Farmer thankful fire contained to one building

Eric McCarthy
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ST. LOUIS -- As he stares at the pile of rubble which, one day earlier, was his farm repair shop, Leo Perry makes a matter-of-fact observation: “I was lucky.”

While making the observation Saturday, Perry was standing between the pile of rubble and his house. The wind Friday had blown the flames and the smoke towards the house where he has lived since he was born. His 40 by 60 foot repair shop, built about 10 years ago, was nestled between two other buildings, including a large building that housed his farm’s machinery.

Firefighters from three West Prince departments spent four hours fighting the flames, preventing them from spreading to any of the other buildings. Perry said there was only a faint smell of smoke in his house once the fire was out.

The St. Louis farmer discovered the fire when he opened the door to his repair shop after lunch on Friday. The building was full of smoke and his 4WD 6400 John Deere tractor was on fire. His truck was parked inside and he was able to drive it out, but everything else inside, including a large supply of tools, was destroyed with the repair shop. Perry said he might have been able to pull the burning tractor from the shop if he could’ve started the tractor that was parked beside the building.

His son, Kenneth, was driving a government plow in the area at the time and was dispatched to open the driveway so that the fire trucks could gain access. Once in the yard, he hooked a cable to the tractor parked beside the shop and dragged it out of harm’s way. It had already sustained some damage, though.

Provincial fire marshal Dave Rossiter visited the scene on Saturday and declared the fire accidental. “It’s straight-forward,” he said, relying on eye-witness accounts that the fire started in the console area of the tractor.

Area farmers assisted the Miminegash, Alberton and Tignish fire departments by using their snow blowers to direct snow at the flames. Perry said he was unable to assist in that effort because his blower was attached to the farm tractor that was consumed by the fire. He said the tractor had been used Friday morning to feed his livestock and then returned to the repair shop to keep it warm so that it would start when needed later in the day.

The Perrys have subsequently obtained a loaner tractor to assist with farm operations. They keep it plugged in outside.

The fire started at the height of Friday’s blizzard and visibility was very poor, Miminegash deputy chief Rob Tremblay noted. Police closed the Union Road between Profit’s Corner and Miminegash to traffic because of the poor visibility and to aid the fire trucks in shuttling water to the fire scene.

Perry, who said he has farmed all his life, insisted Friday’s setback will not deter him from farming. He said the loss is protected by insurance.

Geographic location: St. Louis, Tignish, Perrys

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