Fire destroys shop at Tupper’s Construction

Cheryle Cornish, co-owner of Tupper’s Construction Ltd., looks over the remains of a barn-like structure that served as a workshop at the company’s Highway 4 location. The building and its contents – which included a loader, service truck and other materials – were destroyed in a recent fire Feb. 21.

by Phil Ambroziak

“It’s just such a shock – it’s still starting to sink in.”

That was the opinion of Tupper’s Construction Ltd. co-owner Cheryle Cornish in the days following a Feb. 21 fire that destroyed a workshop at the company’s Highway 4 location south of Meadow Lake.

Firefighters were alerted to the blaze shortly before midnight only to discover the 40-by-60-foot, barn-like structure fully engulfed in flames upon their arrival.

“Flames were pouring through the roof and back part of the building,” explained Meadow Lake fire chief Neil Marsh. “A nearby structure and a number of vehicles were starting to be affected by the heat and falling cinders, but because we had a limited water supply, we concentrated all our efforts on the building already on fire.”

Water was limited because of the lack of hydrants in the area, so one engine remained on scene while another was used to shuttle water from town.

“In the end, the building was not salvageable,” Marsh said. “The fire was under control by around 4 a.m.”

Subsequent investigations conducted by both the fire commissioner’s office and the RCMP were inconclusive as far as a definitive cause is concerned, but Cornish is certain the fire is suspicious in nature.

“At first we thought it could have been accidental, but later that night we discovered someone had broken into our office,” Cornish noted.
Locked doors throughout the office had been kicked open and, according to Cornish, an undisclosed amount of petty cash and a camera were discovered missing. There are no suspects at this time.

“It’s still early, so we may discover more things missing as we go,” she said.

As for damages, both Cornish and Marsh said final numbers have yet to be determined. Cornish estimates it will cost close to $250,000 to replace the building alone, but is uncertain how much it would cost to replace the contents of the shop. At the time of the fire, a service truck and a loader, along with various shop materials, were stored inside.

Cornish and her brother Darcy Tupper currently operate the family business. Tupper was away on holidays when the fire took place, but Cornish said they are determined not to let this incident set them back.

“We used that shop to repair and maintain our equipment between jobs,” she said. “Now, we will have to rent equipment until we’re fully back up and running.”

According to Marsh, the fire could have resulted in even worse consequences if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Meadow Lake resident Scott Thompson. Thompson and his family were returning from a trip to Calgary when they discovered the fire.

“We were coming home when we spotted smoke,” Thompson said. “There wasn’t a ton of it, but it didn’t look right so we decided to check it out.”

While his wife called the fire department, Thompson shouted into the building to see if anyone was trapped inside. Receiving no response, he then tried to move some of the vehicles parked nearby, but couldn’t locate any keys. By this time, flames began to erupt from the building.

“It went pretty quick from there,” he said.

Marsh commended Thompson’s actions, stating it is always helpful when the public lends assistance, as long as they don’t endanger themselves in the process.

“The damage could have been a lot greater if he hadn’t stopped and called for help,” Marsh noted.

Cornish is also grateful for Thompson’s efforts, adding she is relieved no one was injured as a result of the fire.

“It could have been a lot worse – at least no one was hurt,” she said. “All we lost was some property, and that can be replaced.”

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