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Market along the highway by Nanaimo Airport destroyed by fire

Fire crews were called to Cassidy Farm Market fire just before 3 a.m. on Oct. 4
The Cassidy Farm Market burned down in the early morning on Wednesday, Oct. 4. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

The Cassidy Farm Market was destroyed in a fire this morning.

Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department was paged out at about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, to the market and deli along the Trans-Canada Highway across from Nanaimo Airport. Three other fire departments – North Oyster, North Cedar and Extension – were called to assist, but the structure was engulfed in flames and it will be beyond repair.

There were no injuries in the fire, said Cranberry fire chief Ron Gueulette.

“It came in as a miscellaneous fire and was upgraded to a structure fire on the way here … North Oyster’s ladder truck came and helped extinguish it at the end there,” Gueulette said. “We were done about six this morning.”

The fire chief said he ordered the southbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway closed from about 3:30 a.m. to just after 6 a.m.

The property owner Grant Fong said he heard sirens for about 30 minutes before he looked to see what was happening.

“I looked out my window – I can see the airport – and I saw all these flashing lights in front of the airport and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, hopefully it’s not an accident or something,’ but I had a funny feeling, so I jumped in my car and as I came around the corner I could see, probably, eight or nine fire trucks, a ladder and a light illuminating down on the market and there’s smoke billowing out,” he said. “It was kind of a shock to see.”

The building has been a farm market since the early 1970s. Fong said he and his wife have owned the market for 22 years, but had recently leased it so they could concentrate on their farm.

“My wife and I stepped back from the market this year and we leased it to a couple of young, enthusiastic farm girls … It’s been a market for more than 45 years,” he said. “I did some repairs on the floors in the back a few years ago and I found a newspaper from 1931, so it’s at least 93 years old. It’s pretty old, but it certainly had a lot of charm.”

The current operators were running the market as the Stray Coastal Moat Farm Market.

Fong said he’d already received a number of messages of support from customers Wednesday morning.

No cause of the fire was immediately known, but the B.C. fire commissioner is investigating.

Fong said the building is insured, but he has yet to decide what the future of the market will be.

“We’ll have to see what the options really are that will be presented to us,” he said. “We’ll see. If re-building is an option and we can find somebody to run it, that’s a possibility too … Things can be replaced, but we still have a lot of great memories of here … and I think the community has a lot of great memories of it, too.”

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