many of the firefighters that responded to Monday’s call on Spragues Road had spent several hours battling a massive $2-million blaze at a sawmill on Edworthy Side Road the night before.
“It’s unusual for any department to have significant fires like this within 24 hours of each other,” said North Dumfries fire Chief Robert Shantz.
Crews from Cambridge were the first at the scene of both blazes, thanks to a first-response agreement with North Dumfries Township that sends city crews to calls near the city limits. Firefighters from North Dumfries and Wilmot townships were called in to assist at both scenes.
On Monday, flames quickly consumed the old wooden barn, causing its collapse. The building was used for storage and there were no animals inside.
On a calm day, the fire would have been contained to the barn’s foundation walls.
“The wind was really the enemy today,” said neighbour John Gorter. Wildfires scorched dozens of acres of nearby land, charring hillsides and stretching firefighting resources.
“They could hardly keep ahead of the fire itself,” Shantz said. “It was very extensive.”
Shelley Byers, a tenant at a home on the property, praised the response and counted her blessings.
“Really and truly, this could have been a lot worse,” she said. The winds blew the flames away from the home, and no one was hurt. “We were really lucky today.”
It’s not known what sparked the fire.
A short distance away, rubble continued to smoulder at the scene of the Edworthy Side Road blaze as firefighters left remains of razed buildings to burn down into ash.
Damage might top $2 million in the fire that destroyed much of the Cedar Creek Sawmill and Tree Farm over Sunday’s supper hour. Nobody was injured. The cause of the fire isn’t known — and might never be determined, said Shantz.
“With the extent of the burn it’s going to be difficult to determine,” he said. “We don’t consider it suspicious in nature at all.”
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office was notified, but isn’t sending an investigator. Township fire inspectors won’t be done at the property until late Tuesday, Shantz said.
The owner of the business lives in a house on the rural property, and Shantz said the family was sitting down to a meal at 5:50 p.m. when fire was spotted in the sawmill.
High winds carried burning debris from the mill building, torching two other nearby wooden buildings and two storage trailers.
About 50 metres south is a large workshop for 3D Sheet Metal, another company based on the property. That’s where “we kind of made our stand” to eventually save that work shed, Shantz said.
“At least it was a metal-clad building. There would have been plenty of embers landing on it. We kept it well watered down.”
The house on the property was well away and out of danger, Shantz said.
The Cedar Creek Sawmill fire is the largest in North Dumfries in a decade, Shantz said. In June, 2002, lightning struck the Galt Furniture Factory at Cedar Creek Road and Highway 401. Damage reached $2 million after that fire, but the family company was back in business a year later.