January 26, 2017 10:22 am
Updated: January 27, 2017 7:28 pm

Fire destroys Symons Valley Ranch in Calgary: ‘It brought a tear to my eye’

WATCH ABOVE: Officials haven't been able to pinpoint a cause of the fire that destroyed Symons Valley Ranch, but crews are still keeping their eye on the scene. Bindu Suri reports.

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UPDATE: Symons Valley Ranch vows to rebuild after fire, asks people to visit vendors at other locations

A major fire swept through Symons Valley Ranch on the north side of Calgary Thursday and was declared contained just before noon, as smoke continued to billow from the destruction.

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Firefighters were called out just after 6 a.m. and when they arrived they found the structure completely engulfed in flames.

READ MORE: Burned-out vendors at Symons Valley market hope for a rebuild

Due to the size of the fire, a second alarm was immediately called.

“We did have some issues with securing water supply at this scene,” Calgary Fire Department Battalion Chief Stu Laird said.

“There’s just not a lot of fire hydrants out here.”

A gas leak also complicated matters for firefighters; the line was shut off mid-morning.

“We just let it flare, essentially,” Laird said.

Calgary Fire Department public information officer Carol Henke said it’s unknown if there was anybody in the building at the start of the fire.

“However no injuries have been reported as a result of this incident,” she added.

Enmax and ATCO Gas were on scene to shut off utilities as of 8 a.m. Calgary police assisted with road closures and traffic management in the area.

Henke said because of “significant smoke” in the area, residents were asked to stay indoors.

She said approximately 40 residents from Sage Bluff Green had been asked to evacuate until air quality improves. They were still not allowed back into their homes as of 1 p.m. due to air quality concerns.

Henke said the fire poses no risk to nearby homes.

The fire department is asking anyone with video, pictures or information to email piofire@calgary.ca

Symons Valley Ranch put out this statement Thursday morning on its Facebook page, signed by Ken and Tracy:

“We are saddened this morning to learn of the devastating fire at our Farmers’ Market. The impact of this fire will be felt by many local small businesses that operate inside our market. At this time we ask that you please stay clear so the firefighters can do their job. We will have further updates later today after we know more.”

The building is home to a farmers’ market and other businesses.

WATCH BELOW: A look back at the history of the Symons Valley Ranch

“I just had a pit in my stomach that it was more than just an alarm and as I came over the hill…I could see all the flashing lights,” farmer’s market co-owner Ken Aylesworth said. “I knew it was bad.

“It’s in everybody’s hearts. Not many people come here that don’t have a story about Symons Valley Ranch.”

Area resident Gabrielle Tomelin shared some of her memories with Global News.

“This was kind of a place where families got together and sat around the fire,” Tomelin said. “We always had our birthday celebrations at the restaurant down here.”

Investigators continued to watch for hot spots at the Symons Valley Ranch at 4 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2017.

Gord Gillies / Global News

First Student Canada parks a little more than 100 school buses next to the ranch.  The company scrambled to get them on the road.

“It was crazy,” said Mike Stiles, assistant location and safety manager with First Student Canada.

“We got the call shortly after 6:45 this morning saying that there was a fire here on site. We quickly got our safety officers involved, contacted our customers and tweeted out that our buses would be delayed due to the fire at Symons Valley,” Stiles said.

Almost all of the 103 buses onsite were late, he added.

Ward 2 Councillor Joe Magliocca said at first, he had a hard time believing the ranch was on fire.

“I thought I was having a dream – I couldn’t believe it. And it brought even a tear to my eye,” Magliocca said.

“It is a staple of our community here.”

1989 fire

This isn’t the first time fire has ravaged Symons Valley Ranch.  In 1989, fire destroyed the ranch’s three banquet halls.

The ranch was reconstructed “bigger and better with logs, vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors, western light fixtures, and private courtyards,” according to the Symons Valley Ranch website.

Tracy Aylesworth, owner- operator of Symons Valley Ranch, said the event centre was booked into 2018 for weddings.

This upcoming summer was almost completely booked up.

“We are extremely upset that there are a number of amazing couples who won’t get the chance to utilize of facility for their very special days,” Aylesworth said in an email. “We have reached out to every bride who has booked with us to communicate this news and are working to help them secure other facilities”

Couples will still have their deposits refunded, Aylesworth said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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