Canada’s oldest wooden grain elevator has been destroyed in a fire, dashing hopes of salvaging its timber and preserving a piece of the country’s agricultural history.
Troy Angus, who bought a pair of dilapidated elevators at a municipal auction, last month announced plans to salvage and reuse thousands of pieces of wood and metal that made up the bulk of the structures, often called “prairie castles” for their imposing regal appearance. on the vast landscape.
But on April 6, the rescue team was burning some of the structure’s rotting debris in a nearby quagmire when disaster struck.
“During the last hour of our working day, the light wind that blew all day from the south changed direction from the east,” Angus wrote on Facebook. “A small ember floated towards the elevator and was sucked into a hole the size of a football, igniting the 125-year-old wood virtually on contact.”
The team overturned the elevator within seven minutes of it catching fire, avoiding damage to nearby power lines and railway tracks.
Angus wrote that within an hour the entire structure was gone and a “major grass fire” was averted due to wet ground and rain throughout the day.
Built in 1897, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Grain Elevator has long been an integral part of the Manitoba town of Elva. But decades of neglect and the vagaries of agricultural technology have left the elevator abandoned and vulnerable to the elements.
Most old wooden grain elevators meet one of two fates: they are either destroyed in a large fire or demolished. Angus had tried a third option, reusing the wood. But dry interior wood, along with thousands of pounds of grain dust that builds up in structures over the years, can be a powerful and dangerous combination.
Before the fire devoured the building, Angus was able to salvage virtually all of the antique pewter that skated the elevator, selling it to collectors across the continent.
The nearby United Grain Growers elevator, which Angus also owns, was not affected by the fire. His goal now is to dismantle and safely recover his woods and metals.