Rescued from the ruins: Symons Valley Bear survives fire

Recognizable figure to be front and centre at rebuilt Symons Valley Ranch
WATCH ABOVE: The iconic Symons Valley Ranch will rise again from the ashes and there is no doubt it will include a very recognizable feature. As Jill Croteau reports, one of the salvageable pieces from the fire will be front and centre.

An intense fire on January 26 incinerated nearly everything in its path. The flames devoured the historic Symons Valley Ranch. While the legendary landmark has been reduced to rubble, among the ruins, a very distinguished mascot was spared from the blaze.

“She’s alive and well. Just wasn’t her day.”

Neil Gillies works at Symons Valley as a facilitator. He was amazed the carved bear which stood proudly in front of the market pulled through.

“This building was really aflame and everyone was making comments: ‘I wonder if the bear will survive?'” Gillies said. “She did survive and got a little scorched but the firefighters managed to pull her out.”

Her survival is a testament to the couple from Carstairs, Alta. who created her. Beau Brooks and Nerissa Pitts of Wicked Willow Beds and Furniture by Beau were just as surprised their 600-pound shellacked cedar bear didn’t light up like a torch.

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Beau Brooks & Nerissa Pitts of Wicked Willow Beds and Furniture by Beau
Beau Brooks & Nerissa Pitts of Wicked Willow Beds and Furniture by Beau. Jill Croteau

“I was flabbergasted it was still standing,” Pitts said. “Especially considering I oiled him up pretty good and sealed him for the winter after the hubby carved him.”

“The wall fell over and knocked him into the courtyard, so it was kind of a fluke,” Brooks said.

They can’t help but wonder if the big bruin is a metaphor, considering what it’s been through. The carving will be resurrected along with the re-build of the ranch.

Farmers Market at Symons Valley was destroyed
Farmers Market at Symons Valley was destroyed. Jill Croteau

“He’s an omen to say everything’s going to be awesome,” Pitts said. “He made it through something so devastating and he still stands strong.”

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The couple wanted to help the burned out vendors of the Farmer’s Market. Brooks and Pitts chiselled away day and night creating 20 baby bears and sold them. They donated the $2,000 proceeds to the vendors of the market who lost everything.

Baby bear carvings raised money for vendors
Baby bear carvings raised money for vendors. Jill Croteau