Fire guts Saskatchewan town’s last elevator

Residents of Prelate, Sask. had a rude awakening Tuesday as the village’s last grain elevator, owned by Paterson Grain, was engulfed in flames.

Calls to 9-1-1 started coming in at 5:48 a.m. Tuesday, according to Jason Gizen, a local volunteer firefighter and pedigreed seed grower.

Gizen lives in the house closest to the elevator and has a seed cleaning plant beside it — but the fire itself wasn’t what initially woke his family.

“My wife could hear a lot of vehicles” and then realized the phone, which had been switched off for the night, was ringing, Gizen said.

A tense day followed for residents. The village, about 140 km northwest of Swift Current, was evacuated as a precaution.

“There were some tanker cars on the (Great Sandhills Railway) rail line right beside the elevator,” Gizen said.

By early afternoon, there was nothing left of the elevator, Gizen said. His video footage shows smouldering wreckage on and around a pile of grain.

The elevator, which had a listed storage capacity of 3,320 tonnes, had held organic grain for the last couple of years, he said.

It’s too early yet to know what sparked the fire, he added.

The evacuation order was lifted by Tuesday afternoon, Gizen said as the fire was under control. “There’s nowhere it can really go right now.”

The fire also marks a loss for the community, he said, noting the site employed two people.

Current and former residents were sad to see their last elevator go. Gizen said it was “kind of a heritage site.”

Paterson’s other elevators in the area include a larger inland grain terminal at Swift Current and a small elevator at Fox Valley, about 50 km south of Prelate.

— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews and Country Guide at Livelong, Sask. Follow her at @LtoG on Twitter. For more photos and video of the Prelate fire, visit @gizen_jason on Twitter.

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