A fire in Nanaimo early Thursday morning has completely destroyed a barn used by the Vancouver Island Exhibition.

Nanaimo fire crews responded to the blaze at Beban Park and the barn was fully involved around 4:30 a.m.

VI Exhibition equipment was stored in the structure and a number of machines, including tractors, a truck, tools and decorations were destroyed in the fire.

“It’s totally disheartening,” said VIEX Vice-President Karen Streeter.

“Everything, the majority of the equipment that we have is in that barn and its all been destroyed. We’ve been suffering break-ins weekly and you know what do you do?”

Nanaimo Fire Rescue is now investigating the cause of the blaze.

“We’ve had technical safety here, the electrical inspector,” said Fire Investigator Kevin Lillingston.

“He had a look at some of the electrical work and didn’t have any concerns there. So now we’re just going to start sifting through for any clues as to what could have started it. But at this point, we don’t see anything suspicious.”

While the equipment was insured, Streeter said big pieces of the fair’s past are now gone forever.

Volunteers insist, however, that Vancouver Island’s longest-running fair will celebrate its upcoming 125th year.

CHEK