A fire that destroyed the popular New Brunswick wedding and event venue, Bates Barn, is now being investigated as a case of arson by the New Brunswick RCMP.
Owners Janice and Bob Bates were “totally stunned” to find the barn ablaze in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, after a neighbour and volunteer firefighter called to tell them a building on their property was on fire. At first, Janice said Wednesday, they thought it was the farm’s empty homestead, but as they got closer they realized it was actually their beloved barn.
“The building was still standing fully, but it was completely covered in fire,” she said. “There was nothing you could do but just stand there and watch it just slowly disappear.”
Janice said they knew right away the fire had been deliberately set, after seeing tracks through the heavy, unplowed snow leading from the barn to the main road.
Bates Barn was built in 1946, and is considered a landmark in the small community. Most notably, it’s a popular space for people from across New Brunswick and beyond to hold weddings and other events.
“So many people love the barn,” she said. “It has a lot of family and a lot of community heritage to it, so there’s just no reason for anyone to target it. That’s what’s so disheartening.”
Janice said they had to cancel 19 weddings because of the fire, and cancellations of more events like the Ham Jam Festival could happen.
RCMP are now looking for information on what they call a “suspicious fire” being investigated as arson. RCMP say a car was seen driving away from the area at the time of the fire.
Investigators are looking to speak with anyone who saw people or vehicles on Route 850 near the barn on the night of Feb. 14. or before 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 15.
“I’m just very hopeful that it will come to a successful conclusion,” Janice said. “Someone out there knows something, and there was more than one person involved … we’re just hoping that someone will come forward with information.”
Plans to rebuild
While they’re still assessing the cost of the damage and loss of equipment and revenue, Janice said she and her husband plan to rebuild the beloved barn.
The barn was also a place they stored a lot of valuable farming equipment, which supported their main livelihood of farming, that was all lost in the fire. Their first priority is to replace that for planting season which starts in April.
Following that, the couple will look at plans to rebuild, depending on their financial situation.
“If I get the barn rebuilt, there’ll be one heck of a big party!” Janice said.