A farmers market south of Nanaimo was destroyed in a fire early Wednesday, and crews are working to determine the cause.
“It’s a complete loss,” said Garry Hein, dep. fire chief at the Cranberry Fire Department.
Firefighters from Cranberry Fire were called to the Cassidy Farm Market & Deli, across from the Nanaimo Airport in Cassidy, at 2:47 a.m. for a report that the building was on fire.
“A lot of great family memories…” said owner Grant Fong.
The market was popular with farmers, makers, bakers and artists alike, and the blaze came just before the busy Thanksgiving rush.
“It’s been a landmark and has a lot of history here,” said Fong. “We’ve seen customers grow up from toddlers to young adults and start families of their own.”
He and his wife, new grandparents, were excited to pass the market on to enthusiastic young farm women this year, who as a couple were starting their own family story under its roof.
“It feels unreal, the loss. We worked so hard to make this happen for the last two years. The loss is just really sinking in,” said Whirly Bird, owner of Stray Coastal Moat Farm Market.
“This place meant community space and that’s what it meant and that’s what I wanted to have for this community.”
When crews arrived on scene, the market was “completely engulfed” in flames, according to Hein. “It was a fully involved structure fire when we showed up.”
He tells CHEK News no injuries were reported.
“Big fire. It’s a big wood-framed structure I think dating back to the 1930s, early 40s,” said Ron Gueulette, fire chief at the Cranberry Fire Department.
“A big loss, also for the people operating it.”
Hein says crews from the North Cedar, North Oyster and Extension fire departments were also called to the scene, and it took firefighters about four hours to put the fire out. RCMP, paramedics and BC Hydro were also on scene.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire, but at this time, Hein says they “don’t suspect foul play” because there was no forced entry.
“It’s a very, very old building. Very old. It had a lot of issues…” added Bird.
A post on its website says the market “has been an island landmark since 1979, when it first opened as the Johnson’s Farm Market.”