A spectacular hay fire broke out Wednesday morning at one of Abbotsford's agricultural landmarks, Granny & Grumpa's Antiques on Wells Line Road on Sumas Prairie.
Thick white plumes of smoke could be seen pouring into the sky by 9:30 a.m. from as far away as urban Abbotsford.
However, quick-thinking fire crews were able to contain the blaze that completely destroyed the structure, an 80- by 100-foot bunker silo. The building contained 900 large hay bales that had been stored there within the last two months. No other buildings, including the owners' house, were affected.
"The person who first saw the flames tried to put it out himself, then he called us," said Abbotsford Fire Rescue Services chief Dale Unrau. "By the time we got on scene, it was 50 per cent involved . . . and the roof collapsed a couple minutes after we arrived."
Unrau said the hay had been stored in the silo over the last four to six weeks, and the fire could have been started by spontaneous combustion.
"That's what we're leaning toward [as the cause]," he said.
Unrau praised the work of the crews for their fast response and strategy.
"It was a very good save. Arriving crews were able to hold it at bay until we got a water source established. The barn that was burning was less than 15 feet away from the other buildings that hold the antiques," he said.
John Schweigert, who has lived on the rural property with his wife Marion for the past 25 years, said he didn't realize there was a fire until crews arrived. He said while the couple was not too shaken, "it didn't do us any good."
He was grateful his other buildings, which are stuffed full with antique farm machinery, tools and countless Canadiana collectibles, were untouched.
"We're pretty lucky, the wind was blowing the right way so all the other 10 buildings were saved," he said.
The farm with its bright blue buildings is usually listed as one of the stops in the self-directed Circle Farm Tours promoted by Tourism Abbotsford. Amassed over the past 20 years, it's promoted as the largest single private collection of antiques in British Columbia.
"We get 100 people a day coming to the museum. Not today though," said Schweigert Wednesday.
Along with the hay, the silo held a disc, a cultivator, and a packer, used as implements pulled behind a tractor, that belonged to his son Terry, who farms nearby. The barn and its contents were completely destroyed, he said.
In total, 32 firefighters were on scene, including nine career members. There were also four engines, three water tenders as back-up water sources, and an air supply vehicle.
Wells Line Road was closed for most of the morning. Unrau expected crews to stay on site for most of the day with a backhoe to pull the remains of the hay out and monitor it for any hot spots.